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In a move that is only as colossally stupid as the most colossally stupid and disrespectful move could be, this beautiful Chilean sight will be seen no more.

church, san pedro de atacama
(photo: bearshapedsphere)

Today’s La Tercera reports that the entry to this centuries-old church in San Pedro de Atacama was destroyed so they could pull a tow truck into the church grounds to repair the bell tower that was cracked in the 2007 Tocopilla earthquake. Those of you hoping to catch this iconic shot will now be treated to this sight instead:

(photo, La Tercera)

The church is perhaps the most well-known construction in the whole adorable desert outpost town in the Atacama, the jumping-off point for the Geysers at El Tatio, Valle de La Luna, Laguna Chaxa, Laguna Cejar, Lincancabur Volcano, the Altiplanic Lakes, Pukara de Quitor and scores of other attractions. It is one of (probably) the two most visited places in Chile, with the other being Torres del Paine national park.

Apparently the work was proposed to the Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales (National Monument Advisory Board), and rejected, because the proposal did not include adequate engineering studies to ensure that the bell tower would not collapse during the repairs. The head of the parish decided to go ahead with the works, regardless, and in the process had the original 17th-century wall around the church knocked down so that a tow truck could come closer to the church. Story here (in Spanish).

Do I really need to say I’m disgusted? Do I need to tell you how sad I think it is that a country that has so little historically-preserved architecture dating back a few centuries could do something so unequivocably stupid? Maybe that idea they had to knock a hole in the Andes to let the pollution escape to the coast is next on the list. Or we could cut up the Torres and sell them as souveniers.

And for what it’s worth, the truck could have come in through another part of the wall, they didn’t have to knock down the principal entry.

The newspaper article says it’s possible that the case will be presented to the Consejo de Defensa del Estado (CDE), State Defense Advisory Board. Grrr. I wonder if they’d like me to testify how much I loved that entryway. A picture’s worth a thousand words, don’tcha know.

cyclist from inside church grounds

I’ve got 2,000 right here. And another few hundred thousand on my hard drive.