After returning to Santiago, I had an unexpected week to enjoy the highlights of the treasures that the city affords. Many of the most important buildings in the center of Santiago are of European design from the 1800s and early 1900s. Chile benefited from the influx of foreign migration due to unrest and economic unease in Europe, and attracted a number of artists to its shores. One of these was Luciano Kulczewski García (January 8, 1896 – September 19, 1972), a prominent Chilean architect of Polish-French descent. Admired for his flamboyant and creative designs by his clients and experts alike, he continues to attract admirers and following among many architects. For him the architecture was a tool to be of service in creating quality of life and happiness for men. His works are characterized by an eclectic mix of influences from Gothic Revival and Art Noveau. Later in his career from the emerging Modern movement, which he incorporated in his increasingly socially conscious work after 1939.
I returned to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, aka the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts, one of the major centers for the arts both in Chile and South America. Established in 1880 (making it the oldest in South America), the organization is managed by the Artistic Union. Another architectural beauty, it is currently located in the Palace of the Fine Arts (el Palacio de Bellas Artes), dating to 1910. It commemorates the first centeniel of the independence of Chile and was designed by the French-Chilean architect Emile Jecquier in Beaux art style. Its setting is the lovely is the lovely Parque Forestal, which I took the luxury to walk through every day.
I especially loved the Fuente Alemana, a beautiful fountain by Gustavo Eberlein, famous in Europe in the early 1900s. Created from bronze and stone, it was dontated in 1910 to celebrate the centenial of Chilean independence by German colonists to the people of Chile. It shows a young man standing tall with sails as if he were the mast, symbolizing the development of naval routes around the world. The miner on his left, a mestizo of Mapuche-Spanish descent, symbolizes force, while the ringletted youth on his right symbolizes fortune. The goddess Victory on the prow is a metaphor for Chile, triumphant and free, while the god Mercury frees the ship from a giant rock, representing the Andes.
I walked back to Quintana Normal, a lovely area which is now preserved as part of the UNESCO world heritage site system, with narrow streets and beautiful 19th century buildings. I returned to the museum of natural history and reviewed the flora and fauna of the south and north of Chile, as I´d forgotten most of the names of trees and plants that I had seen in Valdivia. I went to the library of Santiago and read myths of Mapuche and other indigenous tribes in Chile (in Spanish, of course). All good practice. I slept in, ate well, and generally recovered from weeks of travel. Rested and fed, I was ready for the next leg to La Serena, even older than Santiago (though not much is left from its early founding).