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For reasons I’ll divulge sometime, but not now, I’ve recently been thinking a lot about places tourists don’t go, but should, in Santiago. Should in the sense that they’d see a part of Santiago that’s not packaged and presented and polished and de-graffitied and super close the metro. They’d see a little piece of my Santiago.

One of the places my travels take me, both because there are two kind of decent bike paths there, and because it’s where my favorite wrench (bike mechanic) works, is San Diego. Recently, on a facebook group I belong to, people were poo-pooing, harumphing, and otherwise discrediting the bike mechanics on San Diego, and the whole street itself.

It’s ugly, it’s unkempt. It has what is probably the most unpleasant drinking establishment I’ve ever had the pleasure of entering (Las Tejas), and it’s Santiago’s own.

The truth is, as a traveler, you likely have no need for bike parts, nor kitchen supplies, and I don’t know what the heck you’d be doing down San Diego, other than getting an eyeful of what Santiago really looks like, and maybe stalking me. People will try to disabuse you of the idea of going, proclaiming it unsafe, dirty, unpleasant. Call me a glass-half-full kind of person. I can find beauty even in what’s ugly.

Let’s take a walk, shall we?

This ferris wheel, which festively floats among buildings and over a nice coil of razor wire, is the side view of Juegos Diana, an old school arcade, dark and loud (bing bing bing!) and open to the air. If you ask Santiaguinos if they ever went as children, they’ll tell you yes (but it used to be elsewhere) and sink into a reverie about how special and giant it seemed to them. Love that, though I do question the charm of the ferris wheel in its current location.

A typically, uninteresting apartment building along San Diego, this one has a view (see reflection) of “progress.”

Another piece of “progress,” which makes me ill.

Pretty, old apartment building that reminds me of a construction toy I had when I was a child called crystal climbers. People are out on the balconies because there’s a protest happening about a half a block away. Insert sprint here.

Technically, San Diego is a single street (the continuation of Bandera, on the south side of the Alameda, but to me it’s kind of the whole (unnamed neighborhood) from San Diego down to about Lord Cochrane, or maybe even the Pan American highway, which coincidentally, I have to cross to get to my apartment. Technically I’m not stalking COAS, the artist responsible for this guy, but every time I see one of his pieces (which is often, in Santiago and in other cities/towns), I try to take a picture. I kind of love them. I once had a fleeting email interchange with COAS, which I might go into, sometime.

One of the things I love about San Diego, is the extent to which it has resisted change. Like this hand-painted sign on metal, that I have passed a million times, and every time I do, it makes me smile. It is so simple, and in the face of modernity, probably considered pobre (poor).

It’s most of these things that make San Diego not fit for tourists, or so many Santiaguinos, oriundos and newbies alike will have you believe.

For my dollar (480 pesos at today’s rates, ugh), they don’t know jack.

And they don’t know San Diego, either.