Chile

A glimpse at artisanal fishermen in Valparaiso

 

 

 

Carlos – Charlie – fist pumps me. His only two scraggly teeth are decaying but still his smile to could light up a city. He fears shaking my hand for he has been working with murky water and slime since before the sun rose. I ask him about his life as a fisherman – or, as I was corrected, un pescador artesanal.
Soy el primer y ultima,” he says. His eyes are deadlocked with mine and just to make sure I understand, he repeats slowly. “El primer y ultima.” The forefinger shakes for emphasis.

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I ask him about the future of the fishing industry in the once prosperous port. He’s not hopefully. Within the next five years, the outlook is grave. Overfishing is a large problem across the planet: there is a high demand for pescado.

Enter Andrés Silvia. his skin leathered from years of daily hard work: In the sea, on the port, under the sun. Around his eyes, harsh wrinkles turn soften into laugh lines. He is an old soul, he understands that despite the hardships (syn) this life presents him, everything will be okay in the end. His eyes are kind. It is with him that I learn the term pescadores artesanales.

Chile, is the number one exporter of salmon, and according to some of the fishermen at the mercado, there is unfair competition (of sorts) between the artisanal fishermen.

This partially fueled a protest on the July 2.

 

As I walked down the stone-ladden stairs from the road to the campus of Aldofo Ibañez, groups of students crowded around a single doorway. It was blocked off by peligroso tape.The entryway had been rigged with strings in 1000 different directions and a sign asking students if they take the hard way or the easy way in life.

Upon completion of the “hard way,” students recived sandwiches and juice from their peers.

“Excuse me, why is this going on? Is this a promotion for something?”

A Chilean student poured some more juice into plastic cups. She smiled.

“No, we’re just doing it because we can.”

There you have it: just because they can.

As the day progressed, an inflatable rock climbing wall was set up in the middle of campus. Mats, blankets and pillows were spread in a large alcove for students to sleep. Triangular, colorful paper flags flew across the main building of campus: in between all the labyrinth of walkways and staircases.

A band of drummers came onto campus. A crowd surrounded the group and then dispersed as the music ended.

Giant banners hung from the ceiling in one of the buildings told students to follow their dreams. 100 percent organized by the students and performed simply because they could. Viva Chile.

An island from the past: Chiloe

Reading about Chiloe, I was informed that I would enter an island that was in “deep defiance” of Santiago and much of the North. I would find an island plagued with rain, wind and an abundance of seafood.

“You’re going to Chiloe? It’s going to rain.”

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Loving the wind and rain.

It was a 13-ish hour bus ride down to Puerto Montt, a shanty sea town on the edge of Chile’s coast. When I arrived, it was 10 a.m. and, as promised, there was rain. Getting to the actual island involved another bus ride, una barca (surprisingly clear of any precipitation), and yet again another bus ride.

The ferry over from the edge of the Chile's land to the island of Chiloe.

The ferry over from the edge of the Chile to the island of Chiloe.

The view from the ferry. Without rain, there is an incredible view of the coast of Chiloe.

The view from the ferry. Without rain, there is an incredible view of the coast of Chiloe.

In Ancud, I met a girl from France. She only spoke French and broken Spanish — I only spoke English and broken Spanish. We were the only two in a hostel room of six beds. We decided to try a bar said to be popular and famous. It was decidedly empty, small and crowded with vacant tables. But both of us bonded over having the same Lonely Planet book, the freedom of solo travel and our amor for Pisco Sours.

That next morning in the hostel’s cocina, an incredibly friendly woman was cooking a huge breakfast. Two girls from Spain popped downstairs, one had recently visited Viña del Mar.

Oh, fuiste a carrete?” I asked her.

Suddenly the cook bust out laughing. Glancing over, her hand quickly covered mouth and uttered several permiso‘s; the giggles wouldn’t stop. I began to chuckle and asked what was so funny, but I already knew. A gringa using chilenismos.

The Espanola hadn’t understood me, but the cook had and soon the two of us were splitting our sides over my chilean-sprinkled spanish. Am I Chilean yet?

As I bid goodbye to the girls, I moved south. To Castro.

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Home-cooked breakfast at the hostel in Ancud. Coffee, bread, homemade jellies and jam, fruit, cheese and more.

It was as if the island had regressed into a previous era, refusing to succumb to globalization and mass production. Sure, people use their iPhones walking along the roads, and the infamous green “Cristal” sign is seen along many a road to advertise drinking and empanadas. But the culture, the life has not changed; it’s still about independent fishermen, the churches, the mystical legends surrounding the island and the never-ending rain.

Castro, Chiloe, the island’s main “city” features a mercado open 7-days-a-week. There fresh seafood, vegetables, bread and anything else you could imagine is for sale. The mercado is larger than a football field.

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A woman sells pan — bread — inside the mercado. The display includes everything from potato and wheat buns filled with chicken to sopapillas to sugar-covered treats.

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Vegetables for sale, daily. The irregular shape and array of colors in the potatoes (left) are the result of farming untouched by chemicals and synthetic pesticides.

At one end, a fisherman cracks open mussels to be prepared for soup. Further up, Chiloe tourist-trap gifts and trinckets are for sale.

Ofreta, aqui, para ti mi hija,un venedor tells me. I smile and thank him graciously. I snap pictures.

One woman sits in a booth with vegetables completely surrounded by her. She is selling everything from bagged celery and herbs to carrots, potatoes and dried fish.

I sit with her for a while and assist her with her selling, learning about the different vegetables, about fishermen in Chiloe. She will later introduce me to a woman at a pescado booth, who, in turn, introduces me to some fishermen who invite me onto their boat in that next morning.

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A cloudy morning along the shore. A boat sits ready along a pier and the rolling hills atrás – behind – sit silently.

Blury selfie of the Chilote woman and myself as we bonded over selling fresh vegetables and a love of the rain. We both agree: it does have a smell.

Blury selfie of the Chilote woman and myself as we bonded over selling fresh vegetables and a love of the rain. We both agree: it does have a smell.

In the morning, you can see the clouds, the fog, rising up over la vista across the water. The hills are green and ancient, rolling; they remind me of England.

In New England, there’s a saying: if you don’t like the weather, wait an hour. That’s because it’s ever changing. Well, in Chiloe, if you haven’t seen the rain yet, wait an hour. In the course of a single day, I was impeded with at least four separate rain storms — the last stretching into the night and including gale-force winds.

From this peachy weather bore las leyendas and los mitos de la isla. For example: el Caleuche, a large ghostly ship that supposedly contains beautiful women and dancers, attracting ships and fishermen, then disappearing in the fog. It is said to be able to navigate underwater.

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A statue of another leyenda sits in a plaza of Castro, Chiloe: The Invunche.

A majority of the cities and pueblos shutdown in the evening, especially in the off-season. The rain and wind will be your friendly companion along the waters edge as the fog hovers above the sea. It is then easy to understand some of the mythical legends, and why there presence is still so strong today.

But in the morning, el espiritu is restored.

My Sunday morning starts with a trip on a fishermen’s boat to watch them pull in the catch. Some are fishing with poles. I, though, am directed to pulling seaweed out of the water barehanded. Lo como. Is there anything fresher?

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La palfitos – houses with wood shingles propped on stilts – below the hil of Castro. These houses are all colored in bright paints and attract tourists from around the world.

I am given a parting gift from the fishermen — a huge bag of alga. 

The churches open and the people — Chilotes and tourists — explore the island and, on Sundays, continue their Catholic faith.

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The churches colors are still obnoxiously loud after centuries of wear and tear. It often stands as a central point when locals give directions.

Which, is perhaps one of the most fabulous elements of the Chiloe. The churches. There is one, built in 18th century that screams central point of town, originally painted a loud purple and yellow: La Iglesia San Francisco de Castro. Along with 15 other churches in Chiloe, it stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hoy, after many years of weathering, the colors and wood have aged gracefully. La iglesia shows her wrinkles only to the critical, up-close eyes.

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The iconic church. The sunshine. Not pictured: over three dozen tourists trying to get their perfect shot.

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A class takes part inside the church, teaching children the Ten Commandments. Along the sides, tourists browse the to-scale models of the island’s churches, snap pictures and respect the all-wood interior house of worship.

 

This is Chiloe.

 

la barca – ferry

amor – love

(la) cocina – kitchen

fuiste a carrete – Did you party?

permiso – excuse me

mercado – market

Ofreta, aqui, para ti mi hija – My child, come here, I have an offer for you

un vendedor – seller, someone selling items at a mercado, store

pescado – fish

la vista – the view

las leyendas y los mitos – the legends and the myths

de la isla – of the island

el espiritu – spirit

Lo como – I eat it.

alga – seaweed

Hoy – Today

La iglesia – the church

Mi familia

This is my host family, my Chilean family. On Mother’s Day we sat down for Chinese food and red wine so that my host mom didn’t have to cook. Afterwards, we continued with una torta and hours of table-talk. Anyone who ever tries to tell you that Chilean mealtimes are short and void of conversation are liars.
Needless to say, they’re incredible.

una torta – cake

I walked, slipped down the hill and the man — Juan Urrea, 32 — grabbed my hand to help me. He motioned me to watched my step. “Caliente, it’s hot there,” he said. There was still steam rising up from the broken china plates. I looked around, taken aback by the charred hills, asked him how he was effected.

We were standing where his house once stood.

Valparaiso fire victims return to destroyed homes, fire

You could feel the heat rising, melting your soles. The Urrea Family stands in what was once their home, they pick through the destruction. There is a small box where they have been collecting peso coins found in the rubble. One of the men used a hose to rinse off most of the area — steam was still rising from the area.  “Es terrible…terrible,” Juan Orrea Sr. said. He looked at me straight in the eye. He described the night, hand-gestures starting low then rising up to the sky. His pupils dialated – “todos los partes, acá” – the fire was everywhere.  According to El Mercurio, a Chilean news source, over 10,000 were evacuated. 11 people died.

PARA GUSTOS, LOS COLORES

A spanish idiom which, when translated directly, means something along the lines of, “for likes/interests, there are many colors.” But, as all who study languages and travel know, much is lost in translation and languages can seldom translate word for word. The same goes for this instance. This idiom here stands to mean approximately the same as “to each his own” or “whatever floats your boat.” 

Street performers here in Chile are common. Actually, plain impromptu performers are common. Last night at a bar, an amateur magician came up to our table and proceeded to mesmerize us with his tricks. At the end, we all tipped him 500-1000 pesos. Performers are often seen at traffic lights, performing in between lines of stopped cars for small tips. Here, on a popular and busy street, Calle Valparaiso, a mime performs and actually directs the traffic. The degree to which he interacts would be, in my opinion, inappropriate back in the states. But here, it’s just a part of the performance and everyone is gathered to watch what happens next.

8.0 earthquake hits Iquique, Valparaiso receive tsunami alerts

In Chile, terremotos and temblors are a way of life. Here’s the difference, you’ll wake up in the middle of the night to feel your bed shaking, or be walking to class and feel small rumbles in the ground. It’s normal, it’s a temblor from tectonic plate movement or from an earthquake somewhere else. Chile sits on a tectonic plate making it incredibly active for earthquakes.

In Iquique, though, there was an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale. It was strong, and many people were effected. There was a lot of destruction and afterwards, a large evacuation due to the possibility of tsunamis. Thousands were displaced for the night.

The tsunami alert spread all the way to my home here in Viña del Mar, in the Valparaiso region of Chile, about 90 minutes from the epicenter of the earthquake and about a mile from the beach. Around 9:30 p.m., my host madre knocked on my bedroom door and told me to get dressed – rápido – there was an earthquake and we had to leave the house because of a possible tsunami.

Good news: there has never been a tsunami in Viña del Mar.

Many residents evacuated their homes for safer ground, and one of my chilean friends sent me this evacuation route just in case. At the same time, many residents didn’t, and exchange students were left wondering about the level of threat of a tsunami. According my host family, it was precautionary in Viña del Mar. If the ocean had started to recede, we might have been in a bit of trouble (but not much). From where I live, there would have only been about six inches of water.

There had also been waves of “six feet or higher” reported on the beaches. But, according to another local friend, “this is Chile. [earthquakes] happen a lot. We are used to it, and know how to handle it.”

So around 11 p.m., my family and I returned to our house and I was welcomed to a sea of messages asking if I was alright. I am.

More good news: Classes are cancelled for today. In New Hampshire, we have snow days. Here, we have earthquake/tsunami days.

Welcome to Chile. 

terremoto – earthquake

temblor – tremor

madre – mom

rápido – quickly

The Mapuche of Chile

Mapuche’s are some of the indigenous tribes of Chile.

When I was in Pucón, we visited a Mapuche village to learned more about the indigenous people of Chile, some customs, history and current struggles. One of the women there explained facts, customs, cultural aspects of the Mapuche. One of the difficulties of touring in Chile is that the tour was in Spanish, so I had prestar mucho atención. If I didn’t, everything would turn into gibberish again.

An elder explaining the customs, traditions, culture of the Mapuche. One point that stood out was the significance of thanking Mother Earth.

An elder explaining the customs, traditions, culture of the Mapuche. One point that stood out was the significance of thanking Mother Earth.

From what I could understand, there is a large emphasis on natural elements in their world. The Mapuche people make sure to thank the world around them on a daily basis. The colors they wear, as well, show respect to this. For example, in the picture of the Mapuche woman, each color she is wearing represents something different: azul for the sky and water, verde for the earth, rojo for the blood and bravery of their people.

Once at the Mapuche village started with a drink common to the Mapuche made of trigo, azucar, y agua. Before taking a sip, we were instructed to pour some to the Earth, thanking nature.

Inside the Mapuche house for Once – teatime. The meal consisted of coffee, wheat cutlets, breads, salsas and honey.

Inside the Mapuche hut, a large room filled with more or less 15 mesas to fit our group of about 80, we sat. Our meal consisted largely of wheat. In front of us, we were presented a spread of different items. One plate resembled breaded chicken cutlets, but were instead wheat cutlets.

A Mapuche woman who served coffee, explained its preparation process. She later bagged the roasted wheat so that I could make the coffee independently.

A fresh salsa and honey accompanied the meal as condiments along with a coffee that I later bought to bring along with me. As I learned, it is made from roasted wheat and contains a “pulp” or “grain” in the liquid.

More seriously, the Mapuche people are in deep conflict right now with Chile. According to the Mapuche village and my tour guide, they are fighting to keep their ancestral lands while being pushed away. The Chilean government, from what I understand, is denying them their full identity.

prestar mucho atención – To pay a lot of attention to, to focus

azul – blue

verde – green

rojo – red

trigo – wheat

azucar – sugar

agua – water

 

 

Palta y pan: Eating is not just eating for Chileans

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.

– James Michener

Food. It’s a part of culture, a part of learning about a new place. But when I landed here, it was my nightmare, my cast-iron chain holding me back. I had no idea how to properly express who, what, why, when, how.

When I fill out forms about myself for school, programs and travel, I check the “dietary restrictions” box. It automatically, it casts me away into a sub-category of humans who lack the luxury of digging into each and every comida – food – they see being sold on the streets.

I’m a vegan. Soy vegana. As a vegan, I don’t eat anything that comes from an animal. No milk, egg, meat, fish, butter. No dairy. No meat. No fish. No honey. No whey. The list goes on. As I said before: small fear coming into study abroad.

The stereotypical Latin American meal is piled high with meats, fish, and dairy. In Chile, after extensive pre-travel research, I prepared myself for pounds and pounds of bag-slapping mayonaisse. 

“What am I going to eat? Everyone just eats, like, meat in South America.”

Over and over and over again, I’d been laughed at, hugged and pitied. My adventure to South America, to Chile, would need some serious luck.

One of my first times ordering in Spanish, my friend helped (her studies here equal my studies in England or Scotland: she’s fluent in Spanish) my pitiful struggle and after a few laughs, I was served un plato vegeteriano. 

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Friends and I at “El Mercado Central” in Santiago. This once open-air market is famous for it’s fish markets. It is a top rated spot by Lonely Planet and many other travel companies.

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El plato vegeteriano: basically, a deconstructed salad. Different segments included brocolli, palta, tomato, water chesnuts and lettuce

But truly, I feared what my host family would say or think. With mediocre Spanish skills, I did not want to offend them in anyway.

But aquí in Viña, we are not a meat-centered city, we are not Texas de Brazil. In fact, living on such a large and important port, pescado is a large part of the diet.

But even larger, is palta y pan. Dissimilar to the United States’ obsession with Ramen and Mac N’ Cheese, I think I’ve seen this combination at every single meal. Bread more so than avocado.

Here in Viña, my host madre and I do not go to the local super markets to buy bags and bags of Wonderbread. There are Panderias with fresh bread of all shapes and sizes.

But eating is not just eating for Chileans.

It’s a time to separate from your work, your business, school and play. It’s a time to commence a brief period of reconnection with your family.

In Chile, there are more or less 4 meals: desayuno (breakfast), almuerzo (lunch), once (tea time/snack), and cena (dinner).

Lunch is the biggest meal for most Chileans and is usually eaten around 2-3 p.m. in the afternoon. It can go on for several hours if the family has time and many take siestas – naps – afterwards. More common, is a tito (#chileanslang). 

#chileanslang: Tito. A small nap, similar to what a baby might take. A tito can be taken on the bus on the way to school, before going out with your friends, or on the beach. Read: 40 winks, catnap.

Once is relaxed and usually considered dinner. It’s something light later in the day usually around 8-9 p.m. Typical once meal? Palta y pan. In my host family house, I usually have more of a meal type dish. I always have coffee.

Chileans typically eat something small late in the night before going out. Here, night life doesn’t start until around midnight.

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Eating out at a bar. Typical late-night food included fried carbohydrates, eggs, completos, bread, and depending on location fish.

Eating together, eating slowly definitely takes some adjusting. Phones are not commonly kept at the table, or if they are present, they’re not touched. Calls and texts are ignored, but if the phone is used, a “permiso” is quickly uttered before usage.

At the same time, people here don’t seem to eat-on-the-go as much. It’s a much more “take your time” atmosphere.

In the states, we are traveling to and from classes all week,  and I’m used to eating while working, or waiting until all my work is done to go eat. The schedule for classes is split so that there is a time to eat lunch. Many come home from classes to eat with their families.

Getting my dose of Japanese in Chile with wakame (seaweed salad) and edamamé.

Getting my dose of Japanese in Chile with wakame (seaweed salad) and edamamé.

So then, what do I eat once I sit down at the table?

With my host family, I’ve eaten everything from torta de verduras (literally, a cake made from vegetables) to sopa, choclo y mote, and various mixtures of rice, beans and vegetables. Oh, and soy protein.

I’m blessed with a host mother who stays at home all day, loves to cook — luckily for me — loves to cook new things. She has been experimenting and designing dishes just for me which is insanely generous and nice.

One day, I was treated to a backed zucchini filled with a spinach and soy mixture. #delicious.

But fair warning: food here lacks spice. My host mom serves all my meals with a bottle of aji pebre alongside it. It’s no Sriracha sauce, but it’s good. It’s a condiment served at meal times in bowls, at restaurants, on meats, chips…by the spoonful.

palta – avocado

pan – bread

soy vegana – I’m a vegan

choclo y mote – A dish comprised of mixed/mashed corn, cornmeal, vegetables, flour and sometimes meat

pescado – fish

Panderias – bakeries

permiso – excuse me, pardon me, with permission (polite)

torta de verduras – usually made with eggs, think of a quiche without the egg or crust, and instead all vegetables.

sopa – soup

When it's time for lunch or dinner, I'm served an enesalada chilena alongside my main dish, a desconstructed salad usually made up of tomatoes, onions, salt and vinegar.

When it’s time for lunch or dinner, I’m served an enesalada chilena alongside my main dish, a desconstructed salad usually made up of tomatoes, onions, salt and vinegar.