Santiago is a city of approximately 5 million souls lying in the shadows of the Andes Mountains just to the east. The snow covered peaks make a nice back drop to the many tall buildings in the Centro and some of the outlying suburbs. It has many green areas, some along the Mapocho River and others on the small urban peaks of Cerro Santa Lucia and Cerro San Cristobal. One of the nice things about spending several days in a city with no set agenda is that we can pick and choose what we see and when we see it. We have a nice apartment to retreat to after several hours on foot exploring various areas of the city.
Sculpture Near Our Apartment
Cerro San Cristobal rises over 2800 feet above the city and is topped by the nearly 50 foot high statue of the Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepcion. The funicular takes people to the Terraza Bellavista overlooking the city, but they must climb the stone steps to reach the base of the statue. Pope John Paul II said mass here in 1984--the park must have been absolutely overrun with the faithful!
The Ramblers Looking to Have Fun on the Funicular!
Tree Branch with Seed Pods
On another day we walked to the Cementerio General, a literal City of the Dead with over two million graves on a 200+ acre plot of land. Many of the deceased are in mausoleums, but the wealthier folks have built family tombs that are more like temples. Salvador Allende, the president who died in the 1973 military coup, is here as well. The cemetery is divided into streets and avenues with many plazas scattered throughout.
Tomb of Salvador Allende
Allende Family Crypt
This is How the Majority of the People are Buried
The most sobering place, however, was the Memorial del Detenido Desaparecido y del Ejecutado Politico. The leader of the coup that put an end to Allende's rule was General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. He oversaw the torture of over 35000 political opponents during his 17-year reign; there were also over 3000 people who "disappeared." The thousands of names on the wall at the memorial is mind-numbing and the tombs of those who were executed for their political beliefs likewise. There are four faces peering out from four rough hewn blocks of stone on the small bridge in front of the memorial. We have once again come face-to-face with modern history in a foreign land.
One of the Four Faces
Many of the deaths occurred in 1973 shortly after the coup.
Some of the tombs of those executed for their political beliefs; again, many in 1973 and many in their 20s and 30s!