And I’m back in Chile. Amazing. The culmination of goals I had set for myself, a pre-mid-life bucket list perhaps, after quitting my job in August. Thank you to all those people. You know who you are…who helped me get here.
There was the 1,500 nautical mile trip aboard the replica of the slave ship Amistad from Mass. to Puerto Rico. Then the double-handed sailing journey with my friend from Jersey City to Block Island, Rhode Island and back! Another sailboat delivery, and, a five-day solo backpacking trip through the Catskills.
My body took a beating, but survived. And on Saturday I arrived back in Santiago, a place I hadn’t visited since 2007.
I am here now to write about the amazing developments happening here in environmental conservation, adventure sports and mountains.
This will obviously include work on the development of a private conservation initiative on a 30,000 acre property in the Central Andes owned by my family and operated by my aunt called Parque Andino Juncal.
I lived here for nearly four years, and is the reason for this blog. It was a journey seen through unique eyes. My mother’s family had established themselves in Valparaiso from Australia in the early 1900s, and my father had written several books uncovering the sordid calculations of terror by the military dictatorship.
I was fascinated by the cultural changes and morphing of the people as the lingering shell of repression of cultural identity imposed by the 17-year dictatorship eroded away.
But I became jaded by the constant negativity by people in Santiago, a sense of constant profiteering by the country´s business class and frustration with my own goals.
And now Chile is post-Gothic, post-“buena Naty” (NSFW, look it up), post-Pokemon, post-massive student demonstrations and into the second, count it SECOND, term of Michelle Bachelet, the daughter of an assassinated military officer and the first woman president in Chile.
She will be inaugurated in March.
How much have things changed. How much does it matter? Will my constant analysis and tendency to focus on negative give way to seeking out what is positive? I think so.
And let me tell you of these positive things.
Within 24 hours of landing I was en route to nearby Cajon del Maipo to go rock climbing with nine nearly complete strangers. A few beers Saturday night turned into an invite to go climbing at 9 am Sunday morning. There would be eight Chileans and an American named Joshua.
The rock, called Piedra Rommel, was covered in climbers. The two 45-foot-high sandstone boulders along the river had some 20 routes coming off of them, ranging from the easiest to most difficult. There were women, men, children and adults clambering up and over this rock.
We set up camp nearby in the Mediterranean scrub brush, and proceeded to spend the Sunday afternoon drinking beer. Cries of successful summits, or agony as grip was lost and adrenalin surged in the moment of a fall, rang out past 8 p.m. That night I learned the art of grilling beef and pork, vegetables, potatos, and became close companions with the Chileans.
They were fountains of optimism, laughter, generosity and entrepreneurship. Oliver, a photographer, Pablo, a magician, Laucha, runs three small businesses, Valentina, works at an insurance company but wants to establish a program promoting healthy conversations around sex and sexuality. Is she serious? In conservative Chile? She was optimistic.
The next day was cliff jumping into a water hole, beer drinking and napping in hammocks or in the cool shade of a giant boulder next to a river.
And three days after I arrived it started it was over.
Now, I am off to Juncal for a busy week. I will spend three days with a glaciologist studying the curious life of a rock glacier at 10,000 feet. Then I will welcome a group of biologists from Bolivia, Argentina and elsewhere who have come to visit the park. There is also a change of park rangers to oversee and host of other tasks to get a better sense of how this park runs.
And then in a couple weeks, maybe a little (or a lot) of sailing in the most competitive and extravagant regatta in Chile, the Regata de Chiloe.
I’ll be posting regularly on Chile From Within with photos and video. Stay tuned.
Pinochet could have received $292 million dollars in loans from Chilean government, unclear if paid or repaid.
An investigation by the newly founded Chilean investigative journalism and government transparency organization ArchivosChile has discovered documents showing that ret. Gen. Augusto Pinochet was authorized to receive loans of $292 million from the Chilean state from 1977 to 1981. Published on the ArchivosChile website and the Chilean newspaper La Nacion, the article lends credence to suspicions raised years ago upon the discovery of secret U.S. bank accounts that Gen. Pinochet benefited financially from his position as dictator of Chile from 1973 to 1989.
John Dinges, an American journalist and author of two investigative books on Chile, is leading the initiative to explore Law 20.285, known as the Public Information Access Law or Transparency Law, which is similar to the Freedom of Information Act in the United States. ArchivosChile is based upon the model set by the National Security Archives, which uses FOIA laws extensively to obtain and archive historical documents produced by the US Government.
Dinges is the father of the author of this blog.
With these documents, he is seeking to find documents indicating whether money was loaned to Pinochet, and if any of this money was returned to the Chilean state. He is requesting documents from Chile’s Central Bank.
“We are trying to force them to give us that information,” said Dinges in a phone interview. “There is supposed to be an accounting for how that money is spent, and that is what we are going after.”
On Tuesday, minutes after Obama dodged a question about US culpability for the 1973 coup in Chile, the Chilean press pool asks for a photo opportunity with Obama after his press conference and meeting with President Bachelet. They ask him for a photo, he stammers, seemingly in disbelief. They then proceed to walk outside, almost forget about their own President Bachelet, the Chilean Obama, according to one of great little video by Fox news White House reporter and blogger Anna Siegfriedt.
The assorted prensurri clamored to be around Obama, and say something, anything, like, for example, “You know she is the Chilean Obama,” said one, who I believe is Constanza Santa Maria, from Canal 13 (immediately left of Obama, with short brown hair.”
The comment by the Chilean reporter set off a wave of Twitter comparisons in self-deprecating, and highly revealing irony, and a blog post by Miguel Paz.
“En Estados Unidos se acostumbra que el Presidente se retrate con los periodistas. En Chile, no tanto. En Estados Unidos los periodistas acostumbran a hacerle preguntas difíciles al Presidente. En Chile, no. Esperemos que esta foto sirva de precedente en ambos aspectos,” said Paz in a Gchat today.
SQP is the Chilean E! The Soup Hospital de Talca is the chilean “Hostel” La Torre Entel is the chilean Statue of Liberty
Comparisons ranged from the historical:
Combate Naval de Iquique is the chilean Pearl Harbor
Randomfull: Sopaipa is the chilean pretzel.