Talca, Chile

Been going to Chile, for a long time.  Believe it or not, I hold a sort of love hate relationship with this country.  A place I hold near and dear, for many reasons, but truthfully I remain affected by the injustices I’ve seen, the stratification of society, and the patience of the ‘have nots.’  Having the advantage of growing up in a wealthy country  vastly opens my eyes to the inconveniences one encounters.  It may consist of the simple matter of the quality of the tooth paste or the dish soap, which just doesn’t seem to lather up.  It may be the broken down condition of appliances, and just plain lower quality and inefficiency, the absence of, for which we take for granted in the U.S.  But to make up for these annoying and frustrating details, there is something in the everyday, working class people, and the value they have for life that makes all the rest unimportant.  I hope these few pictures here will convey the layers of dissent, sadness, solitude, love, and giving that I encountered by simply walking down the streets of a town like Talca.

Young people walking side by side, hand in hand. Affection is openly expressed in public. Young lovers, kissing and embracing is not uncommon, or mother’s, daughters and friends walking and holding hands may be seen. Personally, I don’t enjoy seeing lovers expressing their physical relationship in public, and I know some Chileans feel the same way, but there is more tolerance for such open behavior, for sure.


Intrigued by the print on the street sweeper’s shirt, which read ‘Free Mind’ I asked this woman for a picture. She kindly obliged. But, I first asked her “Sabe Ud. qué significa ‘free mind?” and she shook her head “No.”  When I told her ‘Mente libre’ she liked it, and smiled. I was so impressed with the dignity with which she performed her work, for the good of the community.  I’m sure she doesn’t get paid much.
Mente Libre
Interior of a building shelled by the earthquake of 2010. Nine years later many buildings like this can be found around the city, though many have been dismantled, and replaced with newer real estate. There is a certain beauty of these places, usually of adobe, that remains. I hate to see them go.
“Reparadora de Calzado” means “Shoemaker.” Original handwriting often adorns the front of businesses.
“Fuerza” meaning ‘strength’ is a large reminder to the people of Chile who are now engaged in polemics and demonstrations against the present government of Presidente Piñera. A plebiscite is in the making for April to revise the constitution. People are crying for more social justice and reforms in education and health, among other things. Most people I’ve spoken to are not hopeful the government will successfully effect changes for the average citizen.
This facade of a former home, shows its elegance with arches and spiraling pilasters.
Orange and yellow houses on 7 Oriente A.
Casa Azul
“Cuidado” You will notice the broken sidewalk. One must be careful when walking along. A side street in Talca leading into a small plaza. Houses are quaint.
Cómo comunicarse mejor? How to communicate better.  The telephone company.
“Oficio” “Occupation” You see many older people, especially men keeping themselves busy with unheard of occupations. He may be happy with what he’s doing. We often judge based on our own standards. I hope his children or grandchildren have more opportunities. Chile in the last quarter of a century has been lauded as a forerunner in advancements and economic progress, in comparison to their Latin American neighbors.  Obviously you can’t compare Chile to a country like Nicaragua, the second or third poorest in the Western Hemisphere.  However, we must ask; what portion of the Chilean population has economic progress benefitted? How many people are still left behind? Poor health and education are residues of an oppressive dictatorship, and the society of the establishment, who want to keep themselves in power, and hang on to the land and wealth they have. It’s easy for a person coming from a highly developed country to criticize, when we really have so many handouts, and benefits.  But even the U.S. with all its wealth should improve health and education standards, for pockets of our country.  The recent upsurge of white nationalism in the U.S. and a sense of entitlement is taking place. But then, who cares about a “thinking society” if one is comfortable, scraping by in existence?  It is proven by political scientists that a “non-caring, or non-thinking” society ends up in a dictatorship.  Add systematic racism and elitism to the mix, and you have volatile situation.
“Juggler” Young people will show their talents on the sidewalks, or at an intersection of a street. When traffic stops they perform, and seconds before the light is to turn green, go to the windows of the cars to collect change. Drivers are pretty generous. It always means having change available and being ready to react.
View of the Alameda de Bernardo O’Higgins, the George Washington of Chile. A creole with a hispanic mother and Irish father, some view him as a tyrant who obliterated the indigenous population of Mapuches. The Mapuches were extremely fierce and hard to conquer. Resentment still exists today.
Trabajador. Worker at his iPhone.  Incentive?
“I am Sauce”. “Soy”, in Spanish means “I am.” When I took this picture my mind was in Spanish mode, thus the translation for the title. Basically, it’s a repurposed container for Soy Sauce collecting water.
Window remnants of an adobe structure.
Remains of an adobe house from 2010 earthquake.
View of how a window was put together on an adobe house. The earthquake virtually obliterated all adobe structures in the city. So sad to see these artistic works of architecture come down.
“Limpiando” Cleaning the boulevard.
“La Salle” Elite private school in Talca.  Virtually every building in Talca was plastered with graffiti by protesters, except this one.  Puzzling.
“Un negocio? Quién sabe” A business? Who knows?
Afternoon sun casting light on Avenida Oriente 1.
“El corazón de la ciudad” La Plaza de Armas. Heart of the city.
Cyclist on Plaza de Armas.
La Plaza de Armas
The recent graffiti is telling. “No God, no Boss, no Man.” A huge statement in protest of a traditionally patriarchal society.
“Vale morir de pie que vivir arrodillada.” “It’s better to die on your feet than to live, kneeling down.” Huge statement about pride and revolution. Standing up for what you believe in.


“Ley Salud Mental Ahora” It’s hard to tell what will come from the demonstrations which started in October. A vote on the Constitution is coming up in April, but people fear it will mean nothing. Some want things to stay as they are, and don’t care.  The question is how far will the protesters carry this. The everyday Chilean basically wants peace. This is what happened when the military junta took over in 1973, ruling for 13 years.  In 1989 when a new Constitution was written and governing was handed over to civilians. But during the dictatorship there was a big price to pay. Many people exiled, and mass murders of dissenters. Many felt it easier to just have a dictatorship than to take matters in their own hands.  To dissent was to risk your life. (See the movie “Missing” with Jack Lemmon) Back to the sign in the photo – health is a huge issue. A friend of mine in Chile explained that mental illness is not recognized as a legitimate sickness, unless you have money and are able to get services in a private clinic. She spoke from personal experience.  She had an emotional breakdown and had to go to a clinic.  She was made to feel grateful for this service, only available to her because her husband’s family was able to provide it for her.   The lower classes are not so fortunate and are left without services, often made to feel guilty for their condition. This overflows into Education. Few public schools are adequate, but many people can’t afford to go to a private school.
“Quiénes son los terroristas?” “Who are the terrorists?”
The circle with the four corners is a native Mapuche symbol.
“Left hanging.”
Interior murals
Memoria del terremoto de 2010. Memory of the 2010 earthquake.