Monday, November 4, 2019

Valparaisio, Protests and an Earthquake

We were in front of our apartment waiting for our tour guide to pick us up at 7:10am. An older gentleman was taking pictures of the graffiti and the memorial at the front of our building. The memorial was for sixteen people killed by police the week before. These sixteen were of all ages, one looking as young as seven years old, both men and women. There was even a clown among the killed. 

We spoke to the man who was a local. He said we are lucky to have been here for what he described as three peaceful days because the protests had been worse earlier.

Of the people we have spoken to, they are all glad that people are finally standing up against the corruption and injustices. The police are an arm of this corrupt government. 

The bus picked us up and we made our way out of the city to the Casablanca wine region where we stopped at a winery. It seems that once again I was partaking in wine before 10am.

At first, I thought the winery looked unattractive, but then they explained that they put large metal shipping containers in front of all the glass doors and windows so that the glass doesn't get destroyed if there are protests.

Valparaiso was our main stop. This city on the ocean is set amongst 45 different hills and its buildings have a mix of fading grandeur with vibrant graffiti art. There is something unexpected around every corner. Many of the houses are painted in bright colors and artwork is on walls, doors, stairs... anywhere you can put paint.

There are fourteen elevators to take you up and down different hills but currently only seven are working.

Our next stop was the floral clock in Vina del Mar which is just north of Valparisio. However, the government had taken away the clock hands so that they are not damaged during any protests.

We stopped at a museum that had an original Moa statue from Easter Island in the front. It is
one of only eleven that were taken from Easter Island. John and I felt that there was some resemblance to him so I just had to take a shot.

We stopped for lunch at a higher end waterfront restaurant. I am sure the tour company got kick backs for that stop.

Finally we stopped for twenty minutes at the beach. It was too cold to go in but it was nice to sit in the sun.

We got back into Santiago about 4pm. We decided to go out to eat across the river in the Bellavista area. We walked through the main park that is the centre for the protests but it was pretty quiet.

We ate at a Peruvian restaurant then went out for ice cream. Everything was normal in the Bellavista area. John grabbed a Starbucks coffee for our walk across the river back to our apartment. The most direct route to our apartment is through Plaza Italia, one of the main protest areas.

Tonight the place was packed with protesters in the thousands. My eyes were stinging with the tear gas. A tire fire was set on one of the streets which was barricaded. John continued to sip his Starbucks. This was the largest protest we had seen since arriving.

We made it through the crowds with no problem. People were singing, chanting, yelling and waving flags but they were peaceful and we saw no violence although some street lights had been pulled down. Infront of our apartment was a large van filled with riot police.

Inside the apartment we started packing as we leave tomorrow for Easter Island. The racket outside got increasingly louder. Poor Mel (the dog) was shaking so I cuddled her in our room. 

While I was speaking on WhatsApp to my sister, the whole apartment started to shake. The windows rattled violently and the floor trembled. I thought that a police helicopter had decided to hover over us and John thought that maybe the large police armoured vehicles were rumbling down our street. 

Our host Joseph came to our room and told us that it was an earthquake. Chile has an earthquake website and within an hour we learned it was a 6.0 and the epicentre was just north of Santiago. 

The protests continued.  Unlike the other nights our street was filled with people. Hundreds were walking up the street chanting and banging drums. It was impressive how all the people came together. Things got really loud. We went out on the apartment balcony with Joseph and his friend and watched. We could hear many loud bangs which Joseph said were tear gas canisters exploding. It was clear that something was causing everyone to move up our street. Suddenly the crowds started looking back down the street and were yelling at the police just beyond our viewpoint. Then tear gas canisters were fired up our street at the protestors. Joseph immediately had us all get into the apartment and close any outside windows and doors as he had first hand experience with getting dosed with tear gas. 

We continued to hear the bang of tear gas canisters going off, helicopters flying overhead, shouting and yelling in the street and sirens everywhere. 

Easter Island is going to seem very tame after  Santiago. 

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