Here’s more on my Santiago.
República is a neighborhood that heads south from along the Alameda, departing from about Los Héroes, República or Unión Latinoamerica metros. Moving south from the Alameda, the next two main streets are Sazié and Grajales, and I took a Sunday spin today (yesterday now) to show you a little more of non-touristy Santiago. There are a couple of backpacker specials, most of the guests under the misinformed impression that they’re staying in Barrio Brasil, which, in fact, is north of the Alameda. But República doesn’t have much caché, so Barrio Brasil it is (not).
There’s a lovely street (República), with old mansions, most of them subsumed into the large numbers of universities and institutes (technical schools) that give this area its other name, “Barrio Universitario.” República runs north-south. But Sazié and Grajales, these east-west conduits, are my streets. They’re where I walk to get to the plaza, to the supermarket (which, strangely, has a bowling alley above it, more on this later), into and out of the neighborhood, bumps and cobblestones and the occasional old trolley track be darned. It’s my neighborhood. With corner stores, and stores that only sell vegetables, and the whistle of the knife-sharpening guy sometimes on the weekends.
Almost every time I go out on Sazié and Grajales, I either take pictures or wish I had. Today I went out just for you, to show you a little piece of my Santiago.
And then I made, oh, a slideshow. With audio. It’s my first attempt, so be kind.
Part 1 of places tourists don’t go, but should was about the area surrounding San Diego, and I wrote about it here.
When good architecture goes bad in Santiago, can it ever go back?
Sometimes, kind of.
That means not all is lost. If you say something is rescatable, it means there’s still a chance.
I talk a lot of crap about the mad architecture disrespect that is rampant in Santiago. There are misappropriations, mistreatments, bad paint jobs, hideous re-uses and falling-down cornices galore. I could fill this page with photos of these. I could send you a picture every day for a year, and never repeat them. My neighborhood (República) has many awesomely garish examples. Here is one, which is historical at this point. Rooney’s a local grub joint (which I never had the pleasure to grub at), which has now been replaced by Lomitón, a red and black fast food chain that sells some manner of meat sandwich.
But check out the building it’s in, and tell me that’s not a crime before architecture to put that in that. You know?
So when I first moved to Santiago, all those many, many years ago, and I would walk downtown, I’d see those bizarre juxtapositions, and empty facades, and oddly falling apart stunning buildings and think, well, why don’t they do something about it? Have they no respect for architecture? History? Beauty? Preservation?
For example, check out this beauty:
For most of the time I’ve lived in Chile, this facade, which everyone refers to as the “ex-El Mercurio Building” (el ex-edificio de el Mercurio), has been standing there, getting wet, drying out, getting wet, drying out. And finally, covered in construction planks and green gauzy fabric. And I thought, whatever they do, please let it be better than what it was before. Though of course I secretly enjoyed the photogenicness of seeing inside the building’s skin, and even the murals that cropped up nearby.
And then one day I was walking down the street and saw this. Not only is it the ex El Mercurio building (1902-1984), but it turns out it’s also the ex-Larraín Zañartu Palace, a French-inspired construction from the 19th century. And now, Espacio M. Essentially, a downtown mall, which they refer to as a slow mall (whatever that is) How does it look? Judge for yourself:
On the one hand, horrible monument to consumerism with the largest downtown Starbucks. On the other hand, a tea store! some Peruvian goodies! and free public bathrooms. They tried to charge, but apparently that flies in the face of some law, and someone was paying attention. I’m not entirely thrilled with the glass cube that sticks out of it, but Espacio M (for El Mercurio) preserved the facade, has exposed brick on the inside, and handy placards explaining the history of the building. When I was first there, it also had garbage bins under the drips coming through the roof, but I believe that’s been solved, and now there are shoe-shine stalls where the trash cans were.
Santiago’s got a way to go before we reclaim all the pretty, but considering the possibilities, I’m giving this architecture repurposing a tentative thumbs’ up. I just hope they don’t turn them all into malls. We’re fairly swimming in them at the moment (most recent mall post here).
If you want to know more about urban development in Santiago, check out Plataforma Urbana (in Spanish). And definitely watch this space for more finger pointing and tongue-wagging re: architecture, conservation, bad paint jobs, and always, urban photography.
Espacio M, ex edificio El Mercurio, ex palacio Larraín Zañartu palace, Compañía 1230.
On Sunday, there were many plans, there were, with many friends, some of whom even have blogs. But in the end, I deep-cleaned a “zone” of my apartment (if you know me, this doesn’t surprise you, that I split it into zones), and then called Abby to see if she was anti-horseracing.
There have been recent reports about abusive practices that lead to stress, pain, and even death for the horses. Abby grew up on a farm, and was obsessed with horses when she was young, so I didn’t know if it would fly in the face of her upbringing to suggest going to Club Hípico (the track), which also happens to be about a 15 minute walk from my house.
It did not, so we did. It was a big event, one of the “clásicos” which coincided with “el clásico” (soccer) which is when U de Chile plays Colo Colo and the world descends into chaos. We were far enough away from the Estadio Nacional so we didn’t see much of that, though there was an hincha (fan) actually riding atop a micro coming down Blanco Encalada. He must have squeezed through the ventilation hatch in the roof. Nutter.
I didn’t take a pic of that, but here are some from the horse track. Remember the horse track?
Somewhat unexpectedly, the snack of the day turned out to be a berlín, which is a custard-filled “doughnut” where the donut is more like bread than anything else you may have tasted. The kapo is a kids favorite any time. I’m guessing it’s like a nuclear Capri Sun.
And the best part of all, was watching people watch the race. I really like the hand flinging in this videoclip (my first ever movie “making” attempt), both the body language of the guy in the center of the video, as well as other people in the background. This fling means the equivalent of comeoncomeoncomeoncomeoncomeon!!!!! And it’s awesome to watch. There’s a whole story here, and at the end, it becomes clear that the guy to the right of the hand-flinger had his money on a different horse.
And the view on the way out wasn’t bad, either:
Club Hípico details:
Address: Blanco Encalada 2450, closest metro República, but still a little bit of a hike.
Cost: No idea. Women get in free. There were not many women there, notwithstanding the fact that it was free.
Hassle factor: Nonexistent. It was like we were invisible. No one looked at us, talked to us or otherwise made our experience there unpleasant
Calzones rotos (Chilean snack food (name means ripped undies)) status: cold