August 20th, 2004

beach bum

Valdivia

According to the Lonely Planet this is one of the nices cities in Chili. I really couldn´t tell as this is the first one I am visiting. Okay, I saw a bit of Puerto Varas yesterday on my way here, yet didn´t stay there longer than necessary to get some local currency and get a bus.

This morning, after a long and slow breakfast, discussing Pinochet (whose portrait was on the wall in the room we were having breakfast, not really a good sign I´d say) with someone from Santiago and a couple from Italy, I walked into towncenter and bumped into a parade (is that the correct translation for a desfile?), honouring the birthday of someone who done a lot of good in this country ages ago. Plenty of speeches from politicians and highely ranked military, full of big words, avoiding to really say something. Bolivar and San Martin seem to be adopted by every Latin American country as heroes actually, so I heard their names again in some speeches. After the speeches the army, the navy and (I assume) the airforce all paraded in front of the stage, with every high person in Valdivia sitting there, though I assume that if you sit third row there, you aren´t really important. After the soldiers came the schools, dozens of them, all in school uniform, with ther best performers parading the banner of the school or the national flag. It was great to see, though I am not a big fan of anything military. It is a fact though that any Latin American country (or should that be American nowadays?) the army, in all its shapes, is far more present than in any European country I know.



Walking on, at the market down by the river, I noticed some sea lions in the river, which turned out to be true, as they were scaveging for left over fish parts, which were aplenty, as half of the market stalls sell fish. Quite funny to see how far they swim into a country, knowing that there is food. Some of them were so incredibly fat, I guess they must have sat on that wall for quite some time now.

Back in town center I had an interesting conversation with a girl who is part of a group petitioning to get a lot of big shots, amongs them Pinochet, to trial, for murdering some locals. She herself lost her grandfater ten years before she was born. Not only was he a member of the socialist party, also was he a Mabuche, the original population of the south of Chili, a minority that has been oppressed for ages.

In the historical museum I saw about the big and influential German community here in Valdivia, especially the Anwardter family (hope I spelled that correctly). Very colonial this town. Nice building as well that museum, but the highlight for me were the maps on the walls of the stairs. I´m sure they were just put there as decoration, but I find it a delight to stare at 16th and 17th century maps.

A nice stroll alongside the river showed me what I already knew, this is a student town. Dozens of rowing boats went in both directions. A good ending to a great day. Again. I´m not always a big fan of guide books, but I have to agree with LP on this one.