Tag Archives: Chile

Mi chanchito : Art museum patron is sucker for adorable pig

So I was down in Forest Park yesterday to check out Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea at the St. Louis Art Museum, and it was great. The show includes dozens of pieces of Mayan art related to the sea, rain, animals, and the gods that have never been shown in the United States before.

There are crocodile sculptures, funerary statues, duck-head vases, a pelican head…frankly it was a bit overwhelming because almost every piece has a rich mythic backstory and is executed with fine and complicated detailing. The whole time I was mesmerized by geometric configurations, stories of gods emerging from sharks, the idea of a cosmic turtle, and just how lovely a bloodletting ritual could be. Honestly, I need to go back to take it all in more fully. But I’m running out of time because the show is only in St. Louis until May 8…and then the world ends in 2012.

But it wasn’t until I hit the show’s gift shop that I became a true sucker. Usually I fly right past all the goodies laid out to tempt museum goers, but not this time. Delicately placed on a pedestal at the front of the store was a basket of adorable three-legged ceramic pigs from Chile called chanchitos. The name comes from the diminutive of chancho, which is a word in parts of Latin America for “pig” (both the four-legged version and the guy who your mother always warned you about). Normally the word chanchito refers to a piggy bank, but the chanchitos at the art museum were ceramic art obejects made in Pomaire, Chile that are exchanged between family and friends as good luck symbols. I was smitten and had to have one. And personally, I don’t think there is a luckier or more attractive swine than the one my wife and I picked out of that sales basket. (Though this Facebook page would take issue with us.)

Chanchito con sus nuevos amigos

Bringing our chanchito home made me do a little more investigation into Pomaire. The village is about 60 km west of Santiago and is home to some really amazing potters and pottery studios. It is also famous for its almost two-pound empanadas. My goodness, it’s almost lunch time and I’m ready to book a flight to Chile right now! (Here’s a great blog about the cuisine of the village and how to cure any cooking vessels you might buy there on a future trip.)

(Five-minute video en español on pottery arts in Pomaire).

Sol y viento episodio 9 : Endings, beginnings, and the messy stuff in the middle

Prólogo, Episodio 1, Episodio 2, Episodio 3, Episodio 4, Episodio 5, Episodio 6, Episodio 7, Episodio 8.

And it all comes down to this…

At a meeting of the Toastmasters International—Chilean Wine Division—, doña Isabel welcomes her guests and shows off her friend don Paco, as well as Sol y viento’s nueva cosecha, which receives a resounding chorus of ums and ahs. A nosy guest interrupts the good feelings with a question. “What about the rumors that you’re selling the place?”

Isabel: Not in my lifetime, sister!

María brings the party back to life after that exchange by toasting the bright future of Sol y viento. This gets a big thumbs up from Mario, even though he has been put at the working-class version of the kid’s table—along with Traimaqueo and some drifter-looking hippie—, and he appears to be the only person at the tasting who doesn’t have a glass of wine?!?!

Then don Paco announces that he’s helped put together a distribution deal for Sol y viento in the United States. He also whispers to doña Isabel that the vineyard will be able to say adiós a las deudas because of it. And everyone is happy…except for María, who notices that her ex-boyfriend Jaime is standing across the table from her making faces. Um, creepy stalker?

The next morning the gals are going over the vineyards’ debts when don Paco shows up to reassure them that his business deal with the US distributor will get their family business out of debt. But he stresses to María that she’ll have to get more involved in the future.

María: But I don’t know jack about business.

Isabel: What about that norteamericano? Jaime?

Paco: Good idea. He quit his job recently and he has a deep background in wines and vineyards. I looked over his resume, and it’s pretty sweet.  Besides, it’s not like he tried to steal the land away from you through a shady business deal involving your now disappeared son and some monolithic power company in the US just a couple of days ago, right?

María: I’m out of here.

Jaime stalks tracks down María at her job site and asks for a chitchat. After beginning to piece together an “I’m sorry,” he gets flustered by María’s description of the situation (“So if I hadn’t been in the middle of all this, you would have continued the deal with Carlos?”) and the fact that they aren’t using anymore. When she relents on the pronoun, he also convinces her to take back the necklace he first bought for her back in episode 4. Mario really enjoys that. Hey, where did Mario come from?

Now that he’s buttered her up, Jaime confesses his affection for María. She denies knowing that he was hot for her, so he proves it with a kiss. But enough about love…let’s get down to business.

María: Mom and Paco think you should help run the place, at least until I’m up to speed with the business.

Jaime: What do you think?

María: I think they’re crazy…but probably right. You still have a lot to prove though, buster!

And the last words of Sol y viento are left for the Machi: “And that, kids, is how the earth—as well as a cheeky hombre who lost his connection to the land—was saved. But don’t forget the dumb-dumb who rejected Mother Earth! (Bad, Carlos. Bad.)”

Roll credits and let the feelings of accomplishment sink in.

Sol y viento episodio 8 : ¿Qué dice el corazón?

PrólogoEpisodio 1Episodio 2Episodio 3Episodio 4Episodio 5Episodio 6,Episodio 7Episodio 9

Junior Detective María Sánchez is sifting through piles of Carlos’ forged documents, shaky business deals, and sales offers when the man of the hour steps in. While María assumes that all these documents track Carlos’ trickery, he’s pretty sure that he was just doing what he had to do. And besides, “Since when did you become so interested in the inner workings of Sol y viento, sis? I’ve always had to deal with this stuff by myself.”

María: “Hey, I trusted you, bro. I wouldn’t have dreamed that you were into dirty dealings with filthy, lying capitalist pigs like that…that slightly dreamy Señor Talavera…er…anyway…you aren’t the only one tied to these lands. So yes, while I agree that you’ve had a lot of responsibility as the admistrador of the winery…you’ve been a bad one. I say good day to you, sir.”

Carlos: “Slow down there, girl. Let’s not be too hasty. You know, you and I can still make some cash money on this deal.”

María: “Esta tierra no está a la venta…¡ni yo tampoco! Unless it involves a remolino.”

Meanwhile, don Paco takes an oddly involved interest in Jaime’s resume. But after reading it over thoroughly, all he can say is “University of California.” But that’s okay, he doesn’t really have any power to hire Jaime anyway. But the now jobless American isn’t so much concerned with that at that moment, rather he wants to get to that awesome wine-testing festival that Sol y viento is hosting. Apparently he was left off the guest list. Don Paco remedies the situation.

Speaking of the big event, María decides to celebrate it by telling her mother that Carlos is double-crossing, lawbreaking filth. “See, Mom, here are the documents to prove it.” Deudas, deudas y más deudas. Though she made sure to find out that mom has no ill feelings towards her for not going into the wine business first, before exploding the fraternal bomb. Happy wine festival, mamacita!

Mom has Yolanda track down Carlos and she hashes it out with him at pop’s grave.

Mamacita: “I know everything…except where all the money went.”

Carlos: “I invested it in a bunch of tech companies that went bad. Gosh, what do you think I am? Stupid? So I was just going to sell off the winery to pay the debts. Was that wrong?”

Mamacita: “Carlos, your dead father and I agree. Either I’m going to call the police on you or you’re going to have to renounce all ties with Sol y viento and disappear.”

Carlos: “I guess I’ll go…but first I’ll shed some unconvincing tears at Papá’s grave.” (Carlos sobs.)

End scene.

At the party, don Paco tries to put in a good word for Jaime with María. “I think he’s genuinely sorry and he could really help around this place. I mean…he went to the University of California! And hey, I know that you’re normally a cold, brainy booksmart girl who can’t think for herself…but at times we have to listen to our heart. ¿Qué dice el tuyo?

Only one episode left. The suspense is killing me.

The Maid (La nana) : a film by Sebastián Silva

Silva based his film La nana on his own experiences growing up in Chile with a live-in maid. He even meticulously recreated his own bedroom drawings on the walls of the set. That background gives the movie a documentary feel that made me squirm at times—it’s a little too real, but you also can’t turn your eyes away.

There must be an awkwardness that inevitably comes with having another human being share your house and your secrets, but not necessarily your family’s kinship. Because of the employer-employee relationship between a maid and a family, there will always be some boundaries. So after the family in La nana gives a cake and a litter of presents to Raquel—the family maid from the title of the film—for her 41st birthday, she’s still expected to wash the dishes afterward. Of course, she herself expects the same having already served the family in such a way for 23 years.

The film is basically a character study of Raquel…and she is quite a character. She’s grumpy, duty-bound, feisty, and mysterious. She has a different relationship with each of the family members. The head-strong daughter thinks Raquel hates her (and she’s probably right!), father is aloof, mother is her apologist, and the sexually awakening son seems to have stronger feelings of affection for Raquel than for his own mother.

Early on in the movie we discover that the years of toiling for this moneyed Chilean family has started to take its toll on the maid. Raquel is popping painkillers because of her extreme headaches, and she’s walking through the days like a zombie at times. Mother decides to bring on extra help for Raquel, but that just makes things worse. She’s not much for sharing duties, and it seems that having another maid in the house violates all of Raquel’s conceptions of personal space and individual responsibility. And so, at least for this audience member, one has the feeling that this is all building towards some horrible end as a cold war between maid and family daughter escalates, and an active war between maid and the helper of the week gets downright nasty. But Silva doesn’t let things get totally out of control before shifting gears, and the film takes a couple of twists no one would have guessed. Mostly they come because of the introduction of a character very different from Raquel—a free-spirited helper from the countryside named Lucy. Lucy has more than one surprise in store for Raquel, who is used to being the one with surprises…especially for new labor in the household.

I was worried when I first saw the trailer for La nana. I thought it might be torturous to watch. But Catalina Saavedra is mesmerizing as Raquel, and she is surrounded by a strong cast, including the director’s real-life brother Augustín, who plays the family’s teenage son. And as I suggested before, the film takes some turns—very good ones I should add—that I never would have guessed from the preview. As well, the movie ends in a place I never would have guessed from sitting through the first half of the film. I definitely recommend this one.

Red Hot Americas

I hope to goodness that you’re watching the World Cup this year because it’s mighty exciting. Especially for us folks in the Americas. With only two days left in the opening round of the tournament, teams from the American hemisphere collectively have 12 wins, 5 draws, and only 3 losses (2 of which came from the highly disappointing Honduran National Team—I expected so much more from los Catrachos!). Uruguay, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and the United States have already advanced to the next round. Paraguay and Chile should join them on Thursday and Friday. Only Honduras is likely to be left out of the Round of 16 party. Wait…you say you didn’t know the US had qualified for the next round of the tournament? Really? Watch this…

While I hope the Yanks go far, I’m not naive enough to think they’ll win the whole thing (actually, maybe I am at the moment, but I’ll come back to Earth in a few days after the euphoria of that Donovan goal wears off). Brazil is always the favorite at these things, but I think folks should keep a close eye on Argentina. They’ve been clicking as a team already, and they’ve got one of the most exciting playmakers in the world on their team…Lionel Messi. And if it’s not the US, we want a Spanish-speaking country to win, ¿no?

Personally, I’ve been watching soccer ever since I took my first trip to Europe fifteen years ago. But if the sport doesn’t float your boat normally, I would still suggest checking out a few games or keeping on top of the latest action in the World Cup. Talking fútbol with folks is almost always a great way to break the ice with locals when you’re traveling anywhere outside of the US or Canada. Unless you support the wrong club team…then it might actually get your legs broken.

Edimburgo Part II : Monkey Puzzle Tree

Part of the reason I was in Scotland was to catch up with my wife who was taking part in a botanical conference there. As part of her work in the UK, we were given a short tour of Benmore Botanic Garden, which is near the Firth of Clyde and is part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh‘s system of gardens. One of the prized features of Benmore is their Chilean Rainforest Glade, which the Garden undertook as a project in 1995. The following is my poor photograph of part of this area at Benmore.

This collection of Chilean flora includes all nine of the Chilean conifers, but the coolest one is that guy in the lower right hand corner, la araucaria or in English … the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana).

Monkey puzzles naturally occur in the south-central regions of the Andes in Argentina and Chile, but they became very popular garden trees in Great Britain beginning in the 19th century. Apparently there are also some in the coastal areas of the US as well, but I had never even heard of the tree before going to Benmore.

Monkey puzzles are considered sacred by some Mapuche tribes in Chile. They are also sometimes used for wood, but are more important as a food resource. Their seeds are edible and similar to pine nuts. Amazingly, however, trees don’t yield seeds until they are around 30 or 40 years old! But that’s still adolescence for a monkey puzzle tree; they can survive for upwards of 1,000 years. But the best thing about a monkey puzzle tree, of course, is its name. It seems to come from 19th-century England when a young owner remarked that the tree’s odd shape and reptilian design would make a monkey puzzle how to climb it. It also leads to many British school children mimicking monkey sounds when touring the garden (an event I’ve witnessed first hand!).

Sol y viento episodio 7 : Sunstroke Epiphany

PrólogoEpisodio 1Episodio 2Episodio 3Episodio 4Episodio 5Episodio 6Episodio 8Episodio 9

Mario: Now the lady who’s pissed at you is the same one I saw you snuggy with the other day, right? Why’s she mad? Did she see you with another woman?

Jaime: Shut up and drive.

But grumpy Jaime is in for another treat. His Mapuche spirit guide blows some kind of magical air bubble at Mario’s car and Mario finds that ¡Se me pinchó una rueda! And the poor man doesn’t have a spare at the moment. Help is about 45 minutes away by foot. Of course … there’s un atajo right over there. Jaime likes that idea. ¡Me voy! But Mario warns Jamie that he’ll get sunstroke.

As Jaime sweats in the sun while traipsing through the vineyards, he appears to start to hallucinate, and we’re treated to a series of voice overs that amount to a greatest hits of dialogue from Sol y viento … in case we weren’t paying attention. Then the old boy falls over. Guess the emotions of the trip finally got the best of him.

When we see Jaime again, he’s recuperating in the care of doña Isabel and don Paco, who both seem to be wondering what Mr. Slick is doing back at the vineyard anyway.

Jaime: It was urgent that I speak with doña Isabel.

Isabel: Hello, broken record. You’re one porfiado guy. We’re not selling the vineyard.

Jaime: It’s just that I was thinking about my campesina mother, and …

Isabel: … and didn’t you learn anything from her? Why do you work for a company that wants to change our life?

Paco: Here’s the thing, boyo … I’ve looked into your company and it’s up to no good. They want to build una represa. Do you know the ecological and cultural damage that’ll cause? What they did over in Bolivia is inexcusable. [Bolivia? When did Bolivia come up?]

Jaime: I know I screwed up, but I want forgiveness … especially from your smoking daughter, doña Isabel. I think I’m falling in love with her.

Paco: Actually, I think she’s taken with you, too.

Isbael: But it’ll be hard work to earn her forgiveness, don Jaime.

Jaime: Advice?

Isbael: Hechos y no palabras.

Jaime: Hechos eh? Here’s my first hecho. I know how to stop the sale of these lands.

So Jaime goes back to his hotel room and has it out with Andy at corporate—who’s more than confused about what’s going on. He knows this is going to make money …

Andy: So what’s the problem, Buster?

Jaime (impassioned): I’m talking about people’s lives!

Andy: Rassner’s going to have your butt, James.

Jaime: Tell him to go jump in the reservoir that the company built in Bolivia that has destroyed people’s lives and is a perfect example of what the damage we might do in Chile will be if we keep up with this plan to buy Sol y viento vineyard from the Sánchez family, who don’t really want to sell, except for the greedy son Carlos, who has been stringing us along for months now. I quit!