Saturday, February 5, 2011

Santiago in 36 hours, and what happens to a pitch deferred?

Is Chile so fome (Chilean for boring), that you'd only want to stay here for 36 hours? Or maybe I'm just bitter that I didn't write this piece. Not true! I did write that piece. I have continually been writing and rewriting it ever since I got into travel writing 2ish years ago. But this author sent hers in, and I didn't, and maybe she's famous in the kind of circle that makes you get published in the NYT, perhaps rightfully so. So my version sits on my hard drive, and hers is on your breakfast table besides your bagel and cream cheese. Please tell me there are tomatoes on that. And pepper.

So 36 hours of shopping! and fashion! Sounds fashion-shoppy. Also doesn't sound much like my Santiago. My Santiago looks like this. Or at least it did when I wrote that. If you read here, you know a little about my Santiago. It has crumbly old buildings and splashy new ones and people doing interesting things on the street, and being nice to each other and searching for good food and a restaurant where they will give you a full (rather than 2/3 full) glass of water and photos of stuff like this:

Why you must never leave home without a camera.

and this:

just out grazing the llama/ salí a puro pastar la llama, y qué?

The thing is, everyone's Santiago looks different. Kyle's looks different from Emily's looks different from Margaret's looks different from Abby's looks different from Annje's looks different from all the people who aren't gringa bloggers, and every Santiaguino has their own version of what it looks like, what it smells like, what it feels like to put one foot in front of the other to arrive to their next destination, where with any luck they'll be served something tasty to eat or drink, or see something humorous, or get the refreshing spray that lifts off of the Fuerza Aerea (Air Force) fountain near the Salvador Metro, or look up and realize that all this time, there was a rainbow, just hanging there.


I happen to know I'm not alone (oh! this has been discussed ad fingers crampicum, though the story technically comes out tomorrow) when I say I believe it's really important for the person who trots out Santiago as their place to actually live here. Which is why if you've already clicked on the article above, I must make two admissions. One, I am a blunderer for never having emailed my pitch to the New York Times. I know my Santiago well, and I write about it all the time. Simma down (that's me talking to me) At least now I am free of the agonizing dithering of whether or not to send in my pitch/completed story. Two, I knew this article was being written, and could have taken the reins and taken the author all around town, showing her my Santiago. And I didn't. We had contact, and I declined to help.

And so what I get, what she gets, what all of us get, is a guided tour through Santiago by someone who really likes fashion (yes, I have more detail, no I will not give it). Which also explains why when Santiago won the New York Times' first place for places to go, they mentioned the Museo de la Moda. Repetition is the mother of invention, or something.

Ah, sweet Santiago. A new side revealed to me, which I will mostly ignore, and scratch my head about. A lesson learned about not grabbing tofu bulls by their soy horns, and the self-satisfied sleep of someone who has really made Santiago (and parts of Chile, even) her own. Or maybe the self-satisfied sleep is due to the new, improved apartmentage of your author (that's me). Details to follow for my beloved fans and "when are you ever going to move" harranguers, you know who you are.

And now, my "official" reaction to the piece. #NG, clickety do. And I really love the photo I chose for the head there, because that's what much of Santiago actually looks like. A little color, a little run-down, convenient, easy and pretty safe, but it never hurt to be careful.

And if I haven't worn out my link love, and you read Spanish, and want to see another person's perspective on what's on view in Chile, check out this Venezuelan author's take on Cafés con Piernas (coffee with legs) here in Santiago on MatadorNetwork (disclaimer, I work there), in Spanish.


Annje said...

Aw, all the linky love! I haven't written about Santiago yet, I feel like it is just recently mine again and we haven't been reaquainted in such a way that I could do it justice. But the one you describe in your piece is much more like the one I know... minus the mote con huesillo, which strangely I have never wanted to try--does that make me sound picky?.

I love your new term "ad fingers crampium" tres chistoso

and hey, when is the housewarming party?

Natalie said...


Ive been reading your blog for a while now, having spent 6 months in Chile last year. I love your descriptions of Santiago, of the chilenos and of the contrasts in the city - and I must say I sympathise with your descriptions of Santiago much more than that of the NYT article.
Thanks for such beautiful writing,

Pam said...

This same thing happened to me, blah blah blah. With National Geographic Traveler. They ran a feature like spread on the region in Austria where we lived and it was so clearly not locally sourced. I wrote to the blog editors and they ran a "companion" piece, which was MY version of that part of the country, and I felt a lot better for various reasons, possible smugness included.

Which is to say it might not be too late to get in touch with the NYC and pitch Unfashionable Santiago. With a better title.

Abby said...

I too, thank you for the link love! I wholeheartedly agree with you that everyone has a different Santiago. Like you, I didn't really jive with the Santiago that was described in the article, and myself wonder why tourists would want to go to Vitacura when it looks so much like the U.S., unless of course to offer a contrast to other parts of the city. But spending the majority of time there doesn't sound like much fun to me. Oh well.

Margaret said...

Ditto on the love goin round!
Clearly we live in a different Santiago--but just for the record, there WAS a Plaza Italia par'abajo mention of Lastarria--granted, it's just 2 blocks down, but trying to be even-handed here...
Furthermore, I've been told there are people who love to shop (??)...and the NYT piece was written for them. It pretty much keeps them in the part of town where they can find the same stuff available anywhere else in the world, right down to the ubiquitous pink-marbled malls and big chain hotels so they won't even have to feel like they've left home at all! (Remember the book Accidental Tourist?)
I like Pam's approach... so go for it Eileen... get out there and pitch YOUR Santiago (the one the rest of us know and love)--let them see the places that don't require a Platinum card to enjoy!

Kyle said...

What?! You mean there are other gringas who live here who are NOT gringo bloggers?

You just rocked my world.

Leigh said...

I would love to read a "36 Hours (or more) in Santiago" piece written by you! Your writing about the city is so insightful and well written. Just because the NYT published their article doesn't mean you can't pitch yours elsewhere!

I had mixed feelings about the NYT piece. On the one hand, any article that gets travelers to Chilito lindo makes a contribution in my book. I was particularly excited to see La Bicicleta Verde recognized for its important contribution to Santiago tourism. On the other hand, I was disappointed to see such a tiny (and, for many, inaccessible) sliver of the city represented. I tell myself that the article was obviously aimed at a specific type of tourist and that this specific type of tourist might love the suggested circuit. If I were to write a "36 Hours in Santiago" article, I would probably be just as guilty of slivering...but mine would be a very different sliver. Like you said, everyone has her or his own Santiago.

I'd be interested to read about other people's "Santiago slivers." Group post, anyone? said...

Great post! This is so true...and goes for any city - that's the beauty of city life! Each person has their "dried goods guy" or their "veggie guy" or their corner store or in our case "our electronics guy in bio bio" hahahaha.

Why am I just starting to read your blog now? I feel like I need to go through and catch up on all of your posts!