Corrugated City

Tuesday 30 September 2008

Valparaiso Earthquake 1906 II

Some more images from the 1906 earthquake in Valparaiso. Part I is here

Plazuela Bellavista in ruins. Plazuela Bellavista is now Plaza Bellavista after the magnificent decision to demolish the Edificio Brown in the 70s.

Calle Condell in Barrio Puerto

A Panoramic view of the Almendral. I can't work out where the photo was taken-I think probably from Cerro Bellavista.

Friday 26 September 2008

I love Steve Bell:

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Thai Food in Chile: Do It Yourself

One of the complaints most foreigners have about Chile is the lack of decent-and spicy- Asian food. Chinese food here is beyond appalling and Thai and Indian cuisine is watered down and Chileanised so much that it resembles the original only in name.

Now to get around this, you have to cook your own. If you live in Santiasco, then you have easy access to the Chinese and Korean supermarkets in Patronato where you can buy all the sauces, frozen dim-sum, noodles and other imported goodies your little hearts desire. If you live on the coast, however, you're screwed. But not anymore...

Both Jumbo and Lider now stock a reasonable variety of imported Asian spices and sauces. The best find was the authentic Thai curry pastes in Lider in Vina (also sold in a little store on Arlegui). Red, green and yellow are available and mixed in with the Thai coconut milk from Lider you can make a fantastic Thai curry.

The Thai pastes from Jumbo (there's Tom Yum and a couple of others) are really good for making proper fried rice. Jumbo's coconut milk is an absurd rip off at 2400 pesos, however. Lider's Thai stuff is about 800 pesos. The curry pastes cost around 2500 pesos and last forever.

Now, let's hope that real Indian spices make it over here soon as well...

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Valparaiso Earthquake 1906

Another of the books available for download on Memoria Chilena is entitled 'The Catastrophe of August 16 1906 in the Republic of Chile'. A better name could not be found.

The earthquake that hit Valparaiso at 7.55pm on that day was catastrophic. Around 3000 people died during the quake and countless more in the days that followed due to their injuries. 20,000 people were seriously injured. Much of Barrio El Almendral was flattened, along with a fair proportion of Barrio Puerto. In the hills, Cerros Carcel y Merced were the most affected. Cerros Alegre y Concepcion, the richest, most upmarket (as they still are) and mainly foreign neighbourhoods were barely affected due to the hills being pretty solid bedrock.

People were hit by falling masonry, crushed in their houses or burnt alive due to the fires that raged in the days after the event. Looters were summarily executed. Buildings continued to topple for days after the quake and more were demolished for being structurally unsound. Material losses were estimated at over 300 million pesos (I have no idea what that amount would be in today's money. Several hundred million Dollars I should imagine). The cost of reconstruction, many times that amount.

Map marking the worst hit areas:

Over the next few days and weeks I'll post more photos from after the disaster. Here are a few to get started.

Plaza Victoria:

Teatro Victoria:

Calle Victoria:


Banks of Valparaiso II: Old School

A while ago, I posted about the banks here in Valparaiso. It turns out that I'm not the first person to have this idea. Whilst searching through the information on Memoria Chilena I came across a great book called Valparaiso 1536-1910 which had been scanned and uploaded from the original housed in the Biblioteca Nacional. The book can be downloaded and is an extremely detailed history of Valparaiso, Chile. At some point I might even get around to reading the text and not just look at the old photos. Memoria Chilena is a really good source of information in general for Chilean history, by the way.

Anyway, here are photos from sometime between 1906-1910 of all the banks in Valparaiso. The images are quite grainy as I've had to adjust them a little. The original scanned and uploaded book is really bright and it's tricky to see many of the photos. I've done my best to make them a little easier on the eye.

As far as I can tell, the only bank still functioning and in its original location is the Banco de Chile. The Anglo Sud-Americano building is now occupied by the banking monster Santander. Many of the other buildings I don't actually recognise but I'll keep my eye out when I'm wandering around in future.

Monday 22 September 2008

Fiestas Patrias: Meat, Sand, Rail, Hill

I was dreading Fiestas Patrias. This area of the country usually turns into a complete nightmare of traffic and people during long weekends, bank holidays and school holidays. This makes it impossible or extremely stressful to get around in car, bus or even walking.

However, for some reason, Valpo and Vina were completely empty all of last week and even over the weekend. I have no idea why this was so and it even caught out the police. They were clearly expecting Sunday evening traffic chaos and were out in force yesterday but there were barely any cars on the road at all. It was quieter than a normal Sunday weekend in mid-winter. Very strange, but also very enjoyable for everyone that decided to stay in town for the holidays.

I didn't get up to all that much Fiestas Patrias-y over the last week. As I mentioned in the last post, the FPs don't really mean anything to me personally so it's hard to get excited. But I still did a few interesting things.

I did make it to a Fonda at the Sporting Club de Valparaiso in Vina. A Fonda is kind of like a little fair with stalls selling crap (it's FP tradition to sell Hello Kitty products and cheap sunglasses), a few fairground rides and dozens of little food stalls all selling the same things: BBQ beef, sausage sandwiches, empanadas, beer and chicha. It was pretty good fun.

The most entertaining part was when we were waiting for some more friends by the obvious meeting point of the Ferris Wheel. The motor malfunctioned and the wheel sped up to a fairly speedy speed and wouldn't be made to stop for well over 10 minutes. Eventually the police arrived with a mechanic and he got it to stop. Some of the children who got off were delighted with their ride, some were crying. The parents looked terrified.

We decided not to go on the Ferris Wheel.

I went back to the dunes in Con Con with a friend. We stopped off for lunch at this tiny little fish restaurant on the way where we had really good food at absurdly cheap prices in what is little more than a glorified tree house with a kitchen attached. Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo and can't remember the name but next time I go I'll remember to...

After that, we headed for the dunes. It wasn't as much fun as last time. We got stuck. At the bottom of a hill. Late afternoon. Sun starting to go down. After an hour or so of inching our way out through the tactic of digging the tires out, placing snow chains under the tires for grip and then trying to move as far as possible before getting stuck again, we were found by a friendly dune buggy driver who phoned his friends. They rescued us with a winch, all the while chuckling and taking photos. I have no doubt they went home and told their friends and families about the stupid gringos who got stuck in the sand.

As we then headed out of the dunes, we had to cross the train tracks. The tracks are quite raised but usually easy to cross with a bit of care. However, in order to get out of the sand, I'd had to let the tires down to a really low pressure. One of the back tires caught on the track, squashed itself all the way to the alloy and left the car dangling on two wheels, stuck on the track. As you might imagine, being stuck on train tracks isn't the best place to be stuck. I actually thought the car had beached itself but fortunately, on closer inspection, it was just the wheel...I rushed out, pushed and a short while later we were unstuck with the car bouncing down the other side of the track and making noises a car shouldn't really make.

I'm never going back to the dunes.

Stuck car, murdered dune companion.

Yesterday, I decided that heading back to Cerro La Campana would be fun. I was right, for the most part. The last time I went, I ran up and down on my own as a form of exercise. The first time, I went with my friend Mike and we also got up and down pretty quickly. This time, I went again with Mike but also with another friend, Allie. As Allie is not very tall, we went a lot slower. This was actually quite a nice change.

Cerro La Campana at 6.30am from my house.

We saw 3 big-ish tarantulas on the path up.

Short legs got a bit tired after a few minutes stroll.

While Mike and Allie pretended to be rock stars, I maintained my English composure.

The main problem yesterday with slow hiking, however, was that it is coming into summer and the fly situation is pretty bad. The first couple of times I went to La Campana, there were no flies at all due to the chill in the air. Yesterday, from La Mina until about 10 minutes from the summit, we were attacked by tiny little Black Flies. Black Flies are bastards because they don't sting you, they actually bite you...until they draw blood...and then they all try to feast on that wound. Fortunately, they're incredibly slow so it's easy to kill them but they made a good hour of the hike quite unpleasant.

Anyway, apart from that, it was a good day out. The views from the top were spectacular towards La Cordillera but not so great towards Valpo and the Pacific. It was pretty cloudy in that direction. And when we were on our way down we actually walked into a giant mist cloud which was a great way to cool down.

At some point soon, I might get around to posting specifically about Valparaiso as that is the main point of this blog. This personal doing stuff blogging is no doubt getting boring.

Thursday 18 September 2008

Fiestas Patrias: Enjoy Safely

Today marks Chile's independence day (ish). The Fiestas Patrias are a week long excuse to drink, eat, dance and generally do lots of things related to everything Chilean. This being my fourth FP and, being English, not really having much of a vested interest in them I'm content to pretty much ignore everything and carry on my life as usual.

Like at the totally mental Carnavales Culturales held in Valparaiso between Christmas and New Year, many people seem to think that the FPs are an excuse to get drunk, rob and cause trouble. Up here in the hills it's generally ok but it can definitely get, shall we say, 'tasty' downtown. Hopefully this year it won't but...

...the Ilustre Municipalidad de Valparaiso is concerned enough to provide this handy leaflet giving you ideas as to how to stay safe. It's quite depressing that they feel the need to do this, to be honest. Oh well.

1. If you're driving, don't drink alcohol.
2. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
3. Eat food and drink alcohol in licenced places.
4. Don't park your car in public places that are dark and don't have security. Remember not to leave valuable objects on view.
5. If you leave your house or apartment, make sure you securely close all doors and windows and leave somebody trustworthy in charge of your property.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

El Borde Costero: A Slight Disagreement.

Not too long ago, I took a stroll down to the part of town known as Puerto Baron. There's more than a little controversy about this area of Valparaiso, caused entirely due to the mega-project, Mall Plaza Baron-a giant mall, convention, hotel and apartment centre. This project would cost some us$100 million to undertake and create something like 3000 full time jobs in the city. It would transform a slightly derelict promenade and attract people to an area of the city that doesn't attract all that many, other than those that already live here.

So far so good, right? Well, I guess so. Being a capitalist, money loving peeeg I'm all for this type of project...but only if it respects the environment in which it is being undertaken. The original plans for the mall included 60 metre high towers. This would completely destroy the natural amphitheatre like shape of the Valparaiso Bay and look completely out of place. It would also likely block the views of residents living just up and behind the potential project.

Now, this project could be a massive boon for Valparaiso. The investment would trickle down into the community and improve the city. But it's got to be done right. The group behind the project has scaled back the height of the buildings to around 20 metres max. This is probably about ok. But I don't understand why they can't just renovate the old warehouses that are already there. This has been done successfully in dozens of cities around the world...

Overall, though, I'm in favour of the project in its re-scaled form. The city needs investment, the area that the project would renovate needs the work and it would benefit a huge amount of people economically in the form of construction jobs in the short term and permanent staff in the long term.

Anyway, there's more information about the project here:

Pro-project: Port Authority
Anti-project (or, rather, anti almost everything-I agree with much of what they say but by no means all): Borde Costero Info

This is the current boardwalk. The buildings to the right would be demolished, the promenade opened up and new shiny buildings would be constructed behind and filled with glittering products of the consumer age.

A little further down from this sector is the beach heading towards Caleta Portales. It's covered in litter thrown by people (not all washed up litter). I don't understand how people can just throw their rubbish away like that. It's so selfish and disrespectful to everyone else.

You'll also find the Slowest Train in the World down this way. I can't find much useful info about it so if anyone knows anything, feel free to comment.

Walking back along Errazurriz, I noticed this house. Now the house itself isn't particularly interesting, but what is is the construction style. I kind of assumed that houses from this era (40-50s is my estimate but possibly 60s as well) would be re-enforced concrete. This is what they look like, anyway. Instead, they're built exactly the same as all the old houses up in the Cerros: timber framed with adobe blocks as insulation. I would have thought that by the 40s or 50s or later, this style of construction would have died out, at least in the cities.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Chileans: Not All That Bad

Friend: Matt, why do you often take such an instant dislike to people?

Me: Because it just saves time.

And yet, despite naturally not liking most people, my experience of Chileans has been pretty decent. I like Chileans: I find them to be generally honest, trustworthy and loyal friends. Time keeping is an issue, the infamous Latin casual racism rears its ugly head too frequently and the lack of public (but not private) courtesy completely does my head in... but overall I can't complain too much (of course, that doesn't stop me from doing so all the time...but that's just me. I like to complain whether there's a good reason or not. I also like to take the piss, because taking the piss is fun whether I believe what I'm saying or not).

However, over the last couple of weeks there have been two female group blogging subjects: Chilean Men (lovely, adoring, chivalrous, courteous and above all wonderfully, fantastically, crazily the best thing ever!!!!!!!) and Chilean Women (cold, snotty, badly-dressed bitches).

Given that most of the female bloggers moved to Chile specifically to be with their boyfriends/husbands, it's pretty obvious that they're going to think the guys are great. But the posts about the women were, for the most part, thoroughly depressing. In fact, neither topic really brought out the best in the bloggers. Both topics were generally biased one way or the other.

I feel that most of the bloggers ignored the most important fact: People are just people. Some are good, some are ok, some are total wankers. This goes for boys and girls, men and women in every single country in the world. The bloggers seemed to be suggesting that only Chilean women have generalised character flaws whereas pretty much everything that was written could be equally applied to Chilean men. And they also seemed to be suggesting that because Chilean women do things differently to foreign (specifically American) women, then what they're doing is wrong and not simply down to the fact that Chile is not the US and, shock horror, things aren't the same.

Two of the slightly less bitchy issues that came up were fashion and hair styling. Now I agree that the fashion here is, to my English eyes, an embarrassment. But I'm English and I'm living in Chile. In Chile the fashion here is what's fashionable here. If all the shops, newspapers and magazines market a certain style then that's what people are going to follow. That's all. Same goes for the hair styles. To bang on and on about how Chilean women can't dress and have crap hair ignores the fact that they can and don' Chile. They might get laughed at in the US or Europe or even in Argentina and I'll be laughing as hard as anyone but in Chile they won't. In Chile they're fashionable. This isn't a bad thing, it's just a cultural difference.

The part I found most depressing was how some of the bloggers seemed to take it so personally (by launching all out attacks with the odd proviso) that they haven't been able to make Chilean girl friends, completely ignoring the real reasons why the girls aren't welcoming them into their group with open arms and instead focusing on the fact that Chilean girls are cold and mean.

They're not.

Chileans do not travel. They don't move away from home at 18 and go to university on their own. They generally go to the same schools and universities with the same people for 20-odd years. They form incredibly close bonds with people they've known pretty much their entire lives. This is true of both men and women here. When a foreigner comes along, why the hell should they suddenly let him/her into their group? They don't need another member, they probably don't even want another member. They have all the friends and support they're ever going to need. A new member in an established group can upset the balance and change things in ways the group doesn't want.

In general, it takes a lot of time and effort to become real friends with a Chilean because they naturally don't want to bother making new ones. I've been here permanently for 20 months or so and on and off for close to 5 years. I've been out with groups of Chilean guys and had a lot of fun but they never phoned me up to play football with them or do anything outside of drinking. After so long, this is starting to change. Time, patience and not taking things personally is the key. They didn't call me not because they didn't like me but simply because I'm not on their radar when it comes to organising things. I pretty much don't exist to them because I'm not part of their long term group of friends. Over time, that slowly changes.

In my time here I've met, been friends with and worked with people from every level of society. I know and I've met and worked with some of the richest people in this country, I know a lot of people from the middle class and I've worked with and alongside a lot of people from the lower classes on construction projects.

I honestly can't say that people from one social class are better than another. Cuicos (upper class Chileans, pejorative term) are frequently slagged off and I've met some pretty horrible people who belong to this group. But I've also met and know some truly wonderful stinking rich Chileans; open minded, fair, honest and just good people. Exactly the same could be said of the middle classes and the lower classes. Some of the people I've met have been fantastic and some have been horrible. Why should this come as a surprise to anyone? It's the same everywhere in the world.

The irony is that, taken as a group, these bloggers simply conform to the stereotype that many people from all over the world believe holds true about American girls: That they're bitchy, catty and difficult to deal with. This is the image that comes across through American films.

If the blog posts truly reflect the bloggers' personalities, it comes as no surprise to me that they've struggled to make friends in Chile.

My foreign girl friends here in Valparaiso have had overwhelmingly positive experiences with Chilean women. Invites to parties, dinners, yoga class, drinks, lunch, coffee etc have been proffered after very little time. These Chilean women might not consider the gringas to be 'friends' just yet but they're making an effort to welcome them into Chilean society. They're not being cold and mean. Quite the opposite. People might say that porteñas are just nicer people but I've seen the same thing happen in Santiago.

Maybe I've been lucky. Maybe me and my foreign friends have had the great fortune to meet the 0.001% of nice Chileans, male and female, in existence. Or maybe Chileans aren't as bad as they're made out to be. Maybe, with a bit of patience and a bit of cross-cultural understanding you'll work this out for yourself.

If you go to my Chile Blog list, you'll find links to many of the blogs with their posts about Chilean men and women.

Friday 5 September 2008


First, a joke.

-What did the Chilean fireman call his two children?

-Jose and... (The, erm, 'punch line' is at the bottom)

Anyway, just past Con Con are some reasonably large sand dunes. They're pretty cool to look at. But they're even more fun to drive over. I went last weekend with a friend.

For 2500 pesos you can access the beach in your car and then spend as long as you like destroying the environment in your big 4x4. I highly recommend it as it is a whole lot of fun.

Also fun is running down near vertical slopes and trying to keep your balance.

I suggest leaving your handbag in the car, though. There aren't any shops in the dunes.

...Hose B

Wednesday 3 September 2008

The worst rally corner ever?

Ok, so nothing to do with Valparaiso, Chile or anything at all, really. But this video is really entertaining...

Tuesday 2 September 2008

Valparaiso's Tourism Website

Valpo, almost clear of the fog...almost...

So while I was back in England, Valparaiso finally got around to sorting out a website.

Click here for the site.

Firstly, I didn't know they were doing this although it was bleeding obvious that the city was crying out for a site. It should have been done years ago.

Secondly, I'm incredibly surprised by the quality of the new site. It's well laid out, well designed, full of really useful information and isn't just the usual "everything's great" kind of tourism site. Some of the interviews are really interesting and express similar points of views to mine. They aren't afraid to tell it like it is and say that there are issues that need to be addressed here. I'm actually really impressed and that's not something I can say very often about the management of tourism and investment in this city.

However (there's always a however), the English version of the site sucks. It's poorly translated and full of spelling mistakes. This city is full of native English speakers, many of whom would probably have been willing to translate the website for free or for very little money. Instead, the council hires a Chilean who, despite obviously having a high level of English, translates idioms and expressions literally and has a problem with basic spelling. It's shoddy work and, unfortunately, all too common in all of South America. It's indicative of the approach to business here: Have a good idea and then execute it cheaply and poorly.

This is a real shame because the Spanish version is really good.

Another problem is that the website doesn't show up in any google searches in English. What's the point in having a site that no one knows about and no one can find? Google ads don't cost all that much and the city is really missing a trick in not advertising this way. Search for Valparaiso Chile tourism, valparaiso chile, city of valparaiso chile, visit valparaiso chile, things to do in valparaiso chile, hotels and accommodation in valparaiso chile, history of valparaiso chile, photos of valparaiso chile and nothing comes up...well this blog does from time to time...

Monday 1 September 2008

Bolivian Women: Hard As Nails

Check out this report from the Guardian. Crazy, especially the last minute or so. I'm slightly disappointed she doesn't fight in one of those cool pork pie hats that the women in Bolivia usually wear. Sturdy ladies, las bolivianas...

Happy Anniversary To Me

Today marks something of a milestone for me: I've been living in South America for 5 years now.

On September 1st 2003, I landed in Quito, Ecuador and now here I am in Valparaiso, Chile.

Over the past 5 years I've spent:

-3 months in Ecuador
-3 weeks in Peru and Bolivia
-2 weeks in Brazil
-2 and a half years in Argentina
-2 years in Chile
-About 3 or 4 months in England

I actually can't believe I've been out here so long. I can't believe I was 25 when I got here. It seems both far longer ago and nowhere near so long at the same time. I still kind of go 'wow' when someone tells me they've been out here for 2 years. I think that's a long time. And then I remember how long I've been here. It's weird.

Still, I'm happy in South America and, despite the many things that annoy me here, I don't want to leave just yet. I can't actually imagine being anywhere else. I don't want to be anywhere else right now. This is home.