The International Writers Magazine: Latin American Diary No
8 - Mendoza
Dermot Sullivan - Latin American
Diary No 8
weather here is getting hotter and I have been keeping myself busy.
Now that the winter has well and truly left us one can take advantage
of the great Chilean oudoors. I went camping around the beginning
It was good to cleanse
the filthy Santiago air out of me. Chile is not like Europe though where
one can jump on a bus and get to wherever one wishes to get to. We (my
flatmates and I) had to walk about 20 km each way to get to our destination.
I had a heavy backpack on me as well. It taught me two things: firstly,
that I am unfit. Secondly, one should travel light! Being so far away
froim the cities and towns one can observe the southern night-sky without
the hinderance of light pollution. Before coming to Chile I had never
been able to see the mist-like swirl of the Milky Way. It would have
been nice to have seen the sky when I was in Bolivia but it was overcast
at the time.
The following weekend was Chile's national day. In fact, it was more
of a national weekend as the following day was the Military's special
day too ... The 18th and 19th of September are a big deal to Chileans.
Really, it's a celebration of the spring. They get drunk on a really
cheap wine called 'chicha' (which is even worse than plonk) and dance
their national dance 'the cueca'. They eat lots of meat and dishes specific
to the patriotic celebration. Many go to big open-air barbecues where
there is lots of meat and bands perform to the dancing crowds. Everyone
gets drunk rapidly and the dancing is awful.
The following day there is a huge military parade in Parque O'Higgins,
which is the equivalent of London's Hyde Park (only covered with cement).
The military marches for about seven hours and it's shown on all of
the television stations. I saw a smaller march where the cadets of the
Escuela Militar marched near my flat. To be honest, I find it difficult
to be enthusiastic about soldiers and sailors goose-stepping. In fact,
I find it difficult to be enthusiastic about any Latin American military!
What was the point of the marching? To show the general populace that
they haven't gone away? Not my cup of tea.
All this was just a build up to my big treat for the month: going to
Argentina! Hooray for me! I went to Mendoza which is just over the border
from Chile, though it's a bit of a trek as one has to cross the Andes.
What would take about an hour in Europe takes about six here, plus they
like to stamp passports and all that nonsense and so you get held up
at the border. That's just a mild inconvinience though because Argentina
is the wine producing district of Argentina. Seeing as I don't drink
the stuff I couldn't really give a damn. I just hit the restaurants.
For about One Pound Fifty you can go to an all you can eat buffet
and eat the best food in the world (providing that you like steak
and pasta - vegetarians are not welcome). Argentinians are happy
people. That's quite an achievement when you consider that the people
have been plunged into poverty. It's a much more relaxed place to
be than Chile. A way to describe it would be that Chileans think
like northen Europeans whilst Argentinians think like southern Europeans.
It would make sense
considering that 50% of the nation has Italian blood in it and the Spanish
that is spoken has a certain Italian tinge to it. If a Chilean does
an impression of an Argie it sounds to me like an Italian!
Argentina has lovely architecture and wide boulevards. Much of the construction
in Chile is recent as it has to be earthquake resistant (though the
buildings are not that attractive, they're the safest in the world,
with standards higher than other earthquake-prone areas, like Japan
or California). The Argies also follow the Italian way of being dressed-up
all the time. The difference though between Italy is that the clothes
are really inexpensive. Anyhow, I dug the place so much that I plan
to go again to Mendoza in December. This time I may actually venture
outside of restaurant! Also when I go again it should be a very comfortable
40 degrees Celsius! I've been informed that it's a dry heat so I should
That's it for the moment. There's been a lot of seismic activity lately,
so providing there's no massive earthquake I hope to head south later
on this month. German is still spoken there so we shall see if I run
into any sausage-eating beer-drinking Chileans. Until next time.
© Dermot Sullivan October 7th 2004
Year in Santiago
Dermot Sullivan's Chile Diary
Gringo - Diary Entry 2
From Santiago No 3
Diary No 4
Diary No 5
The Naruda House
Dermot Sullivan No 6
Week in Bolvia:
Dermot Sullivan's Diary No.7
Diary No 9
all rights reserved