Chile From Within

Plastic, Chile and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Posted in mierda, Viva Chile by tomasdinges on September 27, 2007

The significance of President Michelle Bachelet’s arrival to Columbia University campus this past Monday was overwhelmed by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his denial that homosexuality existed in his country, an evasion of a yes or no question of whether he believes Israel should be destroyed and a long, rambling piece on historical revisionism and persecution of scholars who question the existence of the Holocaust. He was given a pre-emptive, but appropriate introductory smack-down by School Dean and First Amendment lawyer Lee Bollinger.

But no worries, Bachelet’s speech here at Columbia, part of the World Leaders Forum held by Columbia, was not significant. From all I could tell, it was stock talk for the risk analysts, democracy studies buffs, womens studies groupies and followers of Democratic Socialism, and according to my companion, a former reporter at La Segunda and M.A. student at the Journalism School, had been repeated many a time before. Her English was not perfect.

The front row of the 300+ audience front of her sat the presidents of all the major parties, and US based Chilean attache’s.  I guess if I had a story to report on, could have had my way with them. But because I was there just to get my picture taken with the President, it didn’t happen.

The thirty or so Chilean Columbia students arranged ourselves obediently in a stately, wood-paneled back room of the Low Auditorium, the cuicos, the in-betweens, the mongos, the mechas and whoever else you want to throw in the pot. It was a small Chile, actually, all uncomfortable and wierd, but just for a second, because we were all at Columbia, and hot shit in our own respects, right?!. Some of those in the group got the Presidential Scholarship, and probably the Fulbright too, meaning FULL RIDE!.

Soledad Alvear enters, in presidential candidate mode, kissing and saludando a todos, reaching about half the group. And then La Presidenta arrived, Alvear looks around, seeking her escape route from an awkward moment that for a moment was hers, and more quickly than she could react gracefully, was about the President.

Picture taken, she seems to actually want to get know who we were, explains she needs to leave for meetings with the Council on Foreign Relations. Earlier in the day she was at the Empire State Building for a cocktail party held by Human  Rights Watch. Before she leaves a shady guy steals a piece of her soul, dashing in out of nowhere to request a handshake photo. Very reminiscent of Luis Patricio Bascunan, a fraud and collector of official photographs.

So, there I am, in Columbia University, a member of the class of 2008 of the School of Journalism and a member of the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. I am not in Chile, and won’t be going back for another two years, unless I get a book deal…

Its all over for now, the adventures to Patagonia, the mountains and volcanos, the exploratory, hallucinatory, trips through the history of my family, Maturana 1–, and obsessions with girls on the bus.

I have since added new, edifying, plastic cards to accompany my Chilean carnet de identidad in my wallet; a DC non-drivers license, a credit card, two bank cards,  a Columbia identification card, a Columbia Press Pass, a health insurance card, a metro card and two business card sized maps of the Subway system for Manhattan and Brooklyn.

My beat the neighborhood of Red Hook in Brooklyn and my goal is to cross the Atlantic on a cargo ship for my winter break. I am working with Village Voice investigative journalist Wayne Barrett and Phillipino investigative journalist Sheila Coronel for my year-long investigative project, most likely about the shipping industry and Michael Shapiro, New Yorker writer and baseball fanatic, for my core Reporting and Writing course.

It is a whirlwind, similar in pace only to working with the Amazing Race, and it is great. Posts will primarily be comprised of random things related to Chile that I see and feel from here. My reporting for Columbia will be compiled at


8 Responses

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  1. Chileno said, on September 27, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    Great post! That line-up for Bachelet sounded pretty awkward but definitely worth it, and at least not as awkward as what I’m sure that shady guy has done on many occasions to line his collapsible chiropractor’s office with statesperson handshake photos.

    Anyway, speaking of shams I know Columbia is tugging along on a shoestring, a pathetic, single-digit endowment (in billions) and Bollinger is squeezing his school through these troubled times, but really, for 60k you should at least get the school’s webmaster to set up a decent fucking .edu domain – it’s 2007 for christ’s sake – rather than lame-ass Turdpress hosting that is blocked in China. Free Speech? Your school’s president would deign actually show up to school one day to cover his ass before letting a Holocaust denier take the stage yet your school’s website can’t even host a blog that, otherwise, a fifth of the world’s population can’t access?

    Until you get that hosting fixed I won’t read your blog, much less link to it. Why should I, if my Brothers in China can’t???

    Talk to your webmaster, get something like:

    …or red-hook whatever you call it. It’s easier than you think, dude.

  2. travelchile said, on September 28, 2007 at 1:54 am

    Nice to see you de vuelta Tomas. Interesting take on Bachelet’s visit to Columbia. Much different from the way the press portrayed it here…all flashbulbs and glamour, Bachelet like a chubby Britney spears.

  3. Chileno said, on September 28, 2007 at 8:39 am

    I gotta do something about my free cable connection that mysteriously went down MC Chilena is running circles around me – I found out first from Tomás!

  4. Tom Routledge said, on October 10, 2007 at 7:52 am

    Chile is on a lot of minds this week – with the Letelier-Moffit Human Rights awards in DC on Wednesday – and Jorge Coulon’s (‘modified Inti-Illimani’) Inti performing here in Vancouver on the same night, Oct. 17.

    This week, I’ve been re-reading your father’s fine “Assassination on Embassy Row” – a bo0k given to me by Jorge circa ’90.

  5. tomasdinges said, on October 15, 2007 at 4:54 am

    Funny that you should comment on this. It was also on my mind as well, as Carmen Castillo (MIR), widow of Miguel Enriquez (leader of MIR) and her film, Calle Santa Fe, were in town. I also received commentary from friends of the family to see the doc “Ciudad de los Fotografos,” which was identified as a great portrait of photographers grouped together with the AFI, Association of Independent Photographers, who courageously covered the dictatorship during the 80’s.

  6. Paula said, on November 2, 2007 at 2:09 am

    Ja, ja, ja!!! me gusto tu descripcion del grupo de chilenos…casi fui…pero tenia clases…y valore mas la clase 😉

  7. tomasdinges said, on November 2, 2007 at 2:14 am

    Was it accurate? I am never really sure. I was one of the mongos for sure.

    What are you studying at Columbia?

  8. Glenn Hill said, on February 27, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    quake -x BBC
    Guys any images or news yet, we could do with it here. We will arrange the sell on foryou, over here.

    Glenn Uk

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