The Historic and Bohemian Yungay - Day 458
Updated: Feb 19, 2019
We met outside #QuintaNormal Park, Chilean’s oldest park formed in 1841, and as soon as Vanesa saw us, she gave us a big grin and a hug. What a lovely greeting. The group was supposed to be in English only; however, an Argentinian family of 6 were incorrectly informed by their Agency of the tour time. Vanesa dealt with the situation professionally and throughout our trip together, spoke first in English, then we would go off and take photos (or usually chat to the other people in the group from Switzerland, Australia and Germany) while she spoke in Spanish. I admire the talent of being multi-lingual. Vanesa is from Bosnia Herzegovina. I wonder how many languages she can talk?
We walked into the Park and was told that this is the 13th best park in the world according to Travel and Leisure magazine; it is an “underappreciated gem”. This small park has 5 museums in it, including the Natural History Museum, and museums for Art, Locomotive, Children and Technology, which Vanesa insinuated was boring (I bet Tim doesn’t think so). We quickly decided that we would return here tomorrow so I won’t mention her funny stories she told us…you will have to wait!
Our decision was cemented when we discovered that the Museum of Memories and Human Rights is located opposite the park, it is on the top of our visiting list to give us a better understanding of this country and its recent history.
Yungay is a fascinating district. It was rural until 1835 when the government purchased the land to build this estate; it sounds like an early and smaller version of Milton Keynes. The purpose was to integrate the rich and poor and to commemorate the Chilean victory of the Battle of Yungay. Peru and Bolivia had formed a coalition to try and obtain Chile’s north for the prized “white gold” Chilean Saltpeter, which was a precious commodity; it was used for fertiliser and for gunpowder and hence why Chile had such a booming economy at that time. On a side note, all that changed when in 1909 two German scientists managed to make this white gold on an industrial level, causing the Chilean economy to dramatically decline (a lesson for not putting all your eggs in one basket).
Anyhow, getting back to this area we are visiting. Vanesa shared that in the late 1800s, factories would house their employees and to demonstrate how successful they were, they would build apartments with grand facades so that it looked as if they could afford to look after their staff well and were successful. I’m not sure that the insides were so grand though.
The plan to integrate the rich and poor did not work, and gradually the upper-classes moved out, especially when the local military school moved (remember yesterday – here is another example).
The area is also renowned for its many murals and graffiti, usually of three genres; highlighting the persecution of the indigenous tribes, the awareness of nature and thirdly political messages, mostly militant. Many were incredibly beautiful as you can see in the photos.
The area has quite a bohemian villagey feel, with its cobbled streets, lack of supermarkets, houses clustered together. It is quiet apart from the occasional barking of a dog or squeals from people nearly stepping into “Caca” (dog poo) as one little boy yelled out to us.
A few streets caught our attention. #AdrianaCousino was a pretty narrow street with small terraced colourful houses facing one another with a beautiful garden of lush plants going down the length of the road. One home had built a swing bridge from a tree to their upstairs window for their cat! However, Vanesa, a big cat lover, said that recently the government has introduced a law that pets always have to be on a lead outside of their homes, and that includes cats! We did see a cat on the leash yesterday.
This particular street was funded by Adriana Cousino. Her father died at the young age of 25, leaving her young mother to care for the 7, yes 7 children! Luckily they came from a wealthy family, and her mother was very astute with money. Adriana who inherited much wealth, never married. She had a big heart and believed that everyone should be able to live in a beautiful place, so had this street built for the poor and set up a foundation which is still in existence today. This is preventing the road from being gentrified. Sadly, many of the buildings are a bit run down though.
In the next street, #LucreciaValdez, there are signs that this street is starting to be gentrified. The young German girls on our tour asked us what this meant, and once they understood, they said that the same thing was happening in their home town of Cologne. The benefit is that these beautiful historic houses are being cared for. The detriment is that people on low wages can no longer afford to live in their neighbourhood. That’s why we need more Ariana Cousinos’ in this world.
Another street built in 1928 was rather bizarre, what a cacophony of styles; battlements, arched windows and small balconies like a scene from Romeo and Juliet. The walls were as if they were made from blocks of stone, however much of the render was peeling, exposing the concrete beneath.
On one corner of the road was a well-looked after building. There was the historic #LaPeluqueriaFrancesa, a barber’s shop, first opening its doors in 1868 and the second oldest in the world (The oldest is Truefitt & Hill in London, which Vanesa was proud to inform us). We popped our heads in quickly and then wandered into the very quirky French restaurant that the company has now opened. The Manager invited us to the top of the restaurant, and we could see opposite the circus tip of the Dance School and Theatre, NAVE, so it can put on trapeze shows.
We also visited the elegant #AlamosPalace, once owned by a very wealthy family and after the house was deteriorating, the local council renovated this and turned it into a Community Hall. And we also passed by the Museum of Education where Nobel prize winner Gabriela Mistral studied to become a teacher in the early 1900s. At that time, female teachers were not allowed to be seen outside after 6pm, if they were chaperoned by a male, it had to be a close relative, and if they got married, they had to stop being a teacher.
Like our day before, a delightful and educational walking tour with Vanesa; Tim and I both love wandering around residential streets. Funny, I remember doing this when I was young, walking around the big houses in Chigwell on a Sunday afternoon. Now to get back to our Airbnb, I have some work to do.