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La Sebastiana – Neruda

La sebastiana
Pablo Neruda is Chile’s second Nobel laureate in literature. This is a view from his bedroom and office windows in his house in Valparaiso (1 of his 3 houses in Chile). Neruda had a habit of naming his furniture as well as his houses. This one’s called La SebastianaHe described it as a “toy house” in a city that is “secretive, sinuous, winding”,  “twitches like a wounded whale” and where “eccentric lives” played out as an “inseparable part of the heart-breaking life of the port”.  Neruda dedicated a poem to this house and claimed that it gave him a unique perspective into the city, that the privileged view allowed him to see things others couldn’t. For example, he used to tell his friends that everyday at 9pm sharp in the blue house by the green one (don’t remember the actual description) a beautiful woman showed up in her bedroom, completely naked. No matter how hard his friends tried to find the house with the woman nobody ever did.

I was genuinely impressed with Valparaiso and was left with something I did not expect to find, likely because I knew nothing about the city in the first place. Neruda wrote  “If we walk up and down Valparaiso’s stairs we will have made a trip around the world.”, though the times have changed there are little subtleties around the city that make it hard to disagree with him. But more on that later….

La sebastiana 2

 

Santiago de Chile

Santiago de Chile

“Querida viejita: Qué es lo que se pierde al cruzar una frontera?

Cada momento parece partido en dos. Melancolía por lo que queda atrás y, por otro lado, todo el entusiasmo por entrar en tierras nuevas.”

Che wrote these words as he crossed the border into Chile from Argentina across this very mountain range (a bit south from Santiago) in 1952. It was his first border crossing on the famous motorcycle trip, I find these words to be true for many of my own border crossings. Santiago is my first city in the Americas south of Mexico, leaving me packed with plenty of enthusiasm. I had a burning desire to move here for school when I was 19-20 but it never came to be, I went to Europe instead. Years later I’ve finally made it and the first thing to spark my curiosity (entusiasmo por entrar) is the massive cordillera, steep and imposing. For the most part I grew up in a city by the mountains, so I’m no stranger to mountain views. However, mountains this massive next to a city this large is something special. Santiago, with its population of over 5 million is located in a valley surrounded by mountains trapping the pollution inside, making it one of the most polluted cities in South America. You can see the smog permanently hovering above the city. Yet the mountains tower above that too. 

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