Everybody we meet tells us it is a very exciting time to visit Chile, because they celebrate the Fiestas Patrias on 18 Sept. and this entails a week long festival and lots of eating! The 18th September marks the beginning of Independence for Chile. All the stores are selling red, white and blue decorations and there are Chilean flags put up all over the streets. The flag in the picture is the biggest flag I have seen so far and it stands proudly in the main street (The Almeda) a few blocks away from where we are renting a room in an apartment.
Another exciting event, but perhaps less festive, is the 40 year anniversary of the Coup d’etat that took place in Santiago on 11 Sept. 1973, when the La Moneda was bombed and Pinochet took over the presidency from the socialist Allende. Pinochet was a dictator in Chile for 17 years and from what I have heard Chileans are still divided between people who support Pinochet and people who support Allende. This causes tension and we have been warned to expect marches on 11 Sept. and to stay away from large gatherings of people.
We have attended two social events where Spanish and English speaking people get together and try to understand each other. The socials have the feel of a first year social arranged by your university residence; you meet many people whose names you struggle to remember and you have similar conversations with all the people, expect it’s much harder if you try to communicate in Spanish! Everyone we meet is super friendly and I am excited to attend an ‘assado’ (braai) over the weekend that we have been invited to!
The weather has not been playing along thus far – it is not warm yet and you can still see snow on the Andes mountains in the distance. The sky is a dull white colour and this does not put me in the mood to venture out to explore the city.