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Rain, rain and more rain in Santiago. What’s a city to do?

The first year I lived in Chile, I was caught unawares by many a rainstorm. First of all, because rain here seems to have a higher ceiling than it does in Portland or other places I’ve lived, where the clouds usually hunker low before starting to rain. There was also the issue of me not having internet or a television at home, and smartphones did not yet exist, so my idea of doing a weather check was sticking my head out the window. I remember one fateful day, when I’d gone to visit a friend in Ñuñoa, and while biking to my classes downtown, it started to pour, and my chain fell off, within minutes of each other. It was my first day of that class that night, and I spent the minutes before trying to scrape the bike grease off my hands with hand soap and cold water (there is seldom warm water in public bathrooms in Chile), and blotting the ends of my dripping hair with toilet paper. I don’t remember a thing about the class, but the other teacher who surprised me in the bathroom that day and I became good friends, and last March I went to her wedding in Chicago. It was glorious and sun-dappled and involved neither bike grease or rain.

What’s got me thinking about that day is the last couple of days of downpour. Let me say that again. Downpour. We are not really set up for days and days of rain in Santiago, and we are especially not set up for warm temperature mountain rains. There’s also the question of whether the construction of a hydroelectric plant up in the Maipo valley is what’s causing the mudslides, which have sullied the water, such that a great percentage of the city has been without running water for days.

The first thing I did upon hearing of the pending water cuts, was set up an in-house animita to the Correa Difunta. Folk saint blasphemy aside, when you drive in Andean Argentina (and some places in Chile), you often see piles and piles of water bottles at roadside shrines. These are in commemoration of a folk hero who was said to have nursed her child even as she lay dying from dehydration. Latin America loves its mothers, see, and the madre abnegada (she who denies herself something for the benefit of her children) most of all, and so this woman was entered into the popular canon (though not recognized by the church). I wasn’t really celebrating the Difunta, so much as I was juntando agua and standing the water bottles up like little sentries around my kitchen. Later I switched to the plastic tubs that make up part of my clothing and other stuff storage in that weird closetified closet I have, mostly shelves, not drawers, such that the only logical way to store things like scarves and gloves and also hammers and zipties is in large plastic tubs, which sit on the shelves. And which are handy for filling with water for flushing, etc.

So I collected all the water I could, and then put on my best waterproof gear, which had gone largely unused on the recent trip to Patagonia, save boat trips and a single day on which an insistent drizzle fell in Caleta Tortel. And then I headed out. For those interested: First layer is always the lamb suit. Merino wool long underwear, tops and bottoms, which an ex-boyfriend used to call thusly. Also wool socks. Then a fleece, and a raincoat, and rain pants, which the store where I bought them were quick to point out, were not pants, so much as “cubre pantalónes,” or “pants covers,” which they then asked me how to say in English. Rain cover? Rain pants? Waterproof pants? Waterproof layer? I think I left the store more confused than when I started. Also significantly shorter of cash. Someone should bring down the price on Gore-Tex without involving slave labor.

And for boots, I wore a pair of very funny old lady squishy-heeled Totes-brand boots with furry lining and an embroidered snowflake on the outside of each boot, that I bought at the ropa americana (used clothing store) about two years ago. They are great for rain coming down from above, but eventually started leaking a tiny bit as I waded through puddles with impunity. Alas. Still, eight bucks well-spent.

Oh! but weren’t we going outside? We were! And what did we see?



We saw traffic light outages, and doused police officers guiding the few cars on the road.


We saw poor drainage in front of the Moneda Palace. It boggles the mind that no one thought to put drains in the plaza here.


We saw couples walking in the rain. Awwww.


And tourists shod and unshod in front of the cathedral in Plaza de Armas.


A swollen river with many people just going about their business. There is an artificially large number of people on this bridge to access the Vega (main market) because they closed another bridge some time ago. Not shown: Colombian sweet bread vendor nor Peruvian ceviche sellers.


Given the likely causes of the landslides and water cuts, this river-side mural seemed relevant. Buses running more or less as normal, though with fewer passengers, because most people stayed home.


Super outfitted people walking together. I followed them for about a mile, and was most impressed with the zippy coverall.


Water not deep enough to prevent transit, though not sure it was advisable. The water is carrying a lot of silt, which means it came out of the river somewhere, but maybe at the canal de San Carlos? Definitely not down near where this photo was taken, near Bellas Artes, where there are many feet between the water and street levels.


New photog/cyclist buddy lending his bike to the Japanese tourists who wanted to cross the street, but found themselves quite unprepared. He was loving it.


The left side is the bike path, which was apparently designed to be flooded. Or to withstand flooding. The first part is definitely the case. We’ll see about the second part when the water recedes.


I petted many, many sodden street dogs while I was out and about. I think of this one as Rufus, though we did not really introduce ourselves. I think he likes me, though.


Pay what you like. This man is working hard for his money. That water is cold!


As are these. If getting your feet wet or being cold really gives you a cold (as people in Chile say it does), half the city is going to have bronchitis by the time I post this.

When last I peeked, Aguas Andinas said 68% of the city had water again, but school is cancelled today. There have been many hilarious and snarky memes about the flooding, including a couple about arks, and of sharks swimming in the first floor of the Costanera Center, which flooded (maybe just the basement?) due to a nearby construction project. It’s all fun and games for me, but I hope those whose homes are not watertight, or who live close to swollen rivers and canals are doing ok. Sunshine forecast for tomorrow. Fallout and complaints about bad RFPs (licitaciones) processes ongoing.