Tag Archives: Santiago

Barcelona blog: Benvinguts!

Barcelona modernista chemist

Barcelona: It’s been a while, but I’m back. I spent 4 years in this great city before an aching heart and itchy feet took me to the big mountain ranges and red wine of Chile. After a year in the shadow of the Andes, I returned to European shores in January to be met by a gregarious Scottish customs official, heavy snow and comforting roast dinners. I dallied for a while in Windsor (living round the corner from the Queen) before fate and a temporary contract at a magazine brought me back to the Catalan capital. Barcelona sure is one hell of a magnet.

Not much has changed. The streets and houses are still being noisily drilled. Old ladies still dye their hair burgundy. Little shops that sell nothing but coat hangers, door knockers or shower curtains are holding their own against the giant shopping malls. People are still smoking like chimneys and wearing too cool for school specs. Kids eat giant croissants in the street at 6pm. Women clean the same rectangular shaped patches of pavement in front of their buildings, swivelling their mops dry between two hands as if trying to start a fire. And tourists, prostitutes and bag-snatchers still rule the roost on La Rambla, with not a Catalan in sight until the clubs chuck out at 6am.


Barcelona’s streets are just as filthy as they once were, despite being washed day and night by an army of cleaners who wilfully hose you down when you’re wearing flip-flops. And that’s all some people wear. I’d forgotten about the naked men. I caught a glimpse of one them taking a stroll by the marina the other day, but sadly it wasn’t the guy with the tattooed speedos.

Nothing has changed on the beach either. Women whip their tops off without a moment’s hesitation, while South American men, unused to such pleasures at home, can be easily recognised by their propensity for wearing dark glasses and lying on their fronts.

Prices have shot up while I’ve been away but the bars and restaurants are still full and somehow people seem to manage. Unlike in Chile, there’s a large middle class here. The rich aren’t as well off as the wealthiest Chileans but there’s not the grinding poverty either. No one can afford to buy a flat so the theory goes that you might as well accept it and go out and have fun.

Barceloneta beach, Barcelona

One thing I never liked about Barcelona was that people didn’t smile much. It took me ages to get this, but people here just don’t feel the need to grin like fools at strangers. It can smart when you smile at someone’s cute baby or happy dog and the owner scowls back, but that’s just the way it is here and you best get used to it if you’re going to stick around. It’s simply too darn hot to be warm and fuzzy all the time and Catalans don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves – at least not unless FC Barça are playing.

As a city, Barcelona shows you affection in the same way my dad does. It doesn’t scoop you up into a big, slightly suffocating bear hug like South America would. There’s no firm English handshake and a fight to buy a round. In Barcelona you just get the equivalent of one of my dad’s shoulder squeezes and a self-consciously mumbled “aye, yer not so bad lass”.

I’ve missed it.



Filed under barcelona, blog, Travel blog

Chile’s Earthquake From Far Away

Photo by Luis Iturra

I was in a hotel room in Doncaster, England when I heard about the earthquake in Chile. I’d got a few days work and had woken up late after driving through the night. My mum texted me the bad news.

I’d been living in Santiago until early January and had missed being in the middle of the quake by a few short months. The badly damaged art museum in central Santiago was round the corner from my old flat. While I was living and working in Santiago, locals kept telling me they were expecting a big one (Chile, located on the ‘Ring of Fire’, seems to get hit every 20 years or so) but I don’t think anyone was really prepared for this. Chileans joked at us foreigners for being so nervy about the tremors, telling us that if things weren’t falling off the walls, it wasn’t worth waking up for. Saturday morning’s 8.8er certainly made them sit up and pay attention.

My initial reaction was fear – fear that my friends might have been injured or worse – followed by shock, sadness and, I have to admit, a little bit of envy. Here was the biggest news story to come out of Chile in decades and I’d just missed it. I’d experienced a few girly tremors but nothing like this and the trainee journalist within felt a bit duped.

I have no doubt that Chile will bounce back from this. Chileans are a stoical bunch. They’ll rally round to help and many have survived worse (the 1960 quake in the south was the biggest ever recorded anywhere). It’s the dogs I’m worried about now. The shelter where I was volunteering is now in ruins, and in a country where the majority of the people don’t have a great deal and will be struggling themselves, I fear the stray dogs of Santiago and the shelter in Melipilla will be forgotten about.

Here below is how I experienced Chile’s big earthquake, through the emails and status updates of friends on Facebook. These small snippets of information were way more informative than the BBC, newspapers or other media networks. 3 simple words – SAFE AND SOUND – were all anyone wanted to see. Other updates and emails were terrifying, while some expressed panic, resilience or good humour. The ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ award goes to a British colleague, who, much to everyone’s disbelief, managed to sleep through the whole thing on the coast…

From my inbox

Don’t worry, we’re both all right. I spent a few hairy minutes standing in my bedroom doorway – thankfully I live in a modern building and there was almost no damage (although the burglar alarm which reacts to movement spent the next couple of hours crying). It hit around 03.40am so I was a little drowsy and went back to sleep for hour or so afterwards though there were a few aftershocks. Xxx was at her mum’s and there’s plenty of glass that needs sweeping up but otherwise they’re okay. Both her parents have seen worse than this – her dad was in the south during the big one in the 1960’s. I haven’t been able to phone England. My mum is probably going mental. :S

Hey! Please tell Lemmy Killmister that Chile ROCKS!!! (Literally)

Thanks for worrying about me. Mobiles still don’t work. I was in a basement watching some bands. The earthquake was incredible and I had to walk a really long way home. Luckily though, I’m OK. Thanks.

I’ve just talked to him. He’s in the city and fine. His cat threw up though.

The tsunami now going towards Hawaii, thoughts and prayers going out to them.

I’m ok. Everything looks ok around providencia. not too much damage, we have eletricity, water, internet… supermarkets are open. Thanks for your concern.

It was at about 3:30 in the morning. I had just seen some friends off at the door of my building which is in the very centre, overlooking the Mapocho. At the beginning it felt normal, but then it started to shake so heavily that I decided to get up. I live on the top floor, so I though that if I tried to go down, the building would fall on me, so instead I decided to go into the terrace, which has a view of the Mapocho and north, and then I panicked! I saw how the pavement moving like melted chocolate and the traffick lights blowing up. Everywhere I saw flashes of light and then a general blackdown… And it didn’t stop. It went on for a couple of minutes (or at least that’s how it felt) and the only thing my panicking nervous system managed to do was dial my boyfriend’s mobile. No answer. The city was entirely dark. When it stopped, I hurried downstairs I don’t know how. On the way ddown, people with mobile phones to lighten up, or candles, or flashlights, most of them in pajamas. I went out of the building and the only thing I could hear was people crying, screaming. HORRIBLE!! I was shaking… I managed to take out a cigarrette and light it, and I sat down, still shaking: I couldn’t control myself…

My neighbour, a very nice man who I now wish I’d more of an effort to know, has given me his wifi key and also let me use his blackberry.. His entire family is in Conception, apparently their house is destroyed but they’ve survived okay. He’s waiting to get hold of a friend who was living in beach area that’s been 90% washed away by a tsunami!

The Lider has been looted!

It was a distressing night as it was about 4 am. The apartment shook violently, it was impossible to walk, everything fell off the walls, the electricity went so we were in pitch dark and the aftershocks continued through the night and still are. After that we spent the next few hours outside. The next day we noticed massive cracks in the walls, the corridors windows were cracked and water was coming through the ceiling in the one of the rooms.

I was in Viña asleep in a hostel and didn’t know anything until I got up at 10 am and asked why there was no water or electricity. No one can believe that I slept through it!

Thanks for your concern. I’m alive & well. Lost all glassware and some furniture but the building seems to be fine. I moved to my parents though, ’twas reaaaaaally terrifying to be on a 13th floor. The important thing my girlfriend and my family are alive.

I’m OK. There are some cracks in the flat and I’m sleeping outside in the square because my building is old and likely to collapse.

OK everybody, alive and in one piece, was in Valparaiso while all the shit happened, so the floor was moving from before for me.

(Description of a video link): The first impression I got of the earthquake was a river of water coming down the emergency stairs…

and yet another aftershock…just when I was starting to relax


Was on an island when quake hit, spent hours in a hill billy truck “reading” the ocean, finally got back to mainland when found out landing strip wasn’t damaged. Flattened villages, crevasses in road, boats on land and houses in river. Friends flat pretty damaged, slept in car outside Conce… no water, gas, electricity. Pillaged supermarkets, riot police, more flattened villages and broken roads. Just assimilating the fear now my family know am fine and all friends here in Chile are ok. Now looking forward to some fine wine and a Chilean bbq. Love to all, will be back in touch when the hangover subsides!

It’s a bread frenzy, buy bread, forget the tinned tuna, buy bread!

I can’t sleep with all these aftershocks!! I’ve got a headache, there’s no internet or hot water, but I can’t complain. There’s a lot of people worse off than me..

Electricity, check. Water, check. Gas, check. Swaying building from aftershocks, check. Life is almost back to normal

Xxxxx and xxxxx, please, if anyone knows anything about them, let me know.

 Be careful if you’re wandering around the city- there are lootings at shopping centres and scuffles with police.

The animals were behaving weirdly ’cause they could feel it. Then, there was a creepy low-pitched sound from underground. The first tremors appeared while everything started to shake and, after an apparently short retreat, the huge wave was unleashed, striking us all without mercy.

In Santiago everything is OK, no visible damage in our neighbourhood and all our friends are OK, just very scared. Our flat has some minor creeps in the inner walls, the only problem was that our front door got stuck and we had to break it down. In the south, things are much worse. Let’s hope for a quiet and shockless night

If you’re near the coast i.e. viña, valpo, try to make your way towards the hills because of the tsunami warning- DON´T try to come to Santiago- highways are damaged and buses aren’t running.

Xxxx has never been so scared before. We are fine, our flat only has minor damage…update follows

Guys stay away from the coast they’ve issued a tsunami warning

Massive earthquake last night….but we are fine. Lots of broken glass in the apartment….i prefer my Iowa tornado over the earth shaking violently…and at 4am on sat morning…no where to hide.

With thanks to my brave friends in Chile.

P.S. If any of you would prefer not to see your words here, please let me know. x

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Filed under chile, Santiago de Chile, Travel blog

10 things I learnt in Chile

Chilean flag. Photo Natasha Young

1. 2 ½ hours journey time is nothing

Having been brought up in miniscule England, I always used to prepare for any journey longer than 30 minutes as if it were an Arctic voyage. I’d consult maps, pack skis and prepare a lunch. Manchester to London takes 2 ½ hours by train. In English terms, this is very far away indeed. In Chile, you’re nearly there. You can start packing away your bits and pieces and put your coat on. Mendoza in Argentina is a mere hop, skip and a jump across the Andes from Santiago and takes 7 hours. Travel may never be the same again.

2. Politics matters. Democracy matters

Right and left are not the same. Democratically elected governments should not be confused with military dictatorships. A military coup is not, as one student tried to argue, simply a change of government. Voting matters. Resistance matters. Some scars never heal.

3.British customer service is really good

British friends may moan about it, but it’s fabulous. In Britain, most shop assistants actually care about trying to help you find what you need. There’s usually a friendly smile, pride in knowing something about what’s being sold and often a welcome amount of honesty (“Haddock? Ooh, I wouldn’t if I were you lovey, have the cod instead”).

4. British public transport is rubbish

The Chileans should come to Britain and show us how it’s done. It may be a long, straggly country at the end of the world, famous for wine and not much else, but by God they know how to run a bus service. Long distance coaches in Chile are cheap, plentiful, comfortable and punctual. You can watch a selection of terrible straight to video films to pass the time and there’s even a man to hand you a wee pillow and a blanket when you’re feeling sleepy and wake you up with a carton of juice in the morning. I hang my head in shame at the thought of any Chilean who has been to Britain and jumped on National Express, Megabus or British Rail, in the mistaken belief that it might be a good idea.

5.You can always make new friends

Moving to the other side of the world (or even a new city) is a scary business. But the truth is, I’ve always met new people I like, wherever I’ve gone in the world. If your old friends are good eggs, they’ll always be there for you, whatever you decide to do with your life and wherever you go. Meanwhile, new friends are just waiting to be met.

6.Rain can be a good thing

Hardly a day seemed to go by in Manchester when in didn’t rain. Rain stops play, spoils barbeques and outdoor music festivals and ruins your hair. But it also makes the countryside beautifully green (the South of Chile doesn’t look that lovely without a little help), clears away the smog and stops mosquitoes. And would all those Manchester bands you like have learnt to play the guitar if it had been sunny outside? I think not.

7. Yes doesn’t always mean yes

It took me a really long time to learn this, but in Chile ‘yes’ often means ‘hell, no’.

For example:

(To a waitress)

“Is this white wine (that I just watched you take out of a cupboard) cold? “  – Yes.

(To Chilean friends)

“So I’ll meet you at 10pm. You’ll be there on time, won’t you?” – Yes.

(To any bureaucrat)

“Is this absolutely necessary?” – Yes.

(To a stranger on the street)

“Excuse me, do you know where Calle Biarritz is?” – Yes.

(To someone hurrying onto a bus)

“Is this the airport bus?” – Yes.

8.You get what you pay for

Pay peanuts and you will get monkeys. Slip a bloke 40 quid in the street to sort out your internet connection and cable for the rest of the year and there’s an odds on chance you might have a few problems with it. Buy super cheap shower gel and it will extract all the oil from your skin until you feel like you are made entirely from wafer biscuits. Take the cheap bus in Bolivia and you will be squeezed into a mini van next to a vomiting toddler and a man who smells of cheese.

9. Red wine isn’t so bad

When you’ve not got time to chill a bottle of white, red wine does the job. I even grew to like it. To be fair, paying buttons for a classy red that would cost a fortune at home is a sure fire way to get a taste for the stuff.

10. Dogs are like valium

I’ve always loved dogs, but working in a Chilean dog shelter confirmed it. Few things make me happier than stroking the ears of a wet nosed mutt with a wagging tail.


Filed under blog, chile, Santiago de Chile, Travel blog, Uncategorized

Chile: Salmon, Sleep & Cycling in Puerto Varas

Puerto Varas - Photo Natasha Young

Today I heard something I hadn’t heard for a really long time. Silence. No shouting Chinese neighbours, no karaoke, no drilling, no hooting traffic, no reggaeton; just the faint sound of the wind, buzzing insects and birds flapping their wings. It was marvellous.

Having left the big bad city, I arrived in Puerto Varas yesterday afternoon. A short bus ride from the cement factories, pointless grafitti and electricity pylons of Puerto Montt (think Slough or Stoke with a lake), Puerto Varas is a world away; the North Face 80 lucas kagool to Puerto Montt’s one luca non-waterproof copy. Humming to the sound of lawnmowers and smelling quite literally of roses, at first glance it looks and smells like green and cloudy England, albeit with two giant volcanoes towering over it, a whiff of wood smoke rather than chicken tikka and plenty of German architecture.

Photo Natasha Young

First stop was lunch and if ‘Donde El Gordito’ is good enough for Anthony Bourdain, it’ll do for me. Small and pokey like a train carriage with frilly net curtains and a dazzling collection of tat, coins and pens, this is the place to come for seafood. When everyone else goes to Argentina, they coo and fuss about the size and quality of the steaks and as a non-red meat eater, I always feel a bit left out. Now it’s my turn. Expect me to return home very very clever as I intend to eat kilos of fish while I’m down here. At ‘El Gordito’ I was served a piece of salmon the size of a small country smothered in a garlic, coriander, prawn and pepper sauce. It was utterly delicious but rich and intensely garlicy. As I left the restaurant, people were actually crossing the street to avoid me exhaling. I cleared shops it was so bad.

I think that's clear gentlemen. Photo Natasha Young

I’d gone out of the way to search for Hostel Casa Azul – it sounded great- but it was one of those places that reminded me that unless you’re totally chilled you really shouldn’t open a hostel. The bed was comfy, the showers were good and the people were friendly enough, but there were signs everywhere. ‘Don’t leave your dishes here’, ‘No cooking fish’ (and this in a lake town famous for salmon), ‘No use of kitchen until 12 noon’, ‘Be careful with the shower curtain’ etc etc. I fear if I opened a hostel I would be equally intolerant and start showing Northern Europeans how to rinse their dishes after they’ve smothered them in washing-up liquid and tutting at people who left towels on the floor.

Refreshed this morning, I did what I always do when I’m alone and somewhere pretty. I hired a bike. With no map but some decent instructions, I did a 25km loop along the side of the lake and then cross-country on a hilly dirt road with volcano views that brought me back into Puerto Varas. I saw hardly anyone the whole time I was out, a reminder that although Chile is much bigger than the UK it has only a fraction of the population and most of them live in Santiago. Away from the road, the silence was total. A precious thing after years of city living.

Puerto Varas town centre Photo Natasha Young

Later this afternoon I’ll be heading to Ancud on the rainy island of Chiloe. With any luck whilst my Chilean friends are voting in tomorrow’s general election, I’ll be gawping at penquins. Can’t imagine that tonight will be a late one. All the bars and bottle shops in Chile will therotically be closed tonight for the 24 hours of the election. It’s a nice enough idea that shows a new-found and much needed respect for the democratic process, but it’s not friendly to those folks who are just passing through town on a Saturday night and want to sample the local beer.

See you all in Ancud. Let’s hope there are penquins.

p.s. This trip is sponsored by Pia (rucksack), BB (waterproof) and Lya (camera). Thanks!

p.p.s. It’s true. The Southerners are more friendly.


Filed under chile, Travel articles, Travel blog

The Indie Kid’s Guide to Santiago, Chile (Revolver)

Photo courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/adactio/ / CC BY 2.0

If you come from a place where skinny boys in even skinnier jeans roam the earth with low-slung guitars, shoes means Converse All Star and alternative music means anything from Fleet Foxes to Franz Ferdinand or Forward Russia, you might be a bit disappointed with Santiago.  

Reggaeton rules the dancefloors and airwaves here and at first glance, it can seem as if the city offers slim pickings for shoe-gazing Smiths fans.

Indie-lover Rodgrio Elgueta sums up the scene by saying “In Santiago, you have to go out and look for good music, it won’t find you.”

However, help is at hand. We’ve scoured the internet and the dimly-lit back streets, twiddled with the radio dial, spoken to the DJs, promoters and fans so that you need never hear Daddy Yankie again.

The internet is your friend

First up, get online. Some of the best nights in town don’t happen every week and even Blondie has been known to sack off indie in favour of ‘Madonna night’ or ‘non-stop Britney’. Our advice is to join the Facebook groups for the bars and club nights listed below and keep your pretty, well-trained musical ears to the ground.

For new music releases, gigs and interviews, you should also check out: www.super45.net, www.extravaganza.cl/, www.192.cl, and www.nnm.cl is one for the nu-ravers. If you’re near hysterical with excitement on the eve of a big gig, go to the forums at www.last.fm. It’s quick off the mark for announcing upcoming tours too.

Clubs & Bars


Blondie, the behemoth of indie and gay clubbing in Santiago, was closed down by the mayor at the start of winter 2009 and rumours abound as to when they’re re-opening. When it does, Blondie will be your Mecca. One huge room moves to the beat of Britpop and New Wave (be warned: they really, really like Depeche Mode here) while two smaller dance floors can play host to anything from cheesy gay anthems to live bands and 80’s pop. While the club is out of action, Blondie has been hosted nights across the city and it has a little sister by the sea in Valpo.

(Alameda 2879 (Metro: Latinoamercana)

Open: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 11pm – 5am)


Facebook group: fiestas blondie 2.0

Facebook petition for the re-opening of Blondie: No a la Clausura de Blondie!


Bal le Duc

Home to an older, straighter crowd than Blondie, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is the club that time forgot. 80’s and 90’s pop feature heavily here, which means there’s usually a good helping of Morrissey, Pulp, New Order and, yes you’ve guessed it, Depeche Mode. Spread out over two floors, the goths and industrial fans often get given their own room to brood in.

Av Matta 129 (Metro Irarrazaval)

Open: Fridays and Saturdays



Facebook group: bal-le-duc

 Bar El Ático

This is where your people have been hiding. Behind an unassuming doorway in Nunoa is the promised land for indie music buffs. Here, the DJs not only know who Sonic Youth are, they play them too. Stairs take you up to the spacious bar, where local 20 and 30 somethings lounge around on black and red sofas and drink Brahma for a luca. Videos provide the soundtrack, while downstairs on the weekend you can throw shapes to the likes of Interpol, Arcade Fire, CSS and Dead or Alive. The dance floor is miniscule and it’s smoky as hell but who cares when it’s this good. Join their Facebook group for weekly updates.

Irarrázaval 1060, Ñuñoa (between Salvador & Infante)

Open: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 9pm – late


Facebook group: Bar El Ático

 Club Cultura Alternativa

If you like your men to wear eye-liner or your women to wear kinky boots and PVC (even when they do their weekly shop at Jumbo), this is the place for you. Tucked away on a back street in Providencia, Club Cultura Alternativa is a bolt-hole for those who like it dark. A bar for pre Bal-le-Duc drinks, CCA plays Dark Wave, Industrial and Goth. Although you might hear anything from Front 242 to Bauhaus, you’re more likely to get a dose of Suicide Commando or Combichrist. Leave your neon sweatbands at home.

Calle Credito Nº471, Providencia (Metro: Santa Isabel)

Open Wednesday – Saturday 8pm to late


Facebook group: Club Cultura Alternativa

After Hours Bars (Clandestinos)

Back in the 90’s, indie and metal bars were ten a penny in Ñuñoa. Then came the property boom and suddenly bars and clubs were being forced out and alcohol licenses became harder to find than a 25 year old Chilean that doesn’t live with his mum. Thankfully that didn’t stop the party people of Santiago. Over the years, a string of illegal after-hours clubs (clandestinos) have reportedly sprung up in old buildings across the city. We can’t tell you where they are, but we’ve heard that some of them play the best music in the city until very late. Next time you’re out and have overdone the Red Bull, ask like-minded locals where to go next, or look out for people flyering at kicking-out time. Most don’t get busy until around 5am and go on until 9am.

Bar Constitución

If you can put up with the high drinks prices, pretentious bar staff and the scary woman who controls the toilets with her all-seeing eyes and an iron mop, Bar Constitución in Bellavista can sometimes delight. Go there on the right night and you’ll get the Ting Tings, the Killers and Kaiser Chiefs. If your luck’s out, you’ll get bad techno and a middle-aged software engineer trying to feel you up.

Calle Constitución 61, Bellavista (Metro: Banqueadano)

Open Tuesday – Saturday 8pm – 5am


Facebook group: Bar Constitucion

Other venues that sometimes host indie nights, bands or play a few good tunes are:

 Club Dominica (www.clubdominica54.cl), El Clan (www.elclan.cl), Club Miel (www.clubmiel.cl), Batuta (www.batuta.cl) Loreto (Facebook group: Bar/Club Loreto), El Tunel (www.eltunel.cl) and Club Mist (www.myspace.com/elclubmist).

Promoters/One-off nights

Xpress Music Chile

Join these people on Facebook and they will annoy by sending you a million messages per day, but you will forgive them. Why? Because these young whipper-snappers put on blinding indie nights around town and they know their stuff. We went to their ‘MusikNonStop’ party back in August and wept real tears of gratitude on the dancefloor. Not only did they play the likes of Foals, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, My Bloody Valentine and Vampire Weekend, but they had a Sigur Ros special. Sigur Ros I tell you! Ok so we felt about a zillion years old and had to be helped back to our chairs when we over-exerted ourselves to Hot Chip, but it was fabulous. Xpress Music Chile: we salute you.

Facebook groups: Express Music Chile and Indie Music Chile


If you’re just getting cueca, reggaeton and salsa out of your radio, you’re just not twiddling your knob right. Top of the pile is Radio Horizonte who will wake you up with Death Cab, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Radiohead.

Radio Horizonte 103.3 (www.horizonte.cl), Radio Concierto 88.5 (www.concierto.cl), Play FM 100.9 (www.playfm.cl), Radio Zero 97.7 (www.radiozero.cl), Radio Futuro 88.9 (www.futuro.cl), Radio Activa 92.5 (www.radioactiva.cl), Tiempo 95.9 (www.fmtiempo.cl), Radio Universo 93.7 (www.universo.cl), Duna 89.7(www.duna.cl), Rock & Pop 94.1 (www.rockandpop.cl).

So my guitar-loving friends, step away from the empanadas. You’ve got skinny jeans to squeeze into. Put all that bumping and grinding behind you, let’s go dance to Joy Division.

Read it on Revolver here.

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Filed under chile, Features, indie music, Music, Revolver, Santiago de Chile

How to be an Eco-Warrior in Santiago, Chile (Revolver)

Saving the world is a tricky business in Santiago. Although there are plenty of people working hard to improve environmental awareness, the majority of the population appear to think going green is something you do before you throw up after a heavy night out.

Difficult though it may be, however, it is possible to reduce, reuse and recycle in this fair city. So whether you’re a fully-fledged eco-warrior or just looking for somewhere to recycle, here’s how:

Just say no

Santiago Chile Photo by Joanna Rozniak

Supermarket bag packers clearly believe that their plastic carriers are as fragile as fairy wings and your tins of tuna and loaves of bread are as delicate as egg shells. For this reason, they carefully place just one or two items in each bag and you leave with about 50 of the darn things. According to www.eco3r.cl, Chileans go through a whopping 3 million plastic bags in 2007.

Next time you’re in the supermarket, say no to their bags, and keep saying no when they insist. Take your own bags, pack them yourself and explain why you’re doing so in the comments book at customer services.

We love Revolver contributor Abi Wilkinson’s foldable Santiago-themed cloth bags.

Buy less stuff

My ex-boyfriend was a peso-pinching miser who scorned my tree-hugging ways, but in many ways, he was more eco-friendly than I was. I’d watch him mumbling to himself over prospective purchases — “Lo necesito? Pues, no” — and he’d put it back.

If you don’t really, really need it, don’t buy it. Use accessories to brighten up old clothes or buy second-hand from Bandera, borrow stuff from friends, take a mug to work, get inventive in the kitchen, join the library, share magazines with your mates, scrounge stationery from work, use old bills and letters as scrap paper and get things fixed rather than throw them away.

Then, when it’s time to leave town, share the love and give your stuff away. Someone you know is bound to want that BIP card, SIM, sleeping bag, half-bottle of Pisco or not-quite-ripe avocado.

Save energy

Don’t leave your TV or computer on standby, turn them off and unplug them. Buy a hot water bottle to keep warm in the winter. Boil only the water you need to make that cup of tea and do the planet (and the next tenant of your flat) a favour by buying energy-saving light bulbs. They’re available from most big supermarkets.


Let’s be frank. On the whole, Santiago sucks at recycling.

Vitacura is the one area that is showing the rest of the city how it’s done. Their Punto Limpio between Nueva Costanera and Américo Vespucio has recycling facilities for paper, cardboard,plastic, glass bottles, aluminium tins, clothes, toner cartridges and tetra packs.

Santiago Chile Photo by Joanna Rozniak

They’ll also take batteries and other items that are damaging to the environment off your hands. Gasp in awe and wonder here.

For the rest of us ordinary mortals, here’s a full list of recycling facilities across the city.

Mobile phones can now be recycled at most metro stations and Reciclemos y Limpiemos Chile is encouraging schools and colleges to recycle paper with an impressive incentive scheme.

Finally, don’t assume that your building is recycling those wine bottles they ask you not to throw down the rubbish chute. They probably aren’t. Take them to your nearest bottle bank instead.

Those boots are made for walking

No one will love you for adding to the smog, so walk or cycle whenever you can. Cheap bikes can often be found by searching on university notice boards, www.oxl.cl or www.santiago.craigslist.org.

If you fancy ringing your bell at angry car drivers, Critical Mass reclaim Santiago’s streets for cyclists every first Tuesday of the month. Meanwhile, the lovely people at Ciclorecrevoia close off parts of the city to cars every Sunday morning so that you can pedal, skate or walk in peace.

And if you’re heading out of town, take the bus rather than fly. It may take longer, but buses are a great way to see the country and reduce your carbon footprint.

Buy Organic and in season

Santiago Chile Photo by Joanna Rozniak

Chile’s unusual geography means that fruit and vegetables grow in abundance here. However, if you’re tempted to buy mangoes or sweet corn in the middle of winter, make sure they haven’t been flown halfway round the world first. Prices are your guide. If they’re piling the strawberries high and selling them cheap at La Vega, chances are they’re in season.

Better yet, if you can afford it, buy organic. Biocaja bring seasonal organic veg boxes to your door for CP$9,900 per week (+ CP$2,500 delivery). To order, email biocajas@gmail.com

Clean green

Bleach and other household chemicals can be harmful to marine life. Sadly we’ve not found anywhere in Santiago that sells environmentally-friendly cleaning products, but, for ideas on making your own, take a look at ecologistas en accion (Spanish) or grist (English).

Have eco-friendly kids

Disposable nappies may be handy and save on mess but they take up huge amounts of landfill space. Chilean-designed eco nappies are available at www.agu.cl, and there’s a natty line in organic cotton baby clothes at www.ser-organico.cl.

Recycle creatively

Just because the government aren’t recycling your stuff, it doesn’t mean you can’t. Arty disco dancers can learn how to make their very own glitterballs from old CDs here,

Santiago Chile Eco bricks, Photo courtesy Claudia Fernandez

and fashionistas can buy fab boots made from plastic supermarket bags here. The Spanish designer who makes them was inspired by the mountains of wasted plastic in — yes, you guessed it — Santiago.

Chilean artists are pretty inventive too. See who’s using what at arte chileno independiente. One artistic soul currently needs your used candles for a sculpture.

The award for the most creative use of plastic bags goes to whoever came up with the idea of building houses with them. In various parts of South America, buildings are being constructed with ‘eco bricks’ using empty plastic bottles stuffed with tightly compressed carrier bags.

Get on your soap box

Patagonia in Southern Chile is one of the most spectacular wildernesses on earth. It’s home to deep glacial lakes, pristine rivers and now a massive environmental campaign, Patagonia Sin Represas. Large-scale dam projects are planned for the area, which campaigners say would threaten eco-systems, rural farms and rivers, not to mention the tourism industry. Thousands of high-voltage towers would also be needed to bring the power to Santiago and mining projects in the north, potentially blotting 2415km of landscape. To find out more about a controversial mining project at Pasca Lama, read what our friends at Matador have to say.

And for regular info on all things green and Chilean, see Greenpeace Chile or Terram.

So, now that you know where to recycle those empty bottles of Chilean red, start making friends with the environment. She needs all the help she can get.

Note: If you know of a great environmental project we haven’t mentioned or have spotted a handy place to dispose of batteries, please feel free to add it to the comments section below.

See it on Revolver here.


Filed under chile, Environment, Features, Revolver, Santiago de Chile, Uncategorized

The Prodigy in Santiago, Chile: Music for the Jilted Generation (Revolver)

Keith Prodigy

Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete

 “Teatro Caupolican. As fast as you can.”

Had they seen it, The Prodigy would have been proud of my entrance. Taking me at my word, the taxi driver put his foot down, yelled at dithering pedestrians as he mowed them down and narrowly avoided a head-on collision outside the venue. It was pure adrenaline and very Prodigy.

Already inside the venue were a motley crew of lithe hipsters, ageing dance fans, punks and misfits. It was a typical audience for this impossible-to-pigeon-hole band who make rock for ravers and dance music for metal-heads. Whatever music you’re into, it’s an odds-on certainty that your mum won’t like The Prodigy.

Before the 28 October show, internet forums had been buzzing with righteous indignation at the change of venue and Primal Scream’s cancellation. But what no-one had seemed to realise was that The Prodigy don’t need support bands. They don’t need anything except a PA the size of a small country with enough bass for your face to vibrate.

The moment they stomped petulantly out onto the stage, all gripes were forgotten. Opening with World’s On Fire, Maxim worked the crowd like a psychotic fairground attendant (‘all my people of Chile, I can’t hear you!’) while Keith leapt across the stage as if suddenly released from a cage round the back. Then came Breathe with its infectious beat and snarly punk chorus and it all went off.

If Chile could somehow tap into the energy that The Prodigy produce live, all its future electricity needs could be met. While other bands speak to their fans through their lyrics, a Prodigy gig is all about the raw power and aggression of bass and beat with the amps racked up to 11. Subtle they are not.

Caupolican’s security staff looked on in bemusement as mild-mannered boys stripped to the waist, screamed at the stage and swirled their shirts around their head to Spitfire, while middle-aged men did themselves an injury busting their best moves. Bemusement turned to horror when Maxim asked the soundman to ‘give them the bass’ and a sweaty jumping mob, women included, shouted out the words to Smack My Bitch Up.

Indeed, if there had been an earthquake that night, no-one in the crowd would have noticed. With the bass loud enough to take your scalp off, several thousand heads bobbing like angry seagulls and twice as many bouncing feet, the venue quite literally jumped of its own accord.

Write in if I’m wrong, but 19 years on The Prodigy are still the best live band ever.


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Filed under chile, Music, Music Reviews, Santiago de Chile