This week I will tell you a bit more about WHAT Chilean life is like and WHAT goes on here.
Chile is now a democratic country but it has not always been that way. Chile has just elected a new president, Sebastián Piñera, (succeeding Chile's first female president, Michelle Bachelet), and the government is organized alot like ours - there is a president (executive branch), Congress (legislative branch), and a Supreme Court (judicial branch).
The President works in "La Moneda," a large white building in the center of the city:
Chile's political history is interesting but very sad. In 1973, the standing president (Salvador Allende) was overthrown and killed by the Chilean military who wanted to see the government run in a different way. Augosto Pinochet, an army general, became president of Chile in 1974 and ruled until 1990. He was a repressive dictator and killed anyone who opposed him or his government. Over 30,000 people were tortured and killed during that time. Many of the people killed were young people, intellectuals, teachers, and those connected to the Allende government.
These are pictures of some of those who "disappeared" during the dictatorship. Below is a protest of family members carrying a banner that says, "Where are they? The truth is still missing!"
After much protest in the late 1980s, the government agreed to hold a referendum and Pinochet was voted out of office. However, he was named a senator for life and he remained head of the army until 1998. Despite all of the atrocities committed, thousands of people supported Pinochet for his economic policies, which many claim "led Chile to development." Therefore, the country, to this day, still remains divided politically. When Pinochet died at the end of 2006, I was here in Chile studying abroad. Half of the country mourned, half of the country celebrated his death! It was a very bizzare yet powerful cultural experience.
This is Pinochet:
As I've mentioned, Chile is one of the more modern countries in Latin America to the extent that is has access to technology and other modern conveniences. Internet access is common. Almost everyone has internet in their homes and there are internet cafes all over the city of Santiago. All of my classmates have laptops and we constantly communicate with each other, both by email and cell phone. People in the subway are always texting on their cell phones or listening to MP3 players. While technology is readily available and widely used in Santiago, it is alot less common in other parts of the country. In more rural areas, I'm sure internet access is hard to come by, and there are several indigenous areas where it would be hard to even find a computer. But at least for me, I have all the modern conveniences I am used to. I have wifi in my house, and I often take my laptop to a cafe that has wifi to study or chat with my family back home.
Chile has an abundance of natural resources - tons of fruits and veggies are cultivated here and forestry, fishing, and copper mining are some of the major industries. A principal manufactured item is Pisco, a sweet lemon-flavored liquor.
Wine is a major industry as well. Chile's "developed" and "modern" industries sometime clash with traditional methods or traditional communities. Compare the pictures of the industrial fishing vs. traditional fishing, both of which are still vibrant in the country.
Chilean hobbies and leisure activities include going to the movies, going to the mall/shopping center (yes there are tons of malls and people LOVE to go there), and hanging out with family and friends. It is common to see groups of kids just sitting around and hanging out in the parks in the afternoons and evenings. Lots of people ride bikes and skateboard in my neighborhood. There are also gyms and indoor pools where people go work out. Last year I joined a community center in my neighborhood where I go swim laps for exercise.
People walking through Parque Forestal (Forest Park) in downtown Santiago:
Looking forward to your questions. Take care!!