Monday, April 30, 2012

Pablo, the Vengador of the Mapuche.

So I have this friend, Pablo.

Well, he's dead actually. But he wrote a lot of poems back in the day. Pablo Neruda is one of Chile's most famous people. He served as a senator for the Chilean Communist Party, but most notably he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He also only ever wrote in tinta verde (green ink).
Oh yeah, he collected trains too....
This is just a taste of what we learned about his life when we visited one of his three homes, Isla Negra. This was Neruda's favorite home and it is quite impressive. (Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside the house.) The man was a collector of STUFF! There's hardly any space to walk through the house as each nook, cranny, and wall is covered with everything from figureheads (the things at the fronts of ships) to pipes, to maps, to bells, and seashells. Everything imaginable that has to do with (but not limited to) the sea can probably be found inside or in the yard. The house has been kept pretty much as he left it, so we really got a first hand look at how he lived his life. For more on the life and times of Pablo Neruda click here. ;)

A vast assortment of decorative bottles. 

AND he's buried here with his third wife. Told ya it was his favorite.

We had a really great time there, especially the amazing view of the sea. The clouds that day were doing some amazing things to the color of the waves! 

A traditional Ruca or hut of the Mapuche people 
Orietta: kinda obnoxiously proud of the mapuche,
but totally informative.
Another trip we went on with the other exchange students was to a Ruca Mapuche. Mapuche is the name of the indigenous people who lived in most of Chile and Argentina until modern times. The mapuche are much like any indigenous race nowadays, fiercely proud of their heritage and slowly decreasing in number every year. There are some who choose to ignore their ancestry as it is often a source of discrimination. 

Our guide for the tour, Orietta, spoke a lot about Mapuche customs and beliefs (and at one point berated us for making the world celebrate the new year in January, rather than their winter in June) while wearing traditional indigenous garb. Mapuche people speak mapudungun, and their words sometimes sneak into the chilenismos we learn every day. (For example, girlfriend/boyfriend is polola(o) instead of the textbook novia(o) we learned in Spanish class.) 

The mapuche people are also very independent and have a tradition of reverence toward the elderly in their culture. Very similar to our own Native Americans, this tribe is having land redistribution issues with the Chilean government. 
After a stint about history and beliefs, Orietta told us about festivals, and then we all got to eat traditional food! All in all, it was an insightful visit and I'm glad we learned a little more about Chilean people. 

This guy guards the spirits of the ancestors.
And takes pictures with American girls.
The fried dough in front was delicious. Everything else tasted like grass or dirt. What does this say about our culture?

Afterwards, we made our way to the mall where we bought tickets to Los Vengadores (The Avengers)! As I mentioned before, movies come out earlier here (sometimes a WEEK in advance). For all of you who are superhero fanatics and all of you who aren't, this is a must-see film!

I don't have a superpower.... yet.

Who needs Starbucks? 
A shout-out to our friend Kellie Mogg who told us about an excellent café/bar/hangout/etc: THANK YOU! El Baúl Café is easily one of the coolest places here in Viña. (Just think hipster meets indie meets chilean and you've got it!) It's quiet, somewhat off the main road, and definitely comfortable. As the days start to get cooler, they burn real fire, in a real fireplace! The tea is amazing, and it is often accompanied by a sandwich planchado (ironed sandwich). Basically it's a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, but it does come with a side of mayonaise-yogurt-garlic dipping sauce which is tasty to say the least. We've been four times in two weeks and will definitely go back. 

Viva Chile, y vive tú.



  1. Isla Negra was one of my favorite little excursions. I'm about to catch up on other posts by you guys, but have you been to his house in Valpo and Santiago yet/do you plan to?
    Totally agreed on the Mapuche food...'like dirt' could not describe it better.

    I am SO glad you guys love Baúl. It was my hangout all semester. So nice and cozy. I always used it as an escape if I was feeling really frustrated with Chilean culture (which you both could very well avoid considering my level of spanish compared to yours lol), but I'm just very glad to know I have friends still going there.

  2. Dead friend, ironed sandwich, proud Orietta, wooden guard...thanks for the virtual tour! Wish I could share a cup of tea at El Baul Cafe!