MONDAY FEB 17 DAY 22…
Here we are in Santiago or rather Port San Antonia, 100 miles north of the city
Santiago is an interesting area but not what I expected ….it’s an inland city surrounded by the Andes ….creating a beautiful backdrop of mountain peaks.
heading into the city, the outlying areas, have miles of vineyards ….along with walnuts, blueberries and avocados that are exported to Europe.
Like Coquimbo, local wines are very popular on the international market but the primary driver for Santiagos’ economy is copper.
The city of Santiago is quite different then the areas we have recently seen….. It is a prosperous city, with a melting pot of people, and economically thriving …
so I was excited to see a vibrant, sophisticated capital city….
but I guess I don’t watch enough world news
… …I was surprised to see a city in so much social upheaval …..plastered in graffiti and heavily vandalized
…..the last set of riots were a few days earlier over a 3 cent price hike in the subway fare. 80 Metro stations were forced to shut down, damaged or destroyed…..20 were actually burned by the protestors. Major hotels were burned, other hotels shut their doors due to turmoil, and banks have limited hours.
So what happened?
Santiago is the capital of Chile and the oldest city in the country, becoming independent in 1541. Santiago is a big city (as big as NY) with a population of 8M …..
almost half the country resides in Santiago and the outlying areas ….their Spanish dialect is Castilian, a slightly different, more casual expression of Spanish, then it’s neighboring regions
Chileans use pesos as there currency ….$1 equals 732 pesos …. try doing that conversion when you want to buy something.
The peso is driven by the price of copper and copper is tied to the US commodities exchange. (Big fancy word and I am not really sure what it means but their economy is tied to our dollar)
Minimum wage in Santiago is $5k per year with 20% taken out for taxes….the median income is $20k per year. Residents pay 19% value added tax on all purchases and 50% of the gasoline price goes to taxes. Most healthcare and basic schooling is paid for by the government. National unemployment outside of Santiago is low (2.5%) …but in the city it’s 9%.
Chile has been independent for less then 200 years and has floundered economically … between 1819 and 1990 the country has gone through numerous government regimes ….from a socialist country to a democracy over the last 17 years. ….
Chiles’ first constitution was put in place in 1833 and has been revised numerous times with changing regimes. Economic inequality has been a challenge …the country started with a two class system…. those that worked the mines and the fields and those that owned them. ..as time evolved and the economy grew, there have been many attempts to create a working middle class.
To some degree they have done that but many “middle class” Chileans today want a higher standard of living ….they want more economic equality …
So… historically Chileans protest and rise up to force change. This same attitude continues today…
Santiago has been rioting almost daily since October…..the objective of the protesters is to be heard and felt … so most of the city has been vandalized by destroying buildings and spraying graffiti everywhere ….
Some believe the recent riots are fueled by corrupt organIzations from neighboring counties, specifically Brazil and Venezuela, attempting a political uprising … but at this time no one really knows …..in April their will be a country wide vote to decide about revising the constitution. In the meantime more riots are expected.
it is sad to see so much distruction…locals think there is more to come ….at least until the election….
you can see the frustration…and feel the stress and the volatility ….locals do not want to be uprooted …
Santiago is still a beautiful city, with many green spaces….a mix of modern and neoclassical architecture …. even now, amongst the walls of graffiti, it feels like an old majestic European city …
Hopefully one day soon Santiago will be restored to its’ former glory…..
Next Stop ..Puerto Montt, Chile