Chile From Within

Common Carrier aka The Transporter aka Mazza Alaluf aka the Colombian who took the Amazing Race tapes

Posted in chile, Chile culture, Chile film by tomasdinges on February 17, 2009

Do you know the movie The Transporter (I, II and III)? A movie that revolves around an ex-Special Forces guy, his martial arts skills, incredible cars and his ability to drive them, but most importantly his business of transporting things, like money, bodies, human-trafficking objects, drugs, flowers, children…well, anything, without asking questions.

Well, he has an official name, according to Bank Secrecy Act of the United States, a ‘Common Carrier.” It’s not sexy, but when you consider the possibilities of their job descriptions you may get a sense.

According to:


(g) Common carrier. Any person engaged in the business of transporting individuals or goods for a fee who holds himself out as ready to engage in such transportation for hire and who undertakes to do so indiscriminately for all persons who are prepared to pay the fee for the particular service offered.

I’ll detail for you two cases of “Common Carriers,” Mazza Alaluf and a Colombian in a white shirt and a gold chain that flew in to Calama to fly out a suitcase of recorded tapes of the 11th episode of the Amazing Race, Amazing Race All-Stars.

After the intense whirlwind of the Amazing Race passing through Calama airport and San Pedro de Atacama, there was a problem. The recorded tapes from the multiple fixed cameras, the specialty cameras mounted in the cabins of front-loaders, the eight camera’s following each team member, and the aerial footage from the Cessna; every single recorded moment since they had arrived two days earlier in Chile at four o’clock in the morning, since they had flown to Calama and raced careening through the hard desert, to the garage where 25-foot-high Caterpillar dump trucks and their massive tires dwarfed a dwarf and everyone else, to the largest open-pit mine in the world, into the eroded passages through Valle de la Luna, and finally to the illusive tranquility of San Pedro de Atacama, would be lost if it were not for this Colombian transporter.

He carried a small bag and a medium-sized black suitcase that he handled loosely and lightly as if it were empty as he walked through the customs area that a few days earlier desperate contestants had run through in a dash for their first challenge.

He wore a white shirt and had a gold chain.  He had dark skin and was from Colombia. He didn’t speak much and his movements were deliberate and slow.

Me and another producer took him to our hotel room, where the tapes would be handed over.

His flight out of Calama was at 1:30, two hours after his arrival to the northern part of a country that touches the end of the world.

An entire episode of the Emmy-award winning show, primetime on CBS on Sunday nights, the product of two-and-a-half-months advance preparation, countless cups of coffee and sleepless nights and exasperating fights, not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars and the professional reputation of the producers and the creators, Burt (friend of Jerry Bruckheimer), his wife, and Screetch, would be lost if the transporter did not do his job and safely board the flight with his now-filled suitcase, fly to Santiago, where another flight would take him to Los Angeles to deliver his cargo.

Merken, ( Merquen, ) Mapuche and Bolano

Posted in chile, Chile culture, Chile film by tomasdinges on December 5, 2008

By coincidence, but with pleasure, I write today that Robert Bolano was a poet who was an author who wrote about poetry but never published it in his books and his book, a debateable magnus opus but certainly intended to be such is for the second year running one of the NY Times top ten books of the year and he chose to name his child Lautaro, who was a Mapuche leader mythologized in Chile like maybe Bolano will be in America and they are united by Nicanor Parra, who wrote that one of the most important four poets of Chile ( there were only two and neither was from Chile ) was from Spain, Alonso de Ercilla, who wrote that epic and descriptive poem about Lautaro, who fended off the Spaniards and gave rise to the myth of the Mapuches who currently in the Chilean countryside, arinconados, they find refuge from police acting upon Lagos-era laws allowing injudicious actions against those too easily classified as terrorists, as well as their own sense of shame for their lack of a normal last name, by the standards of the colonizers who now all have second homes on La Playa.

But what do the Mapuche have (for us)? They have Merquen. They have what we, the huinkas, can consume. Oh, how appropriate. Merquen, per the Miami Herald.

“Merkén is a ground mixture of dried, smoked ají cacho de cabra, a Chilean pepper that looks a bit like the Mexican guajillo, and seasonings that include cumin, coriander seeds and salt. One of my favorite Latin ingredients, this paprika-like blend adds heat, intense smoky flavor, saltiness and subtle aroma to everything from soups and braises to table salsas.”

So yes, stilllifeinbuenosaires, THIS, is a gourmet product from Chile besides wine, in the spirit of the people as the ultimate gourmands, genius and delicacy arising from necessity and availability. Like paprikash in Hungary or the multiple ways Mexican use tortillas and eggs and tomato and chile, the Mapuche have used the toasted chile and spice that all our mothers in the United States, or even in Santiago, ask for from the Chilean countryside when it is available.

See the Miami Herald for their guide to this, new “Chilean treasure,” and its history.

I quote from the end of the article:

“When I use artisanal merkén from the Araucanía, the Mapuche heartland, I am not only keeping the spirit of the ruka and its smoky hearth alive, but also the collective will of a tenacious people who have won the right to live on and leave their mark.”

So, stilllifeinbuenosaires, your question. What else is there that is gourmet in Chile besides wine? It depends upon the packaging, but I would argue that everything that is raw is gourmet. See this NY Times article.

But truthfully, I think that officially wine is the only gourmet item that Chileans have to offer. Why? Because just recently did the local industry decide to propose an appelation system for the regions where their wine is produced.

OH, I can smell the terroir in the morning air!

ps. On this day in Chilean history, Cnn Chile is launched.

Lonely Planet Chile ( Moon ), Heraldo Munoz (Bush diplomatic pressure), James Bond (Daniel Craig) (Chile is the new Chile)

Posted in Andes Mountains, chile, Chile culture, Chile film, Viva Chile by tomasdinges on March 23, 2008

Lots of news this weekend.

Most newsworthy is the article in The Washington Post by Colum Lynch reviewing Heraldo Munoz’s forthcoming book. He was the senior Chilean diplomat, now Chilean U.N. representative, who carried out Ricardo Lagos’ anti-Iraq War missive, and in the process got pressured to hell by President Bush and his minions.

An insider’s take on the spearhead of the U.N. opposition to the Bush war titled, “A Solitary War: A Diplomat’s Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons.”

“‘In the aftermath of the invasion, allies loyal to the United States were rejected, mocked and even punished’ for their refusal to back a U.N. resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein’s government, Munoz writes.

But the tough talk dissipated as the war situation worsened, and President Bush came to reach out to many of the same allies that he had spurned. Munoz’s account suggests that the U.S. strategy backfired in Latin America, damaging the administration’s standing in a region that has long been dubious of U.S. military intervention.”

Secondly, Wayne Bernhardson, formerly the Lonely Planet travel guidebook writer for the Southern Cone who now has his own guidebook, Moon, now has a blog about South America. He knows a lot, and it will be interesting to see what he really thinks about Chile on his travels. He has just crossed the border, inexplicably (hehe) missing Parque Andino Juncal, and went Los Andes, where he compared the landscape to California.

Lastly, according to the Guardian Observer James Bond will use Chile to look like Bolivia in flick Quantum of Solace, which is set to open in October. Secrets out and the Chileans must be indignant.

Imagine that, good production environment, professional production staff…blissful for production, but wait, there is a catch. These extras, and the locations, are meant to be Bolivia, not Chile.

Maybe they will have to acknowledge that, well, dark, side of their heritage. That Aymaran indian side.

According to the story only short and dark people are being cast for a multiple day, and multiple million dollar shoot. It’s also another instance of why its ok to laugh at the Chilean film and television production scene and Chile in general. They get punk’d because its so easy to punk Chileans. Their identity is a sham and it will take snafus like this one to get people to rethink their indigenous and Chilean roots that have for so long been squashed and scrubbed in their mind’s eye. That’s my cheap shot for the week.