An innocent visit to a craft centre in Santiago can turn out to be more entertaining than anticipated…and even a little bit disturbing.If you take the red metro line to the furthest point in Santiago, Los Dominicos, and walk towards the church towers you’ll see a few hundred meters away, you will find the Centro Artesanal Los Dominicos, a fantastic place to spend a few hours window shopping or buying souvenirs. I am extremely proud of myself for only spending money on food during the time I spent there (without having Dirk with me to tell me I can’t buy another knitted toy lama- they are simple adorable!). Since I didn’t buy anything, I actually don’t know if the Artisan centre is an overpriced tourist trap or an authentic place to support local Chileans doing handcraft. Either way, I enjoyed a tranquil morning there and would recommend tourists in Santiago to visit the centre.
The San Vicente Ferrer Church was closed when I was there; I would love to see the inside of this national monument.
More than 150 artisans display and sell their goods at the centre (the largest craft centre in Chile); you can buy anything from an actual bird or rabbit to clothes and shoes. The shops built with mud and straw, gives a country atmosphere to the centre. I am not fond of fake environments to create tourist attractions (such as Sun City in South Africa), but I was impressed with the layout of the shops and walkways. You forget that you are in a huge city and the peaceful atmosphere puts you in a happy state of mind.
The most impressive objects are the matchstick sculptures! Yes, the guy carves anything out of a match: Jesus on the cross, Bugs Bunny, the Tasmanian Devil, anything!
Apparently Chileans are known for making inappropriate sexual jokes…luckily I have not yet experienced their jokes, but I think these wooden sculptures with their naughty smiles could be an example of that:
The shop that sells pressed flowers and pressed fruit was closed when I visited the centre (some shops are closed on Mondays, but it’s still worth a visit), but I got a nice picture of a bowl with an interesting combination of pressed items on it:
I have no idea why someone would sell disturbing sculptures of doctors torturing their patients…is it the type of souvenir to buy for our doctor friends to put on their desk when they consult patients? Or do you give it as a get-well-soon present?
There are a lot of Lapis Lazuli (a deep blue semi-precious stone only found in large quantities in Chile, Afghanistan and Russia) jewellery and crafts, beautiful knitted toys and many artworks in bronze. I like the shop that sells painted tiles with different professions and cartoons drawn on them with writing in Spanish.
The artisans practise their crafts in their workshops at the centre, so you can see how the sculptures and other artefacts are made and as you walk around the shops, you are surrounded by the sounds of people working such as hammering and sawing.