I arrived in Santiago, Chile at night. All I could see were shadows of the mountains and the lights from the city. The rest was up to my imagination as I began to wonder what the city itself was like, and what I would be doing in it for the next two months during my homestay in Chile.
At 11pm local time I arrived to my Chilean host’s home exhausted after a full 24 hours of traveling. Waiting to greet me was my host, Javi, her aunt, cousin, and her best friend. They welcomed me with staple Chilean plates and open arms, as we started to swap cultural norms.
Over the next few days I started to get to know Santiago through my host and the public transportation system. Santiago’s public transit is relatively good. The buses and metro come very frequently, but the city itself is experiencing an increase in population, which they have begun to accommodate by building more metro lines.
The majority of people in Santiago use public transit, although owning a car is quite common. I have become quite used to using the metro since arriving 2 weeks ago. In fact, it’s the mode of transit I prefer. You’re able to get a sense of everyday life in Chile through the conversations that are occurring around you, and thorough the metro’s occupancy. For instance, between 6-7pm the metro is so packed that it’s like sardines packed in a can. Other times of the day, it’s pretty relaxed and easy to have your own personal space.
There is a lot to do in Chile, and a lot is relatively close and fast to get to using the metro. So far, I’ve visited:
Chile has an interesting history, and it’s evident in its architecture with buildings resembling European architecture alongside those without a particular style. La Moneda can be compared to the White House. It’s the presidential administrative building.
A key difference between the two is that the President does not live in La Moneda. The President lives in their own home and uses La Moneda as a workplace.
Currently the museum in La Moneda, which is located on the opposite side of the administrative offices and underground, is holding an Andy Warhol exhibition. Additionally, the museum has local, indigenous art that is also for sale. For instance, the local art includes baskets, jewelry, and practical cooking utensils made by the Mapuche.
Additionally, La Moneda has a strong historical component and is most famously known for the coup that took place and the underground pathways that were built by Pinochet at the time. Although well-known, it’s not something that should be openly discussed.
Very close to where I’m staying is Parque Bustamante. It reminds me of a park in San Francisco. The layout is quite different, with it resembling a shotgun design. But there’s always people at the park just hanging out, playing music, dancers performing, people using fabric material to do aerial stunts, and people exercising – whether it be strength building, running, or yoga. Yoga seems to be quite popular here according to my host. I’ve seen a few studios and a couple people walking around with mats as if they’re coming to/from a class.
One of my favorite things about this area so far, are the views here. The mountains (La Cordillera) is absolutely breathtaking. I cannot get enough of looking up and seeing it. I’m hoping to get a closer look during my time here.
Cerro San Crístobal and Cerro Santa Lucía are large hills that I’ve hiked up. You get a beautiful view of Santiago. Not only is it a place for tourists, but locals also enjoy hiking up the hills. There was holiday last week dedicated to the Virgin Mary. On top of Cerro San Criístobal there’s a statue dedicated in her honor, making it the place to be that day. It also happened to be my first day going up that hill. It was pretty crowded according to Javi, but for me it didn’t seem too bad.
Other sites to explore are Valparaíso and Viña del Mar (very close to one another), and they are only 2 hours away from Santiago using public transit. It’d make an excellent day trip, which I hope to do this next week.
The food here is one of my favorite things that I’ve experienced. Besides Chilean food, there is also quite a lot of Peruvian and Venezuelan food. Being Venezuelan, it’s quite comforting to see so many Venezuelans and Venezuelan restaurants.
A few Chilean plates I have tried are:
I’ve gotten used to going to this hole in a wall restaurant that my cousin showed me. Very authentic Chilean food, but hard to find. It’s underground both metaphorically and physically.
The best way that I’ve found myself getting know Santiago, as well as Chile is by talking to locals, taking the public transportation system, and going to restaurants that locals go to. Javi has been very accommodating, even inviting me to a work event, which was located in a rural part of Chile allowing me to see the distinct differences between the countryside and the city.
I still have much to see and much to learn, and I’ll mostly be doing it by taking the metro and talking to the locals. I have found Chileans to be very nice, and always willing to help. They truly are nice people and always happy to pass on any suggestions. I can’t wait to explore more of the country, and I’m truly leaning into the experience and thrilled to be here.
About the Author:
Adriana Cedeño is a spirited thinker who is grounded by books, her family and more recently, yoga. Adriana likes food, traveling, and spending time with (furry) four-legged animals.