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Published: December 4th 2018
San Miguel Museo al Cielo Abierto
Mile and I having our "Urban" picnic break.
On Day 3 of my visit, Monday, I had one of the most unique and meaningful experiences in Chile.
We signed up with a company called Instant Tours
. This company provides participants with a vintage Polaroid camera to create your own unique souvenirs.
We signed up for the Urban Tour, which advertised exploring off the beaten track and learning the history of street art and muralism in Chile, whilst using the Metro System to get around.
Anticipating the fearsome prospect of trains being too full, we set out an hour before our meeting time. We overestimated the transit problems, so we arrived early at our meeting spot at a coffee shop in the Centro Gabriela Mistral. As it happened, our guide Camilo (Milo) had also set out early to avoid unexpected problems.
Camilo was delightful. In no time, we felt we were spending time with a fun friend who happened to be extremely proud of his City, and extremely well informed about the sights we were seeing. There was only the two of us in the tour with him, so it was very laid back.
Universidad de Chile Metro Station
Detail of the Visual Memory of a Nation Mural.
us with a bottle of water, and instructed us in the use of the Polaroid cameras. Eight photos were provided, with the option of buying more if we so wished. Then we were off to the closest Metro station to start our adventure.
To reach San Miguel we had to ride two different Metro lines, and I had my first experience of what is like to get on a very crowded train.
The first tour stop was in one of the Metro stations, the Universidad de Chile, to view the 1200 square meter mural called Visual Memory of a Nation painted by Mario Toral, a Chilean painter and photographer. The mural in the platform area is divided in two parts, Pasado (past), and Presente (present.) It shows fragments of Chile’s history from the violent Spanish conquest to the modern day. It is a fascinating display of images in a large scale.
Because of this outstanding mural, this station is considered one of the seven most beautiful stations in the world.
From there we had to change to a different, older, Metro line where we let the first train
go by because it was so crowded but, when the second train arrived in the same condition, we were forced to brave it. I hesitated at the very last, not seeing how I could fit in, but the man behind me was not going to miss it and pushed me in and then barely managed to get in himself, barely missing getting squashed by the closing doors. Phew!
Since my nose was barely an inch from the person in front of me, I strategically decided to, very carefully, turn around. However, I was not as careful as I thought and I not only stomped on a poor woman’s foot in the process, but also elbowed another one in the boobs. Yikes! I had been warned on several occasions about displaying anything that could be snatched by pickpockets. I had forgotten on a couple of occasions to put away my cell phone, which I tend to wear hanging from my neck for convenience. This time, I had a firm grip on the polaroid camera, and another around my small purse in front of me. Fortunately, the train emptied somewhat at the next station and we arrived without any
more trauma at the Departmental Metro station nearby our destination, El Museo al Cielo Abierto (Open Air Museum) in San Miguel.
The project was started in 2009 by Roberto Hernandez Bravo and David Villarroel Fuentes, with hopes of revitalizing their deteriorating working class neighborhood that dates back to the 60s, and which was being threatened by nearby high-rise developments.
The result is stunning world-class artwork spread out for about seven blocks, mostly on the sides of four-story apartment buildings, many painted by famous international artists.
We started our exploration of the area, and became entranced by the beauty and diversity of the murals. There are homages to local celebrities, national poets and writers, miners, or just purely artistic interpretations.
Imagine our delight when, half way through our walk, we ran into Roberto Hernandez, one of the original organizers of the project and current Director of the Museum. He informed us that the art director and the original artist involved in the project, Alejandro “Mono” Gonzalez, who is considered the father of Chilean muralists, was currently at his house preparing to restore one of his original murals and offered
to introduce him to us.
We were excited at the prospect and had the privilege and pleasure of meeting him and his assistants. It was quite a treat to have this opportunity.
It was a hot day, so half way through our walk we stopped at one of the small parks in the area, next to one of the beautiful murals, for a rest and a tour provided picnic. I understand that during the weekend tours, they take advantage of the "feria" (farmer's market) to purchase fruits and snacks, which is a lot of fun. During our break, Milo provided us with more details about the project and the people involved. Afterwards we strolled by the Mural that Mono Gonzalez was preparing to restore, but they hadn't started to process yet, much to our disappointment. It would have been amazing to watch him work.
I cannot express enough how absolutely wonderful it was to visit this neighborhood and see a project that included a whole community of enthusiastic residents and artists from around the world in its efforts to revitalize a neighborhood. I highly recommend to anyone who is visiting Chile
not to miss this unique opportunity.
After we left San Miguel, we decided to stop at Paseo Lastarria once again, and have lunch at one of the restaurants that was closed the day before, Republica Independiente del Pisco. Loved it! A fusion of Peruvian and Chilean food, I had a combination of Peruvian chicken empanadas (Aji de Gallina), and Chilean beef empanadas (Carne Mechada), plus two different Pisco Sours that were outstanding. The place was very nice with a nice long bar and pretty patio area, plus a comfortable and cool interior dining area with great décor and atmosphere. The staff was very friendly and helpful. I really enjoyed it.
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