Posts tagged history

After more than two years of closure due to renovation, Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino reopened today here in Santiago.

View the full set over on Flickr.

September 11, 1973
An expression that speaks a thousand words and almost four decades later the emotions are still too raw for many Chileans.

September 11, 1973

An expression that speaks a thousand words and almost four decades later the emotions are still too raw for many Chileans.

Trees in Fog (Chile, 1939) from Life Magazine photographer John Swope. via: Craig Krull Gallery

Trees in Fog (Chile, 1939) from Life Magazine photographer John Swope. via: Craig Krull Gallery

While browsing souvenir shops recently, I spotted a few seemingly out of place dolls decorated in a style that definitely didn’t match the more familiar Mapuche. 
The bizarre costumes and striking body paint belonged to the Selk’nam people, a nomadic hunter-gatherer tribe who inhabited the southern archipelago of Patagonia in pre-European times.
These Amerindian people (also known as the Ona) dressed up as part of a ritual (‘Hain’) to teach their tribes’ youth that evil spirits would set upon them if they misbehaved. Their history and culture is only scarcely recorded as their fate was sealed upon the arrival of permanent European settlements in the 1800s.

The Selk’nam who first sighted the astonishing craft moving silently along the shore of their island probably built bonfires to signal their neighbours further along the coast and island that something alarming was occurring. Because of the fires seen by Magellan and his crew, the Great Island and all the islands south of the straight were later named ‘Land of the Fire’ (Tierra del Fuego)
Drama and Power in a Hunting Society: The Selk’Nam of Tierra Del Fuego - Anne MacKaye Chapman

From 1880, the Selk’nam were hunted to extinction by sheep-farmers and gold seekers who were rewarded financially upon presentation of a pair of hands or ears, or later a complete skull. The last descendant, Angela Loij, died in 1974.

While browsing souvenir shops recently, I spotted a few seemingly out of place dolls decorated in a style that definitely didn’t match the more familiar Mapuche. 

The bizarre costumes and striking body paint belonged to the Selk’nam people, a nomadic hunter-gatherer tribe who inhabited the southern archipelago of Patagonia in pre-European times.

These Amerindian people (also known as the Ona) dressed up as part of a ritual (‘Hain’) to teach their tribes’ youth that evil spirits would set upon them if they misbehaved. Their history and culture is only scarcely recorded as their fate was sealed upon the arrival of permanent European settlements in the 1800s.

The Selk’nam who first sighted the astonishing craft moving silently along the shore of their island probably built bonfires to signal their neighbours further along the coast and island that something alarming was occurring. Because of the fires seen by Magellan and his crew, the Great Island and all the islands south of the straight were later named ‘Land of the Fire’ (Tierra del Fuego)

Drama and Power in a Hunting Society: The Selk’Nam of Tierra Del Fuego - Anne MacKaye Chapman

From 1880, the Selk’nam were hunted to extinction by sheep-farmers and gold seekers who were rewarded financially upon presentation of a pair of hands or ears, or later a complete skull. The last descendant, Angela Loij, died in 1974.

Last month saw the passing of experimental Chilean photographer Sergio Larraín. This image is a favourite of mine, but his work famously caught the eye of Henri Cartier-Bresson, and saw him earn the role as a contributing photographer for Magnum (gallery). 

Larrain was endlessly experimental. One afternoon in the 1950s, he was taking photographs outside Notre Dame in Paris and captured scenes between a couple which he only noticed when he developed the film. This provided the inspiration for Julio Cortázar’s extraordinary 1959 story The Devil’s Drool, which in turn was the basis for Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film Blow-Up. - Guardian

Sergio Larraín, Village of Horcones, Fishermen daughters, 1957

Last month saw the passing of experimental Chilean photographer Sergio Larraín. This image is a favourite of mine, but his work famously caught the eye of Henri Cartier-Bresson, and saw him earn the role as a contributing photographer for Magnum (gallery). 

Larrain was endlessly experimental. One afternoon in the 1950s, he was taking photographs outside Notre Dame in Paris and captured scenes between a couple which he only noticed when he developed the film. This provided the inspiration for Julio Cortázar’s extraordinary 1959 story The Devil’s Drool, which in turn was the basis for Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film Blow-Up. - Guardian

Sergio Larraín, Village of Horcones, Fishermen daughters, 1957

I love this sculpture. Anyone from Chile will instantly recognise the significance of this object - amplified to 50x it’s original size as if to give due weight to its historic importance.
The iconic glasses were formerly worn by Chile’s socialist leader Salvador Allende when he took a fatal bullet to the head during the military coup on September 11, 1973.
2011 saw a number of developments in this 38 year old case. Foremost was the exhumation of Allende’s remains for forensic analysis - to the surprise of no-one the results of the autopsy revealed the former leader had died as the result of a self inflicted gunshot.
Also last year, the family of Allende filed a lawsuit for the return of the AK-47 used in the incident. The rifle was originally seized by the army, but now appears to have been lost in time. It should be easily recognisable due to the gold plate engraved with the words: "To my good friend Salvador from Fidel, who by different means tries to achieve the same goals". 
I love a good mystery, and the thought of this weapon stashed in a locked box in the back of someone’s closet fascinates me to the point of obsession. How much does this weigh on the mind of whomever knows of its location?
The sculpture is located in the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry Office in Caracas. The original glasses are on display here in Santiago at the Museo Historico Nacional.

I love this sculpture. Anyone from Chile will instantly recognise the significance of this object - amplified to 50x it’s original size as if to give due weight to its historic importance.

The iconic glasses were formerly worn by Chile’s socialist leader Salvador Allende when he took a fatal bullet to the head during the military coup on September 11, 1973.

2011 saw a number of developments in this 38 year old case. Foremost was the exhumation of Allende’s remains for forensic analysis - to the surprise of no-one the results of the autopsy revealed the former leader had died as the result of a self inflicted gunshot.

Also last year, the family of Allende filed a lawsuit for the return of the AK-47 used in the incident. The rifle was originally seized by the army, but now appears to have been lost in time. It should be easily recognisable due to the gold plate engraved with the words: "To my good friend Salvador from Fidel, who by different means tries to achieve the same goals". 

I love a good mystery, and the thought of this weapon stashed in a locked box in the back of someone’s closet fascinates me to the point of obsession. How much does this weigh on the mind of whomever knows of its location?

The sculpture is located in the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry Office in Caracas. The original glasses are on display here in Santiago at the Museo Historico Nacional.

It is not so widely known that in early 1941, prior to the US entry in WWII, the State Department commissioned Walt Disney to go on a goodwill tour of South America in order to improve relations. This was at a time when the axis powers were taking hold in Latin America and President Roosevelt initiated the Good Neighbor policy in order to reassert US influence.
The story of this tour is captured in the recent documentary Walt & El Grupo, and shows that much of this time was spent in Buenos Aires where a group of Disney artists, writers and musicians set up a studio to work on new material. Of the ten weeks of the tour only five days were spent in Chile.
Out of this trip came an animated feature film in 1942 called Saludos Amigos which featured a cast of anthropomorphic characters representing various nations of the Americas. Chile was represented by Pedro, a small airplane engaged in his very first flight over the Andes to pick up air mail from Mendoza.
Ironically, this did not go over so well with some Chileans, who were no doubt eyeing up Brazil’s colourful depiction of José Carioca and thought the Disney crew could have done better. Oddly, no offense was taken at the official tagline of the film: Walt Disney goes South American in his gayest musical Technicolor feature.
However, it was in response to this somewhat uninspiring character that Chilean cartoonist René Ríos (known as Pepo) created his character Condorito - which is still to this day the most recognizable locally created cartoon character in Chile.

It is not so widely known that in early 1941, prior to the US entry in WWII, the State Department commissioned Walt Disney to go on a goodwill tour of South America in order to improve relations. This was at a time when the axis powers were taking hold in Latin America and President Roosevelt initiated the Good Neighbor policy in order to reassert US influence.

The story of this tour is captured in the recent documentary Walt & El Grupo, and shows that much of this time was spent in Buenos Aires where a group of Disney artists, writers and musicians set up a studio to work on new material. Of the ten weeks of the tour only five days were spent in Chile.

Out of this trip came an animated feature film in 1942 called Saludos Amigos which featured a cast of anthropomorphic characters representing various nations of the Americas. Chile was represented by Pedro, a small airplane engaged in his very first flight over the Andes to pick up air mail from Mendoza.

Ironically, this did not go over so well with some Chileans, who were no doubt eyeing up Brazil’s colourful depiction of José Carioca and thought the Disney crew could have done better. Oddly, no offense was taken at the official tagline of the film: Walt Disney goes South American in his gayest musical Technicolor feature.

However, it was in response to this somewhat uninspiring character that Chilean cartoonist René Ríos (known as Pepo) created his character Condorito - which is still to this day the most recognizable locally created cartoon character in Chile.

I found this photo of an early Santiago dentist in the fantastic santiagonostalgico Flickr account - a real goldmine of historic nostalgia from Santiago and around Chile.
What caught my attention here is that this photo takes on a dark and terrifying tone when you realise the dental apparatus is a manifestation of El Basilisco.

I found this photo of an early Santiago dentist in the fantastic santiagonostalgico Flickr account - a real goldmine of historic nostalgia from Santiago and around Chile.

What caught my attention here is that this photo takes on a dark and terrifying tone when you realise the dental apparatus is a manifestation of El Basilisco.

10 Things I Already Know About Chile

This is not my first visit to Chile, but having made a six month commitment I’m now learning as much as I can about the country. After only a week here I’ve already noticed the locals appreciating it when I pull out a bit of trivia - particularly the many Germans here who have more than 150 years of settlement in the south and naturally don’t appreciate flippant remarks about their ancestry.


Here are a few things I already know about Chile:

  1. Chile has five World Heritage sites - the best known being the colourful port town of Valparaiso, Rapa Nui National Park, and the 60 Churches in the region of Chiloé.
  2. The northern desert of Atacama is the world’s most arid and had no recorded rainfall between the period 1570-1971. I never made it there on my first visit, but it’s high on my list this time.
  3. Chile has over 2000 volcanoes, 500 of them are potentially active - including the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle eruption earlier this year. My attempt to climb Mount Villarica was thwarted by poor weather conditions - but I’m keen to try again.
  4. Chile has produced two Nobel Prize winners: Gabriela Mistral (1945) and Pablo Neruda (1971). Neruda is possibly the most well known Chilean worldwide who was not a dictator.
  5. Easter Island was named after it was discovered on Easter Sunday in 1772. However, it is also commonly know by its Polynesian name of Rapa Nui, and in Chile by its Spanish title, Isla de Pascua. 
  6. Punta Arenas is the world’s most southern city and Puerto Williams is the world’s most southern town. A good way to start an argument is to mention this to an Argentinean as they like to claim Ushuaia as the ‘End of the World’.
  7. In February 2010, Chile suffered an 8.8 magnitude earthquake which ranks as sixth largest earthquake ever to be recorded by a seismograph. The intensity lasted about three minutes and claimed 525 lives. In my hometown of Christchurch one year later, a magnitude 6.3 aftershock lasting only around 10 seconds and killed 181. 
  8. On New Years’ the port city of Valparaíso hosts the largest fireworks display annually in all of South America.
  9. There is a Chilean independence leader named Bernardo O’Higgins who has more street names and statues than anyone else in Chile. He is called the liberator of Chile - not surprisingly for his efforts in defeating the Spaniards in Chile’s successful quest for independence in 1818.
  10. The national slogan on the coat of arms is “Por la Razon or la Fuerza” (by reason or by force). If you like this sort of thing there is a giant flag hoisted outside Government Palace - photos don’t even begin to do it justice.

I look forward to adding to this knowledge over the next few months.