Saturday, November 21, 2009

South America Day 3: Constitution Square, Personal History

November 21, 2009

On the way to our next stop we drove past the National Library (or la Biblioteca Nacional de Chile, if you prefer):
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(I had to photograph it out of professional loyalty).
Also la Bolsa de Comercio - the stock market:
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I always like flatiron buildings. We soon arrived at Constitution Square,
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home of the Presidential Palace.
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We were informed that the Presidents just work there; if I understood correctly, they continue to live in their private homes rather than an official residence. The square is festive with flags
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and civilized by the presence of mounted police
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not to mention palace guards
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and military personnel. The square was also home to a large and roving population of dogs!

Apparently this is common in South America - I have never in my life seen such a numerous and reasonably well-fed floating canine population. At home I would have been nervous, and I would have expected them to form packs, root through garbage, attack people for their sack lunches, and generally be a nuisance. Here, they just hang around, relax,
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and solicit occasional pats from the military:
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They are obviously a regular and accepted part of the surroundings; they seem to know they are tolerated. I gave this fellow
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a pat because he was just so sweet. Also he reminds me of Buster (I miss him!)
Facing the palace, the square features several large bronze(?) statues in dramatic postures:
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Presidents Allende (a Socialist) and Frei (a far more conservative Christian Democrat) are represented. No Pinochet, though.

Patricia told us that political divisions still run very deep in Chile. Many families are divided on political lines and are torn apart. Among her own uncles and aunts she has one set who were prominent Socialists under Allende and another uncle who was a high ranking officer under Pinochet.

During the Pinochet coup d'etat (when Patricia was about eleven years old) many families denounced their socialist members, who were then disappeared. Patricia's Army uncle sent tanks to the Socialist uncle's house: but not to arrest them; to protect them. Family above ideology. It was quite emotional for her to talk about; she started to tear up. I was so glad she told us this story - it made that part of history personal for me in a new way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's fascinating! Makes our own stories of "mixed red and blue" households seem much much more petty and insignificant. Yay for being able to politically disagree without tanks being involved.

And I'm glad there were plenty of dogs for you to see!