Today I went to Parque Arauco, which is a big, modern mall in Las Condes, which is one of the poshest neighborhoods in Chile. It’s actually one of the nicest malls I’ve ever been in. It has a large boulevard with numerous restaurants such as TGI Fridays, Asian Bistro, Tony Romas, Starbucks, Boost, etc. Inside the mall, there are stores such as Armani, Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Lauren, Kenneth Cole, etc. The people who shop there are ABC1, in the highest socio-economic classes. For a really good explanation of these categories, check out Andrea’s post here. I don’t go to Parque Arauco very often, because I only have time to go on the weekends and large crowds of people overwhelm me. Plus, it’s not super easy to get to from my apartment, although there is a direct micro if I walk a few blocks to it. Today I went for two things completely unrelated: shoes and brackets. The first is self-explanatory, the second is because I’m desperately trying to hang some curtains that my mom gave to me SIX MONTHS AGO, but my walls are not cooperating because they are too hard to drill into, so I thought I’d try the ceiling, hence the new brackets.
But anyway, I digress.
So there I was this morning, among the élite of Chile, buying some brackets and some shoes. Then I came home and ate some lunch and took a nap, then got on the metro and went south to the metro station Camino Agricola, where Jack picked me up and we went to his church in La Legua, a población in the neighborhood of San Joaquin. . Based on Andrea’s descriptions, I would say the majority of people who live in La Legua are in Group D, some might be in Group E, some might be in Group C3. Most houses are very simple, cement dwellings with few windows. There’s a lot of graffiti and a TON of street dogs. There’s trash on the street and sidewalks. The parks lack grass and are run down.
And then, after church, we were driving home and Jack decided he wanted to drive up Macul, which is a street that is an extension of Los Leones (and changes names several times). We started out in the comuna of Macul, and then as we crossed into Ñuñoa (a middle-upper middle class neighborhood) I said, “Now we’re in Ñuñoa” and Jack said, “Yeah, you can tell because of the nice private high school over there.”
It blows my mind the contrasts in Santiago. And I feel so grateful and privileged to be able to move throughout the city to observe them. There are Santiaguinos who never leave the neighborhood they were born in. There are people from the “barrios altos” (high, upper class neighborhoods) who never venture beyond Plaza Italia. And there are people from the “barrios bajos” who don’t ever go to downtown Santiago, not to mention the “barrios altos”. I think it’s good to see how other people live. And I consider myself very blessed to live where I live, but to also be able to see the many sides of my adopted city.