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Published: June 28th 2015
Pablo Neruda and Matilde Urrutia
Portrait at his house in Santiago
“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets.
Pablo Neruda is adored by the Chileans. The Nobel Prize winning poet was a collector of beautiful things. His houses are full of furniture from all corners of the world and art from many cultures. Books and maps were some of his most treasured possessions and his houses were oddly designed and resembled the interiors of ships. His love of the sea was evident in his lovely house, La Chascona in Santiago, which he built for Matilde Urrutia (his secret love).
We both loved La Chascona and the worldly collection of things. His house is beautiful and his poetry is beautiful, his secret love was beautiful - but at the time of his death in September 1973, not everything was beautiful in Chile...
September 11th 1973
The coup d'état. In brief (really brief), the Chilean president, Salvador Allende was overthrown by the armed forces and the national police. In the afternoon he was found dead in the Presidential Palace. His army chief, Augusto Pinochet swiftly moved to supreme power. Thousands of Chileans were executed, thousands more were thrown into prison and tortured, and about a quarter of a million Chileans fled the country...
Matilde's eyes watch over Pablo Neruda's house
month after the coup, a contingent of soldiers boarded a military helicopter and embarked on a mission called "Caravan of Death." The commander, General Sergio Arellano Stark, was appointed by Augusto Pinochet as his 'official delegate.'
On October 19th, the Caravan made its final stop in Calama, where 26 men were executed, their bodies buried in a secret desert grave. In all, 75 people were massacred in 5 different cities.
During the first years after the disappearance, the wives, mothers, sisters and grandmothers of the men of Calama met secretly. With no 'official' information about the location of their loved ones, they set out to find the bodies themselves. For 17 years, they searched the Atacama Desert, until they finally found the mass grave containing crushed remains of their men...
...In 1995, five years after the discovery of the mass grave, fragments of 13 men were identified. In 2000, more remains were found. In 2008, the women were told that they had found fragments in the grave because the bodies had been removed and thrown into the sea. In 2011, ten more men were identified.
In 2014, the families were told that the original remains were
Artwork by Pablo Neruda's front door
misidentified and they had to return bones identified as belonging to their loved ones to other families."
Paula Allen, The museum of Memories and Human rights.
"We were in a state of war." That is what they say to justify their lies. I ask myself, "What war?" Señora Leonila.
The Museum of Memories and Human Rights is a monument to all those who died during the Pinochet dictatorship. It's a powerful place that stirred our emotions and gave us a better appreciation of Chile's turbulent past. During a walking tour of the city a little earlier in the day, we visited the grave of Salvador Allende and our guide talked in depth about the Pinochet era and the trials and tribulations of the Chileans during that time... All that we learned here made us unravel and see the many layers of Chileans. Their passion for life and democracy, and the need for expression through protests... we are thankful to have a deeper understanding now.
Take a moment to reflect on your lucky lives, then continue to read on. We promise, it is less heavy as you continue.
The Cementario in Santiago is a maze of grand apartment-sized grave complexes - massive, multi-level buildings that are filled with thousands of tombs. Deeper into the cemetery are huge,
By Pablo Neruda's front door
extravagant graves of the wealthy - anything from sphinxes and pyramids to a miniature parthenon built of marble...
The food in the Santiago is great! Our favourite was cazuela, a bowl of soup with chunks of meat, corn-on-the-cob, potato and pumpkin. A lot of the food is cheap and tasty, we also tried some of the local cocktails - terramoto (earthquake) is a powerful concoction and not to be messed with!
We spent some time in the markets, which really are the beating heart of the city, they are a part of life for the Santiageños (the people who live in Santiago) and are a lot of fun... Like peeling an onion, there are many layers to the markets. Many stalls are run by families that have been working the markets for generations. They are very proud of their produce and have many loyal customers. When we go in as tourists we often just see (and smell) the products - beautiful fruit and veggies, fresh fish, meat and flowers flow through the narrow lanes. But there is more to see. Now we can see a sense of community, loyalty, culture, tradition and the beauty of the market. The
Pablo Neruda's house.
beating heart of the city.
Santiago is a wonderful city, and it was really starting to grow on us - we would have liked more time there...
We have been back in Canada for a little while now and have been enjoying all the daylight. It is still late spring/early summer for us here, plants are starting to bud, the ice and snowbanks are almost all gone. The beluga whales are going crazy in the estuary and a polar bear or two has been sighted in the area. All is good...
In closing this last entry for our trip, what's a blog without a few personal reflections by Theresa!
Seeing as I started off with a few, I feel the need to end this entry with a few more.
That small window between worlds is ever fading as we adjust to work life again. But some magic continues to linger.
The Space between worlds…
Experiencing home for the first time… again…
When I travel for long periods of time, it amazes me how much I forget about my home. We adapt to what is in front of us
Parque Quinto Normal
One of Santiago's many green spaces.
for survival. And the more we travel, the faster adaptation occurs. So, how do you say hello to an old friend, called home?
Who knew, that there would be new found joy in realizing that I don't have to stuff everything I own into a backpack anymore and zip it all up for the next place and carry everything on my back. That I can leave stuff in a larger space, only to have it find its own place in multiple rooms...
Who knew that having a shower in your own bathroom would be so amazing. And having hot water! And having a heated house! Ah, the comforts, galore. Although, it was rather exciting to share the odd shower with cockroaches. (kidding...)
Who knew that knowing that your floors and carpets have only your dirt, (and not some mystery dirt that is from someone else or someone else's animals), would be so rewarding! (Hey, I remember that stain!)
Who knew that putting on a clean set of clothes that has been washed in a proper washing machine, and not a semi-clean set of clothes that you have been hand washing in bathroom sinks and shower floors
for the last two months, would be such a wonderful experience!
Who knew that when we got up to leave the plane upon landing in Churchill, that two people ahead of me would plug their noses in disgust of my smelly rain jacket that spent way too much time at the bottom of my backpack.
Who knew that having our own fridge (after not having fridges and buying food day to day so as to not spoil) would be such a joyful experience. We can buy a few items in bulk!
Who knew that having our own kitchen to cook in (after making many of our suppers in bathrooms and hostel/hotel rooms using a swiss army knife and plastic spoons) would feel so luxurious.
Who knew that sitting in my lazy boy chair in my own living room would feel like I'm at the helm of comfort and leisure!
Who knew that coffee spoons and tea mugs would be such a wonderful experience when shared with old friends!
Who knew that Canadians could be so friendly and silly! And that the English language is so versatile.
Who knew that there would be an
Hard at Work
In the buzzing markets
element of reverse culture shock of not seeing latino-dark hair on an entire flight and hearing only English being spoken. (and that when we did speak in English, we were not stared at).
Who knew that not having to treat water from the tap would be so easy! Just pour and drink! Versus, pour in bottle, let drops mix for 5 minutes then add to water, wait for 30 minutes.
Who knew that not having to put the used toilet paper into a garbage bin beside the toilet would feel so strange. Really? I can flush this?
Who knew that having room to manuver in the bathroom would feel so spacious! Wow! I don't have to close the door before getting to the toilet, past the shower?
Who knew that knowing where our next meal will come from would be so weird!
And finally, who knew that when one has high speed internet (vs. the agonizing slow speed we became so accustomed to) you feel that you can do anything!
We'd like to thank everyone for their comments and messages during our southern adventures and we hope to be travelling again soon...
The massive apartments for graves in the cemetery.
“Someday, somewhere - anywhere, unfailingly, you'll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.” Pablo Neruda
Dave and Theresa...
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