More than la tierra: changing landscapes in Chile

When you hear the word landscape, what do you think? Perhaps you imagine a gaping pasture filled with cows. Or perhaps a famous painting such as Van Gough’s The Starry Night will pop into your head. Both are correct. Landscape, though, in this sense means more than just la vista that we look at our windows.

In Santiago, Chile there is currently an installation underneath el Palacio Moneda – in the Centro Cultural – with intent to educate both locals and extranjeros about Chile’s changing landscape. Welcome to Puro Chile: Paisaje y Territorio.


Two tour guides lead our group – my Culture and Identity class from UAI – in English. We started at the beginning, before the onset of European influence. At this time, there were only the perceptions which had been placed onto South America as a whole. For example, explorers had a belief that their wildest fantasies lived in South America, in Chile. There would exist a notion that perhaps animals the head of lions, horns of goats and wings of large birds lived aya. Laugh, but is not too far stretched of an exaggeration.


According to our guides, landscape is not just the land around us. It is the people that we interact with day by day. It is made up of the animals whom inhabit the land. It is the man-made mess that we have created: the buildings, the stuff and the cities – anything not found naturally. Landscape is also human interaction with la tierra, and the resulting effects.

Mapuche in Chile are not only important as a part of the country’s heritage and culture, but as well important for their landscape. At one point, our guides helped us to the understand a photographer’s interpretation of Mapuche gridlock: they are attempting to reclaim their sacred land.




The exhibit also featured pictures show architecture throughout Chile that has changed over the past decades, such as La Palacia Moneda when it was set on fire during the dictator takeover of Agosto Pinochet in 1973 with the military coup.


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