Santiago is the friendliest big city in the world bar none. Even in the midst of Government abuses, riots, and demonstrations, the Chileans maintain their indefatigable friendliness and positivity throughout it all. It takes special people to endure the torturous reign of a Pinochet, and come out the other end unscathed by cynicism and depression.
I’d rather be here in this chaotic maelstrom than back in the states marinating in that cultural toxic stew born of a criminal in the White House. So let’s start the New Year with some stark realities to be followed by a trip to the magical island of Rapa Nui with a return to Santiago.
On the initial foray from my hostel, crossing the Rio Mapocho to Patio Bella Vista, I was introduced to the rebellion that had been going on for almost three months. The center of Santiago looked like a war zone. A monstrous, armored vehicle lumbered down the street hosing people down with its water canons a mere block away from where I’d passed a minute before. Not a great welcome for tourists, but with the 90-degree heat the water might have had a nice cooling effect if it weren’t for the fact that some of them are known to spray toxic liquid. I could also do without the stinging tear gas, and the thought of losing an eye to a stray rubber bullet is never a pleasant consideration. However, this is everyday life for the people of Santiago who are as resilient as they are optimistic.
Even after enduring Pinochet, they refused to let him have any more of their lives than he had already taken. In 2016 I was treated with more kindness and hospitality in this city of 18 million than I have encountered in many small towns. People enjoy their Tuesday evenings out more than Saturday night in most other countries. It happened to be my birthday, and it seemed as if I’d be dining alone. At any rate, it fell on a Saturday so I went to book a reservation at a Peruvian restaurant that knew its way around a steak. A sweet waitress took my reservation for the next evening. That nice waitress was nowhere in sight, but the dinner was delicious. It was time for dessert, but Birthday cake for one is too depressing. I looked up to see that sweet waitress, who had the night off, standing there with her cousin holding a piece of chocolate cake with a candle in it. They sang happy birthday to me as I sat in a daze wondering what planet I was on. They did this for the son of people who supported Richard Nixon who helped to install Pinochet, and not only do they still talk to me but they treat me like family. That’s one of the reasons I’m here. It’s one of my axioms in life these days. If you do right by me, I’m going to do right by you.
Moments like that birthday are pure gold and last a lifetime, but it gives you a window into the Chilean people. In high school, I had a Chilean Spanish teacher who was one of the nicest I have encountered in this life. Little did I know that there was a country full of people like her. It is because of these experiences that I am protective of the people of Chile, and why I chose to come here at this time. First, they can use every peso I spend.
People are selling water and everything else you can imagine on the streets to stay afloat. Also, when I am amongst them in the resistance they know that at least there is a gringo that supports them. When you consider that the US was responsible for Pinochet, it’s amazing that they give me the time of day much less show me such hospitality. Last spring I met a lovely Chilean woman named Mori in Paris, and I felt it my duty to take her to a wonderful restaurant on her first night. It was a big relief to take a break from urban combat here in Santiago to enjoy Mori’s Birthday Barbecue.
Unfortunately, the current regime threatens the very fabric of Chilean culture. Disgusted with the government, the youth project their antipathy on the older generation through disrespect. In South America, respect for one’s elders was always rote, but that seems to crumble like the sidewalks which have been broken to create projectiles for lobbing at the police and their armored fleet. Many of the sidewalks are scored like a chocolate bar so they break up in nice hurlable chunks. Some of the combatants are politically motivated, but a fair number are juvenile delinquents looking for cheap thrills or guys just showing off to impress the girls. Some are worse, and I’ve witnessed these guys damaging people’s vehicles when they fail to give them requested funds.
Back in 2016, I could see that trouble was brewing merely by the amount of graffiti and tagging that was present in many very good neighborhoods. By the time things had boiled over in September, it had spread like an angry rash. Now the walls of Santiago are screaming out in agony hoping the world will hear their cries for justice. Aside from the visual noise, there are also many poignant examples of street art to be found. Good art is often inspired by violence, upheaval, strife, and injustice. One popular type of work involves a pig meant to symbolize the Chilean Police coupled with ACAB (all cops are bastards) graffiti. Peña Asesino (Peña Assassin) is ubiquitous. Also, there is a great deal of imagery dedicated to the hundreds of eyes being lost in the resistance. One such example, a grouped sculpture of twenty-five eyeballs of varied sizes snaked their way down a sidewalk.
One thing is for certain. This is not a Chilean problem. It’s not even a Latin American problem. It’s an income inequality pandemic that has swept the globe. The game is fixed, and if you’re not the part of the casino, the staff, or the family, you lose. Much good fortune is an accident of birth, being imbued with incredible talent, or just plain dumb luck. Many on this Earth are born into hot dry places with little food and water and little hope of ever improving their lot in life.
If we’re going to make it into the next century as anything resembling a “civilization,” we are going to have to get serious about making life better for the forgotten people. Shortly before he died Stephen Hawking said that “greed and stupidity are what will end the human race.” He told the BBC, “We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s action or lack thereof could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid.” Trump tweets while the world burns
We have found our worst enemy and it is us, and we are faced with a struggle that will make WWII pale in comparison. It will also probably claim more lives over the years. It will either likely kill us or result in the greatest technological advancements in our history or both. Bill Gates said that he crunched the numbers, and thinks that mankind can save itself. I’m not so optimistic, but I hope so for the sake of friends and family.
These lumbering beasts are everywhere in this endless super-soaker “Punch and Judy” show. Welcome to Santiago!
At ninety degrees in the shade, a water cannon is a nice way to cool off if you don’t mind toxic water. Number 51 is more than happy to accommodate people just after passing me by.
I wonder if he was the one who nailed me a couple of weeks later.
The monuments in town have been obscured by graffiti and utilized to make a political statement. Initially, it seems like vandalism, but over time the underlying messages begin to shine through. The walls and monuments are being borrowed as a means of transmitting an unfiltered and uncensored speech through other means than the state-controlled media who is not reporting what is going on. CNN can only focus on Trump’s latest Twitter brain fart.
OTHER THAN BENEFITS, THIS JOB HAS GOT TO SUCK
This is basically everyday life here in Santiago centering around the Plaza D’Italie (Plaza Baquedano) where almost daily clashes punctuate the oppression and income inequality that has become the modus operandi of the current regime. Here the military wing of the police await the opportunity to do battle with their friends and neighbors while the real culprits sip pisco and champagne, as they wait for the latest weapons testing reports.
I usually find myself in whatever good art museums happen to inhabit a city, but this time I am restricting myself to the streets of Santiago for my dose of aesthetic nourishment. What better way to understand the struggle of the Chilenos.
PRISONER PIÑERA WITH DRACULA TEETH
PIÑERA – A EL LE GUSTA LA GASOLINA
PIÑERA CON SU AMOR, GASOLINA
INSANE CLOWN PIÑERA – You have probably ascertained that the general public is not fond of Señor Piñera. His picture is often accompanied by colorful epithets like bastardo, ladròn, and asesino.
VICOR JARA – He was a musician and the soundtrack of the resistance against the Pinochet regime. Feeling threatened by Jara and his influence, Pinochet arranged for him to be tortured and murdered on Sept 16, 1973. Pablo Neruda died before Pinochet could get around to him.
It’s nice to see Star Wars being put to good use, especially now that the franchise has been destroyed. I’ll bet with Mata Pacos the last movie might have made a profit. He would have been a lot more interesting than Rey as well.
Joking aside, let me tell you what’s going on here. At the top of the poster you can see “SOLO EN LA CALLE,” which means Solo in the Street. There’s a Stormtrooper referencing the local police. There’s Luke back in black. Then there are a couple of armored vehicles thrown in for good measure. The noble canine with the lightsaber in his teeth is none other than MataPacos, a hero of the new Chilean resistance who bit a cop in the leg.
The force is strong here in Chile. It is neither male, female, young or old. It encompasses all who believe in truth, justice, and dignity.
Note: CAIDA DEL IMPERIO – FALL OF THE EMPIRE
VIOLENCIA URBANA – Same shit, different country.
MEMORIAL TO MAURICIO FREDES – 1ST PERSON TO DIE IN THE RESISTANCE ON THIS SPOT
ENSHRINED BATTLE GEAR – EYES THAT HAVE BEEN LOST
PLAZA D’ITALIE – PLAZA BAQUEDANO RESISTANCE GROUND ZERO
ONE OF THE MAIN BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE CITY -ONLY 250 METERS FROM BAQUEDANO SQUARE
MOLOTOV COCKTAIL, ANYONE?
PLAZA D’ITALIE – TWILIGHT 1/31/19
NEW YEARS EVE – 2020 SANTIAGO DE CHILE
A CROWD GATHERS IN THE SQUARE
PRETTY MULTI-COLORED LIGHTED HEADBANDS
EMTs Await casualties from clashes 250 meters away.
THE BEHEMOTHS CONTINUE TO SPEW THEIR POTENTIALLY TOXIC PAYLOAD WHILE COMBATANTS HEAVE ROCKS RELENTLESSLY AND USE LASERS T BLIND THE COPS.
GOGGLES ARE GOOD PROTECTION FOR TEARGAS AND ORDINANCE MOST ARE NOT ENTIRELY EFFECTIVE AS I WOULD FIND OUT IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS
The Chilean women are as nice as they are pretty.
Hundreds of fireworks shot up from within the crowd in this spontaneous unsanctioned New Year’s celebration.
I don’t drink, but he made me a virgin Mojito. It felt festive without the hangover. Of course, I wake up with a Santiago hangover every single day. Not enough sleep with a stress chaser.
2020 NEW YEARS CELEBRATION or PINK FLOYD CONCERT?
Those hundreds of laser pointers will probably find themselves aimed at the police later in the evening.
I think everyone enjoyed all of the explosions that had not nothing to do with urban combat.
John HOLLISTER – Hope for the New Year – 2020
The evening was a roller-coaster ride going from ecstatic New Year’s Patriotic revelry to an alley just 250 meters away from where war was being waged against the usual, gargantuan, metal suspects.
A sidewalk that has been turned into ammunition.
That bus stop design looks like a Frank Stella rendering of a heart attack. It is also an image of the convulsions in the body politic of Chile. Behind the bus stop is the non-functioning Baquedano metro stop.
Metro Station turned into a cylindrical celebration of the Resistance.
ASESINO – Referring to Piñera as an assassin is the most common insult
JOKER – Chileans like good art and quality so it’s no surprise to find the image of Joker all over town.
I love this piece where the “swell” is feeding crumbs to the masses. The shot out eye is a warning to the oligarchs of the world that a reckoning may be coming. I fear the oligarchs are ready having analyzed crowd behavior through the use of police, helicopters, and drones. They’ve tested out the hardware and their ordinance and will be prepared come what may. I wonder what kind of crumbs they’ll be offering this time around.
SIN MIEDO – WITHOUT FEAR
1312 = ACAB = ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS
ACAB – This is a beauty of a graffiti-integrated pig’s head with the eyes put out.
BETTY PAGE – Just to lighten things up a little, folks.
A TRIP TO THE MALL
SALVADOR – I had to walk a mile to this dilapidated Metro station. The one on my square was completely destroyed and left in disrepair since the government didn’t want to make it easy for the protestors to commute to the rallies.
VIEJAS DE MIERDA – SHITTY OLD LADIES?
Anyhow, the metro took me to the largest shopping mall in South America, because I needed the air-conditioned comfort and familiarity of a world-class mall. I really needed a break from the city, a cheap escape into the very Capitalist nightmare that Chile and many nations are currently grappling with. Many systems run very well until you involve the people they are meant to serve. Then they become corrupted and cease to function as designed.
I firmly believe that 95% of the human race is incapable of handling large amounts of money and power. Then, in steps greed and stupidity, and here you find us at the beginning of a new millennium at the very precipice of a 6th World Extinction event, and most of the population are just moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic.
If ninety-seven percent of astronomers and astrophysicists agreed that a bloody great, planet-killer asteroid was hurtling on a bulls-eye collision course trajectory with the Earth, what do you think would happen? Right. First, everyone would crap their pants, and then every country on Earth would cooperate to meet the threat. They wouldn’t be arguing about which countries might or might not be the first place to be immediately destroyed.
I guess they maybe have deluded themselves into thinking there’s still plenty of time to address the fact that is global warming. I would put forth that time has come and gone, and we’ll be lucky to find any solutions that can mitigate some of the disasters that are already coming down the pipeline.
LARGEST SHOPPING MALL IN SOUTH AMERICA
Although unattended and green with algae, these ponds lend an air of tranquility to a city that’s always simmering underneath.
MATA PACOS – The most adorable, playful-looking, canine symbol of a revolution you ever did see. However, he was anything but. He is known for voraciously grabbing a policeman by the leg during a riot.
What a nice man. We spoke at length about the challenges both our countries face, but I made sure to pick up some Mata Pacos accessories for my dog-lover friends. People are out all over the city, selling whatever they can to stay afloat. Even with all of the destruction, injustice, and daily disturbance this guy comes up with a smile like that. We can learn a lot from Chile. In a couple of weeks, they taught me to stand up against injustice, and in doing so I found peace within the chaos.
This is a very good-natured and hard-working volunteer traffic controller. With so many broken traffic signals, there are rarely enough cops to go around so these guys step up and earn a few coins collecting them from motorists and pedestrians that pass by.
She’s walking down the street
Blind to every eye she meets
Do you think you’ll be the guy
To make the queen of the angels sigh?
Jim Morrison 1968
RADIO FREE SANTIAGO – A makeshift loudspeaker gives news and inspiration to the protestors.
NEGRO MATAPACOS – QUALITY PIECE WITH MOLOTOV COCKTAILS
WATER CANONS AND TEAR GAS
HASTA QUE LA DIGNIDAD SE HAGA COSTUMBRE
THIEF AND ASSASSIN
VENEZUELAN REFUGEE SELLING WATER
SKATERS AND MOTOCOPS
NUMBER 51 – Hopefully it’s dispensing regular water.
This was a particularly tricky shot given that the crowd of people was throwing rocks at #51 while I was in the line of fire.
PREPARING BANNERS TO WAVE IN PLAZA BAQUEDANO
ESTEBAN, ANONYMOUS 60 YEAR OLD WOMAN, TRAVEL ZEALOT
ESTÉBAN’S LEG – RUBBER BULLET INJURY
KIND OF DEFEATS THE WHOLE PARK VIBE, DOESN’T IT?
MEANWHILE BACK AT PLAZA BAQUEDANO
THE LADIES ADD SOME FLAVOR THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE TEAR GAS OR POLLUTED WATER. WHAT A RELIEF.
A LADY HOISTS A NEGRO MATAPACOS ALOFT WITH PRIDE
KICK YOUR FAVORITE DICTATOR – Fridays at Baquedano Square take on an almost carnival/sporting event atmosphere. The square is filled with Resistance Merch. Chilean flags, Black Matapacos paraphernalia, fridge magnets, t-shirts, protective goggles, respirators, lasers, and slingshots. There’s food, beer, soft drinks, and water which comes in very handy after a dose of tear gas. One of the best results of this capitalist exercise was the sheer number of people out helping to keep their households afloat.
The people gather for another Friday Night Rally and Spectacle. Unfortunately, people will be injured and, Chileans will be pitted against one another.
A HELICOPTER SURVEILS THE PLAZA
AN INSPIRING IMAGE
BAQUEDANO – THEY TRIED TO PULL HIM DOWN
THIS UNSEEMLY BUNCH OF BEER DRINKING LOUTS DEMANDED MONEY FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF HAVING THEIR SLOVENLY ASSES IN MY SHOT. I DECLINED AND TOOK THE SHOT, ANYWAY. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT GIVE THE LEGITIMATE PROTESTORS A BAD NAME. THESE PARASITES ARE JUST FEEDING OFF OF THE UNREST AND TAKING ADVANTAGE OF A BAD SITUATION. YOU WOULD NEVER FIND THIS BUNCH ACTUALLY PROTESTING OR RISKING ANYTHING.
ONE OF MANY STAGING AREAS
GEARING UP FOR THE NIGHT’S ENCOUNTERS
PEOPLE GATHER TO CHOOSE THEIR FRIDGE MAGNETS
AS I HAD MENTIONED, THIS SORT OF THING DOESN’T REALLY MAKE THAT MUCH OF AN IMPRESSION HERE IN SANTIAGO. A COUPLE OF WEEKS HERE, AND I’M ALSO DEVELOPING AN IMMUNITY TO THE VIOLENCE.
TEAR GAS AGAIN?
MY CHERISHED “NEGRO MATAPACOS” BANDERA
CHILEAN BERRIES – $1.00 PER TRAY
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
HOPEFULLY, NO EYES WERE LOST TONIGHT
EYEBALLS ON THE SIDEWALK – Throughout the city, you will see a great deal of art that references the loss of eyes in the resistance. Sometimes through the red crossing out of eyes on street art or in the form of the sculpture that you see represented in this image.
((( I am currently sitting in the Apple store trying to show a doubting Thomas that my goddamn computer really does fuck up on a regular basis when I am trying to use my word processor with Word or WordPress on my blog. This is particularly annoying given that I do a great deal of writing, and the dipshit helping me intimated that my computer doesn’t what I said it was doing. Thankfully he can’t speak English or I’d have more than just a problem on my computer. Although my attempts to replicate my six-year keyboard conundrum were fruitless, I refused to give up. A young lady came up with the idea that it might have something to do with the touchpad. It made sense so I pulled out the laptop when I got home to test her theory. It made sense and she was right.)))
ALWAYS IN FASHION
BIG AMMO STASH
MISSING GRATES INVITE POTENTIAL INJURY
VENDORS ASSIST THOSE REQUIRING A LITTLE TRANQUIL RETAIL THERAPY IN LASTARRIA.
IT’S HARD TO TELL WHERE VANDALISM STOPS AND THE ART BEGINS
WELDED STEEL COVERINGS ARE ALSO AN ART FORM
MY REFUGE FROM ALL OF THE CHAOS AND VIOLENCE
THE ART IN ROOM #25 – CONTEMPORARY WITH A PERUVIAN FEEL CALMED ME DOWN EVERY TIME I CAME BACK TO MY ROOM