Chile From Within

New York heart Chile, Melodic Death Metal

Posted in chile, Chile culture, Pinochet, Santiago by tomasdinges on November 30, 2008


ProChile, the country’s office for promotion, has leased a corner of SoHo for a new store named Puro Chile. Apparently it will be about more than fruit, one of the raw elements that makes Chile wonderful, but also, “gourmet Chilean products, distribute tourism pamphlets, and maintain a wine store in the back of the shop.” Wow. exciting.

It is news for me, far from the AIDS/HIV fiasco in which thousands (maybe two) of Chilean’s diagnosed with AIDS/HIV were not informed of their status and thus not prescribed life-extending anti-retroviral drugs, or the release of a secret video  in which a high general states at a cocktail party that,”in these difficult times with our neighbors…any Chilean who enters the country will leave in a coffin. And if we run out of coffins, then we will use plastic bags…”

It is to be seen if Chile can finally, for once in its tortured life, present itself as one in a time in its history where a pluralistic, democratic society is beginning to have meaning.

A country tourism office leases a 1,000 square foot corner for $100 a square foot in one of the hippest neighborhoods in New York City. That is a sign of changing economy, they say. That corner spot, should go to a bank, says Crain’s.

Even a bank is hipper than Chile in Soho.

Chile has a strange, incoherent history with the promotion of itself. Maybe it is because it’s base level of division and insecurity.

A proud country with proud countrymen, it is a fragmented society. I speak not only of Pinochet, but of the feudal and colonial history.

I am not sure that the Basque immigrants lauded by some as the reason for Chile’s current economic success would applaud the Mapuche indian warriors Lautaro (Lef-Traru, in their language Mapundungun, or Speedy Crested Caracara, a falcon-like bird of prey) or Colo-Colo. These were main leaders of the last stand of the Mapuche people who in the late 1500’s rebuffed the Spanish colonialists under Pedro de Valdivia.

Now Colo-Colo is the name of football team that was famously sponsored by Augusto Pinochet, a middle-class military officer who was not part of the landed ruling class.

The immigrants (Basque’s and other Spaniards) and orphans (Bernardo O´Higgins was the bastard child of an Irish-born, Spanish military leader  who would lead the drive for independence from the Spanish in the early 1800’s) would form the first landed elite. Later, British and German’s primarily would form the other immigrant group.

The Indians became marginalized and modern Chile began to grow based on the latifundista system, separated between the patrones and the peones in the fertile valley’s throughout Central Chile.

Wealth and culture were generated in rural areas, and society as we know it was reinforced. Then things moved to Santiago. The Mapuche’s tried to blend in, erasing their last names and shedding their past. The elite secured their hold on finance and society.

What was unique and commonly appreciated by all Chileans is a tough one.

I’m not sure that the sopaipillas or jote would be celebrated by the patrones. Violeta Parra (radical), Gabriela Mistral (lesbian), or Pablo Neruda (Communist) would be cast-off as well.

And then there was Pinochet, who made it all worse.

A divided Chile was solidified and cultural icons became politicized. Chile began to talk poorly of its own country.

Upper class would be disdainful of anything but their class, while those underneath would be enconsced in their lack of opportunity and racism and classism rampant through society.

Would the Chilean go the mountains to appreciate nature, No. Would they celebrate the beach, yes, but calling it cold and rough. Often times a visitor will find the first question posed to be “Why did you come here?” Chileans will often refer to their own country as  “the ass of the world,” or, “el poto del mundo.”

They say there is no culture here.

Well, the Swedish melodic death metal band The Haunted, doesn’t think so.

According to the lead singer’s blog post about their Friday concert in Santiago, where they played at Rock y Guitarras in Nuñoa,

“I’m exhausted, it’s a couple of hours after the show we just played in Santiago de Chile. How did the show go? It was insane. Really…

“I am so fucking grateful my heart is about to burst. The shows we’ve been playing so far this year have by far been the most intense ever since we started the band back in ’96/’97. It’s as if the bullshit macho crap that was there for a while at shows we played is gone. It’s unbelievable and so relieving. It’s as if people are finally getting the whole fucking point to this music. To go fucking nuts. To just fucking lose it and let all the tarblack fucking ugliness out and be fucking done with it; TOGETHER. An hour and a half of sheer undiluted fucking release. I surrender to this completely.”

Oh, and the old Chilean tourism logo and jingle, a product of an expensive research campaign that didn’t seem to have asked anybody whether they actually liked the final product:

“Chile: All Ways Surprising”



5 Responses

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  1. stilllifeinbuenosaires said, on November 30, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    What would you consider potential gourmet Chilean products other than the wines?

    Are there any must-try foods in Santiago?

  2. tomasdinges said, on December 5, 2008 at 8:31 am

    See this post

    Must try foods…hmmm.. I see you are moving to Chile.

    eh..start with the fresh fruits and vegetables.

    and then move on to alcohol…can you tell my taste is not refined?

    then maybe ice cream.

    go to the country, go to the market, go to the sea, go to someone’s house who takes pride in those things that come from the places i just mentioned.

  3. Chileno said, on December 6, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    good point about the ice cream. Also, basque food isn’t chilean but representative of chile’s roots, a fine place on calle mosqueto.

    For great ceviche, go to el toro near puente loreto.

    These are both in your neighborhood, StillLife.

  4. Chileno said, on December 6, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    btw, T, i teared up when your post hit the satan-rock blog excerpt.

  5. tomasdinges said, on December 6, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    It is beautiful isn’t it…Although I am not sure if the group is satanic.

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