Monthly Archives: May 2009

Día del Patrimonio Cultural: Chilean Cultural Heritage Day

For information about the 2010 version, see: Día del Patrimonio Nacional 2010

Have you ever noticed that it seems like you always hear about cool events AFTER they’ve taken place? Well, here’s a heads up. This Sunday, May 31, 2009,  is Chile’s Cultural Heritage Day and no matter where you are in the country, there will be plenty of cultural activities to whet your appetite.

Fiesta del Día del Patrimonio:

Fiesta del Día del Patrimonio: http://www.diadelpatrimonio.cl. Be sure to check "National Monuments" and "Buildings to Visit"

Ten years ago, Chile declared the last Sunday in May to be the “Día del Patrimonio Cultural,”  a day set aside to celebrate and stimulate pride in Chilean culture. It is particularly geared toward architecture and a highlight of the day is the opportunity to visit a number of public and private buildings that are normally closed to the general public. The event has proven extremely successful and has expanded considerably each year. This year Santiago opens the doors to 110 buildings and has organized a multitude of activities in its museums, libraries, and cultural centers. Cities around the country are doing likewise.

This year’s theme is “The Fiesta del Patrimonio” and celebrates the concept of fiesta in different moments of time and cultural expression throughout Chile’s nearly 500 years of history.

I strongly suggest taking a look at the Día del Patrimonio Cultural (Cultural Heritage Day) web site and check out what’s doing around the country. If you click on “Programación nacional” you can find activities in each of the country’s 15 regions and then download an excel file with activities in your area.

To avoid making you go through a long series of clicking here, clicking there, just go straight to this link:  La Fiesta del Patrimonio: Guía de Recorridos (Cultural Heritage Festival: Guide to Tours)to download a pamflet in pdf format that lists the different buildings that will be open to the public on Sunday.  Choose a couple of options and go out and explore! This is your opportunity to get into those old mansions and the back rooms of government buildings you’ve always wondered about. There will also be plenty of music, food, games, and fun for the whole family.

Check it out and come back to report in on Monday!

I just found this great link: Cultura Mapocho which gives more information in Spanish about some of the tours available.

Other sources of cultural pride for Chile are its 5 Unesco World Heritage Sites.

World Heritage Sites  in Chile:

Easter Island: Rapa Nui National Park: Chile’s 1st World Heritage Site, named in 1995

Churches of Chiloé:  16 characteristic wooden churches were added to the WH list in 2001

Valparaíso (historic quarter): 2003

Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (Nitrate Mines) (2005)

Sewell Mining Town: (2006) Chile’s first copper mining camp

AH1N1 in Chile, a Scientist’s Perspective

A few days ago, a Chilean biologist commented on an earlier post in this series (see the original discussion here) and I asked him if he would be willing to answer some questions from a scientist’s perspective and in a way that would go beyond the official statements issued by the Ministry of Health.

Pablo Astudillo, the biologist behind Astu’s Science Blog, agreed and here is our interview.

MS: My understanding is that the disease was originally thought to be the same Swine Flu that is commonly passed among pigs, but that the name has been changed to AH1N1 because it is in fact a human virus (from what I have read, only human viruses are classed as Type A and are not transmitted between humans and animals). Your comment left me wondering if it is a case of the same virus adapting/mutating from animal to human, or is it a case of more advanced research revealing that it had been misidentified originally?

PA: OK, from the beginning… The AH1N1 virus did not originate from humans or birds. This virus was born from a succession of events that allowed genetic material to be recombined (which means, in laymen’s terms, that several pieces of DNA are “copied and pasted”). These events can happen in many organisms in which two or more viruses are able to enter. Pigs have this characteristic; they present two specific receptors in the tracheal epithelium cells that are recognized by human and avian influenza viruses.

The AH1N1 virus originated in pigs in such a way, but was then transmitted to humans. This has been happening for a long time, and it is believed that events like this have been responsible for many pandemic influenzas, including the Spanish flu in 1918.

In theory, the AH1N1 virus can infect ANY animal with receptors that are able to recognize the virus in cells from the tracheal epithelium. I don’t know if cats and dogs have these receptors. One myth that has to be corrected is: this virus is not new… it is evolving constantly.

MS: You said that the majority of cases in Chile are asymptomatic… so how were they identified? If the flu produces no symptoms, is it dangerous? What is the greater concern about the transmission of asymptomatic diseases? Along the same line, will contracting the virus allow the person to develop immunities for a worse or related case of the flu?

PA: I am not familiar with the clinical features of the AH1N1 influenza, but some things can be discussed. As soon as Chile’s health authorities identify a person with AH1N1 influenza, they contact the relatives and friends who have been in touch with the infected person and run tests to determine whether they are positive for the virus. That’s why we have many positive asymptomatic cases.

The greater concern to authorities is, obviously, the public impact of having too many cases, especially when we are a few months from a presidential election.

For medical doctors, the concern is having an overloaded public hospital system. Santiago’s winter season is complicated; the cold, the viruses and the pollution create a scenario where many old people and children die from pulmonary diseases.

To scientists, the concern is with respect to the opportunity of the virus to evolve and develop a new mutation that can be dangerous to humans. Nonetheless, some evolutionary biologists claim that such viruses are quickly eliminated from the ecological niche because they kill their hosts. However, if a virus produces more than a cold and fever, obviously we have to be prepared.

Finally, indeed, becoming infected with this virus will allow humans to produce antibodies that can be useful in future infections. But if a new strain of the virus harbors a mutation in the protein recognized by the antibody produced, the said antibody is useless.

MS: You said the index case is the small boy with no known direct exposure. What does “index case” mean in laymen’s terms? What is the scientific concern here? From what I have read, flu viruses are transmitted through airborne contact; could he simply have sat next to the wrong person on the bus? Or are they concerned that there is another form of transmission that is not understood?

PA: In this case, the “index case” refers to the first patient identified. The virus is transmitted through contact, from saliva, sneezes, kisses, etc. But you should ask a medical doctor for detailed information. The virus does not fly through the air. I mentioned the concerns above.

MS: You say the public health system “claims” we are ready… do you agree? It sounds like you have your doubts…

PA: At this point, that question is irrelevant. We have 199 confirmed cases, making us the 5th country in the world** with more cases of AH1N1 influenza. The system claimed that “we are ready,” but the explosive increase in cases says otherwise. [**At the time this was posted, Chile had just dropped to 6th place.]

MS: Why, in your opinion, does Chile have so many cases? Apparently we are number 2 behind Mexico in Latin America. I wonder how much has to do with (1) more travel means more exposure (although I have no way to prove that Chileans travel abroad more than other Latinos), and (2) how much it has to do with more advanced methods of identification….

PA: Well… The authorities claimed that we had suffered the same as New York: we had infected children in schools. Children are more exposed to other children while in class, playing games, going to parties, etc. That explains the explosive increase in positive cases. The parents and relative of those children then quickly became infected.

In fact, a few days ago the authorities said that around 75% of the cases were children related with the outbreak in schools of Vitacura, Santiago. But with 199 cases, it is more difficult to establish relationships. My guess is that it has nothing to do with Chilean people traveling more often than other South Americans.

About the identification methods, one thing that Chilean authorities claimed was that we have more advanced and faster methods for detection of the virus. That’s a political lie. The diagnostic method is simple, fast, reliable, and, above all, a standard procedure in every university with biology or molecular biology laboratories. Claiming such a thing is not only a lie, but also a vain way to explain the irresponsibility of the authorities. As soon as the first cases were detected in schools, the authorities should have suspended school activities.

The Original Posts for Swine Flu in Chile:

May 28, 2009: AH1N1 (Swine Flu) in Chile: Update Part 4

May 22, 2009: Swine Flu in Chile Part 3: Update on Chile

April 29, 2009:  Swine Flu in Chile Part 2: Update on Chile

April 28, 2009:  Swine Flu in Chile Part 1:  So far, so good

AH1N1 (Swine Flu) in Chile: Update Part 4

A month ago we here in Chile thought we were in good shape. As the numbers of AH1N1—then called Swine Flu—soared in the US and Mexico, Chile remained flu-free. How things change in a month’s time.

The latest update from the Ministry of Health (6PM on Thursday, May 28 ) reports 199 confirmed cases, 2 serious, no deaths. Almost all of the cases are confined to the Metropolitan Region (Santiago), and the majority those affected are school-age children with mild cases; many in fact are asymptomatic.

It is important to bear in mind that it is winter here in Chile and we are in the midst of the normal flu season. Furthermore, Santiago is prone to significantly high amounts—oh who are we kidding—let’s just be honest and say disgusting—amounts of air pollution during the winter months. We usually get some respite when it rains, but because this is an abnormally dry winter, the air quality is much worse than normal, further adding to situations of respiratory distress and apparently lowering resistance to illness.The Ministry has stated that 90% of the flu cases reported in Chile have been defined as AH1N1 and that this strain is replacing seasonal flu.

There have been no deaths to date, although two severe cases have been reported. Both patients—one in Santiago and one in Puerto Montt—are connected to artificial respirators.

The first and most widely discussed serious case is that of a 38-year-old woman who is currently in a Santiago hospital suffering from Catastrophic Respiratory Failure. The severity of systems in a woman thought otherwise healthy originally baffled the authorities, but it was later discovered that she had been following an alternative diet that involves taking Candlenut (Aleurites moluccana), also known as Kukui and Indian Walnut (Nuez de la India in Spanish). This Asian plant has been used medicinally for centuries, although it is known to have toxic properties. Ingesting sustained doses over a period of time as a diet not only lowered her caloric intake to dangerous levels (one source said 600–800 calories per day), but also altered her immune system and placed her at particular risk for this virus. The second severe case is a man in Puerto Montt who has presented bilateral pneumonia.

Latest Governmental Actions

New actions taken this week including announcing that public schools will not close their doors and that more effective hand-washing campaigns will be implemented in the schools. Liquid soap will now be provided in all school bathrooms (flip that around and the logic implies that there was no soap before… which, by the way, is not at all unusual in public places).

The health screening procedures in the airports (thermal scanners, etc.) will be removed from Chile’s ports of entry as of June 1, citing that the virus has already established itself within the country and further screening is therefore ineffective.

The World Health Organization figures as of May 28, 2009:

15,510 cases worldwide in 53 countries with 99 deaths.

Current Top 10:

US                   7927 / 11 deaths
Mexico         4910 / 85
Canada         1118 / 2
Japan             364
UK                  203
Chile              165  (**now 199)
Australia      147
Spain              143
Panama        107
Argentina      37

**The number of cases reported in the UK has recently surpassed the number in Chile, which since dropped from fifth to sixth place in reported cases worldwide.

The Original Posts for Swine Flu in Chile:

May 22, 2009: Swine Flu in Chile Part 3: Update on Chile

April 29, 2009:  Swine Flu in Chile Part 2: Update on Chile

April 28, 2009:  Swine Flu in Chile Part 1:  So far, so good

For a Related Post, see:

May 29, 2009: AH1N1 in Chile, a Scientist’s Perspective


The Art of Artful Dodging: Avoiding Traffic Tickets in Chile

Carabinero-motoThe Chilean police—carabineros—are famous for being resistant to bribery. Forget everything you’ve ever heard about dealing with Latin American officials when you come to Chile. Don’t even THINK about offering them money; that’s a sure recipe for doom and a much closer look at the inner workings of a police station than you were bargaining for. But that doesn’t mean that carabineros always play it by the book. There are ways of getting out of that ticket looming large. I’ve heard plenty of stories about being let go…

Here are a few of my favorites:

Female Approach #1: Beautiful & Helpless
A very pretty young Chilean friend, a stunning model with no drivers’ license and little knowledge of driving, was, nonetheless, behind the wheel. She made an illegal left turn, entered the wrong way down a 1-way street, and was trying unsuccessfully to park in a no-parking zone when the local man-in-green asked her to step out of her car.

She’s a goner, right? No pu (which is Chilean for “nope”). Pretty and quick-witted, she flashes a big smile and puts on her very best gringa accent and says, “um… No…um… No sah-bair… estash-o-nahr…” (something that roughly resembles “no… to know…to park”), and throws in another big “I’m helpless” smile for good measure. He melted. Big bad meanie attitude out the window; Knight in Shining Armor to the rescue. Not only did she NOT get a ticket, but he actually stopped traffic and helped her back out and be on her way!

Now, would this work with a real gringa? Somehow I doubt it!

Female Approach #2: Turn on the Tears
In a word, cry. This seems to be the most common approach. Most of the women I know under 30 swear that this works every time. Most seem to discover this by accident the first time they get stopped and when they are really very scared and upset, “and I don’t have any money and my father’s going to kill me and I’ll never do it again, oh whatamIgonnadoooo boohoohoohoo…? Sob, sob, sob, look for tissues…sob, sob, sniff… Apparently it gets them every time, at least with the under-30s.

I can’t imagine cops anywhere falling for this kind of tactic from a man, who according to the universal rules of machismo, cannot cry or whine. And if they are even slightly intelligent, they should certainly know better than to show any sign of excess testosterone either. It’s man-to-man and one’s got the upper hand… and that hand’s holding a book of tickets. But still, there are ways…

Male Approach #1: The Absent-Minded Professor
Despite being stopped (and deservedly so) many more times than anyone could count, my husband has only received one ticket in his life… and that event is a story in itself, but I’ll save that for another day. He has an amazing ability to talk his way out of just about anything, usually without even realizing that that’s what he’s doing. He’s even had carabineros apologize for offending him, but that’s a tale that only he can tell…You see, he’s charming, intelligent, very polite… and extremely absent minded. Just the other day he was on the highway with his elderly mother in the car. It was about 4 pm when he got pulled over. The interaction went something like this:

“Your license and registration please.”

He pulls out all the papers he’s ever had related to the car and shuffles through them until the cop (or paco, in Chile), in desperation, points to what he wants. His papers are indeed in order and he knew he wasn’t speeding.

“Why don’t you have your lights on?”

He leans his head out of the window and looks up into the clear blue sky with a puzzled look on his face—completely oblivious to the law that has been in place for about 2 years that says that headlights must be on at all times while driving on the highway.

“But I’m just taking my mother on an errand…” (like that has anything to do with anything). She smiles (no tears, but now that I think of it, that would probably have worked very well too).

“You need to use your headlights on the highway.”

“Really? But I was just taking my mother…”

Realizing that my husband is a pretty harmless kinda guy, and perhaps confounded by what logic could possibly lie behind this clearly futile and seemingly endless loop of circular conversation, the paco shed mercy…

“Ok, don’t worry. You can go.”

“Thank you sir…” and puts the car in gear and starts to go. The carabinero stops him again…

“Turn your lights on… NOW!”

Oops! Red faced, lights on, and on his way…

Male Approach #1: Have a Charming Kid
Another friend, let’s call him Pedro, got stopped and knew he was doomed…went through that stop sign just a little too fast before he saw those ominous red lights atop the green and white car. His 3-year-old daughter sat in the back seat singing quietly to herself as he and the carabinero go through the required steps: the document checking, the accusation, the “Really? I didn’t see it” routine that they both know is expected but going nowhere, when suddenly the carabinero hears what the little one is singing… the Carabinero National Hymn!

The carabinero couldn’t believe his ears, and Pedro couldn’t believe his luck! It’s hard to tell who was most pleased.

You’ve got a nice little girl there mister. You have a nice day and be more careful next time.”

It turns out that the carabineros had recently visited her daycare center and taught them the song. She saw the uniform, made the association, and very innocently started on what well may be a long career of convincing carabineros to look kindly on wayward drivers.

Isabel Sandoval Modas: a play that stands the test of time

"Isabel Sandoval Modas" at Teatro del Puente

"Isabel Sandoval Modas" at Teatro del Puente

Geografía Teatral does a stunning job of presenting their latest play at the Teatro del Puente in Santiago. Isabel Sandoval Modas reflects critically on Chilean culture, social class, family, group loyalty, and social immobility. Although this play by Chilean author Armando Moock first opened to rave reviews nearly 100 years ago (1915), it remains relevant today with only minor wardrobe and linguistic adaptations.

Social class is one of those overarching cultural issues that makes its mark on nearly every aspect of daily life in Latin America. This has been true since the original settlers brought their Spanish caste-like hierarchical system to the New World, and today, nearly 500 years later, little has changed. Kyle Hepp wrote a recent post on her blog on tensions between social classes, and I couldn’t help but think about it throughout the play.

The Story:

Señora Isabel Sandoval is a worker. Widowed with three adult children, she sews and rents rooms and manages to make ends meet. She doesn’t complain. It is her lot in life; she has faith that she’ll get her reward in the great beyond. But just to be on the safe side, she and her extended family pin their hopes on her son Juan, the law student, who will one day pull them all out of poverty.

All of the action of this 1-set play takes place in the combined living-dining-sewing room of the Sandoval family. While the story explores universal themes of young love, sibling rivalry, coming of age, future dreams, losing one’s way, and the prodigal son, it does so in a way that must be interpreted within the cultural constructs and constraints of Latin American culture. It reflects broadly on the three great cultural pillars of social class, family, and religion and provides insight into how they work together to define society and weave the inalterable destiny of those who live within it.

Each character is carefully defined to stereotypical precision: the doting, self-sacrificing mother Isabel, the down-to-earth yet envious sister Inés, the blue-collar brother Lalo, the future hope of the family Juan, the senior male Don Alejo whose authority is based on gender and age, his intelligent yet heartsick daughter Adriana who laments the impossibility of further study, and the upper-class (cuica) customer Doña Enriqueta. The interaction between them reveals cultural values of family ties and responsibility, group loyalty, faith-based resignation and fatalism, the importance of knowing one’s place, and the dangers of social climbing (arribismo).

The Production

The cast does an excellent job, although there are two aspects of the production that I found disconcerting. As it happens, both pertain to the character Lalo, the underappreciated brother, although I would attribute them more to script and direction than to the admirable performance of actor Rafael Contreras.

Lalo is the steady-Eddy of the family, a young mechanic, who, it turns out, is quite talented and on the rise, although his grease-stained blue-collar success earns him little respect from the others, who dream of having a professional in the family. Lalo is simple, decent, and kind, but lacks the good looks, commanding personality, and professional future of his brother Juan, who is the family darling despite being self-centered, inconsiderate, and completely charmless. Lalo also stutters and has problems expressing himself, further emphasizing the contrast with his brother who fancies himself a poet.

The problem with the Lalo character is two-fold, and without having read the original script, it is difficult to define precisely where the problem lies. Lalo is certainly socially inept and an odd duck, but he also comes across as intellectually limited, although the words that he does manage to stammer out and his success in his own work indicate that he does indeed have his wits about him and realistic dreams for the future. I suspect this is more a matter of the director’s interpretation than the author’s intent or actor’s presentation. The same words delivered with less hand-flailing and a slightly different intonation would lend the character more credibility. For example, when Lalo overhears Juan tell a third person to lie and say he wasn’t there, a simple alteration in inflection would change the emotion portrayed from bewilderment to a more believable hurt or anger.

The other problem results in two minutes of audience confusion toward the end of the play when Lalo attempts to reveal his innermost feelings and comes across as a potential mass murderer as he delivers a couple of lines that are completely out of sync with the rest of the character. Is he bungling and inept? Yes. Dangerous? Doubtful.

In Summary

Go see it. As simple as that. For anyone interested in a closer understanding of Chilean culture, not to mention a very rewarding way to spend a couple of hours, this is a must. It doesn’t say it all, but it will give you plenty to reflect upon for quite some time.

Your Turn! Got something to say?

Seen the play? Tell us what you think! Haven’t seen it but got something on your mind? here’s the place! We’d love to know what you think!

Teatro del Puente: Parque Forestal s/n ( just west of the Pio Nono bridge)
Access from Costanera and Santa María, with limited parking on each side.

Dates: May 14 – June 28, 2009  (Fri, Sat, Sun, 8 PM)

Tickets: $3000 CLP  (2 x 1 with Club de Lectores!)

Reservations: (56-2) 732-4883

Swine Flu in Chile: Update Part 3

This story has been updated. For more current information, see:

May 28, 2009: AH1N1 (Swine Flu) in Chile Part 4

For earlier versions, see
April 29, 2009:  Swine Flu in Chile Part 2: Update on Chile

April 28, 2009:  Swine Flu in Chile Part 1:  So far, so good

For a Related Post, see:

May 29, 2009: AH1N1 in Chile, a Scientist’s Perspective

Swine Flu in Chile Update Part 3

It was bound to happen. Chile is now among the world’s 41 countries with confirmed and reported cases of Swine Flu—excuse me—the Flu Once Known as Swine and Now Called Novel Human Influenza A (H1N1) (such an annoyingly long and fumbly name—I must admit, I much preferred the porcine moniker).

Despite the best of intentions, one of the outcomes of globalization, of living in this fast-paced jet-lagged world is that not only ideas, experiences, and consumer goods—but diseases as well—are transported much faster and much farther than ever before.

29 cases of A (H1N1) in Chile

Chile now has its first confirmed cases of the dreaded flu, all concentrated in the Metropolitan, Valparaíso, and O’Higgins Regions.

The first 2 cases were identified on May 17 when 2 women who returned from the Dominican Republic on the same flight presented symptoms. That number has since risen to 29. No related deaths have been reported.

Chile uses a special thermal imaging scanner to monitor all passengers entering the Arturo merino Benítez Airport in Santiago and identify anyone who may have a fever at the time of entering the country. According to the Ministry of Public Health, as of Thursday, May 21, some 39,600 people—passengers and crew—had been checked.

Much of the initial panic surrounding the virus has waned as more is learned about what it is and how it spreads. A (H1N1) appears to spread in the same manner as regular seasonal flu: through the coughs and sneezes of those who are infected. The symptoms are similar, but since it is a new strain, no vaccination is yet available for it and the general population has no natural immunity to it, so more people may fall ill.

The usual recommendations and health precautions still apply:

  • Wash your hands with soap and/or alcohol gel.
  • Avoid enclosed places and those with a high flow of people (what to do about planes? Subways? Rush hour buses? Easier said than done in an overcrowded city! See the Metro Crush)
  • Use disposable tissues and throw them away
  • Be aware of any health updates

Chile is currently in the midst of its annual early-winter flu season, and many people are affected by the usual run-of-the-mill cold symptoms (sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, cough) and flu ailments (headache, body ache, chills, fever, fatigue). The new virus may present all of these as well as possible diarrhea and vomiting.

The Center for Disease Control recommends seeking immediate medical attention should any of the following symptoms appear:

  • Fast or difficult breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

If you are in Chile and suspect that you or someone close to you is sick, call
SALUD RESPONDE: 600 360-7777
before going to a health center.

INTERNATIONAL SITUATION

According to the World Health Organization (WHO)   11,034 cases of
A (H1N1) had been officially reported in 41 countries, including 85 deaths as of the evening of May 21, 2009.

The majority of the cases have been identified in the following countries:

United States:     5,710 cases, 8 deaths
Mexico:                 3,892 cases, 75 deaths
Canada:                     719 cases, 1 death
Japan:                        259 cases
Spain:                          111 cases
United Kingdom:   109 cases
Costa Rica:                  20 cases, 1 death
France:                         16 cases
Germany:                    14 cases
Colombia:                   12 cases

Out of curiosity, I wonder why Chile’s 29 cases weren’t mentioned? What other countries were left off this list?

For More Information:

– Chilean Health Ministry:  www.minsal.cl; www.pandemia.cl
– World Health Organization: www.who.int
– Center for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/
– Chilean Epidemiological Society: http://www.sociedad-iih.cl/

**See what Leigh, at Crooked Compass, wrote about her experience in the airport**

Huemul

Ever seen a huemul?    A WHAT?    A Huemul (way MOOL),
Hippocamelus bisulcus
, that curious animal that looks like a cross between a horse and a deer on the left side of Chile’s national coat of arms.

The huemul and the condor have appeared on Chile's coat of arms since 1834

The huemul and the condor have appeared on Chile's coat of arms since 1834

Haven’t seen the “escudo nacional” either? Don’t worry, we’ll fix both those problems right here, right now!

Chances are you’ll never get a chance to see a living huemul in the wild. They’re pretty shy (and for darned good reason), and this is probably about as close as you’ll ever get, so take a close look. I spotted this one lurking around a dark corner of the Natural History Museum in Concepción.

The huemul, one of Chile's national animals, in now in danger of extinction

The huemul, one of Chile's national animals, in now in danger of extinction

These big-eared members of the deer family (Cervidae), also known as the South Andean deer,  grow to a shoulder height of 35–40 inches and once ruled the wilds of Patagonia until they had to compete with human settlers who arrived in the 19th century. Their numbers have dwindled drastically due to human activity and the destruction of their natural habitat by deforestation, agriculture, and road building, etc. In fact, they’ve been on the endangered species list since 1976.

The few that remain today are protected in Andean sectors of national parks such as  in Nevados de Chillán-Laguna de Laja in southeastern Chile from the 8th through the 12th Regions and in southwestern Argentina.

By the way, that little guy tagging along behind the huemul in the museum is a pudú (Pudu puda), the smallest deer on Earth—no more than 15–16 inches (40 cm) in height! I’ve actually even seen a couple—in captivity on family farms—but they seem to be more plentiful than the once-grand huemul.

Street Art Chile: New Mural for Diego Portales

Santiago Centro: Little Chinchinero

Santiago Centro: Little Chinchinero

I love graffiti. Street art. Legal or illegal (with or without permission), I am happy to see artistic expression in spaces that would otherwise be blank or filled with commercial advertising. Of course I’m not talking about vandalistic magic marker scribbling, but rather true works of urban art. Chile has an impressive and particularly rich culture of urban art that stretches back for decades. Forget what New Yorkers have to say about subway graffiti in the 70s or hip hop in the 80s. Chile has a long tradition that not only tolerates, but even encourages, artistic expression in public places. Continue reading