Saturday, September 12, 2009

Thania's Chilean travelogue & a Denver journalism forum

(See Thania's previous posting here.)

Finishing off the summer in Santiago - Travelogue

After a few days of walking around Santiago’s plazas, streets, visiting old friends, eating sopaipillas, empanadas, and dancing, I’m exhausted, but with a big smile on my face. This second visit to the country of Nobel poets Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda was full of non-touristy stops.

This time I didn’t go to La Chascona (“the uncombed”), one of Neruda’s houses in Santiago, in honor of Matilde Urrutia, his lover until 1955 and later his third wife. But I had the opportunity to talk with a novel poet of Pablo Neruda’s foundation, Ignacio Elizalde, one of only ten poets chosen this year to be part of a poetry workshop sponsored by the foundation. He is a young poet who along with the other nine is taking advantage of this workshop to polish his craft. I met him the last time I was in Chile, back when he was already writing poetry and participating in recitals all around Santiago, so it was uplifting to find he is still writing and that his country values his talent.

I also attended a high school poetry workshop led by poet Agustín Hidalgo Johnson, who in 2007 was awarded an honorable mention for his participation in Chile’s national, concurso de creación literaria joven Roberto Bolaño (contest of young literary creation). I instantly become excited when I see teenagers reciting their poetry; they are making the world a better place, one verse at a time.

This time around I didn’t take any tours. I simply walked the streets every day to hear the Chilean accent, to admire the ancient architecture that melds with new apartment complexes and see on the horizon the enormous Andes completely covered with snow. Neither did I eat at fancy restaurants, which promised a taste of Chile’s cuisine; I bought delicious sweet treats or sopaipillas from street vendors, whose hands looked clean enough. It was exciting to be back and recognize idioms and streets, to know shortcuts and how to handle Chilean currency with mastery.

One thing I did repeat--in honor of my good friend Daniel Astorga, who now lives in the USA--was to go to bars and clubs. Each city has its particular party scene, and Santiago is no exception. Bellavista for example is a long street full of bars and clubs. Some have outside tables and offer drink specials, such as pisco sour, a cocktail made of lemon, egg whites, simple syrup and regional bitters or beer Escudo--both of them, emblematic Chilean drinks. Since the bars and clubs in Bellavista are next to each other, it's customary to simply go from bar to bar, or club to club, taking advantage of the specials or the wide variety of music. There you can catch up with new trends and idioms, which are always changing.

As I mentioned in my first travelogue, I was aware that during my second stay in Chile I wasn’t going to be as anxious and full of questions as on the first. I knew Santiago had a lot to offer me, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to live up to my expectations. What I didn’t mention was that I was scared of this becoming a reality.

I love this country and my first journey is an integral part of this love. In a way I feel like Isabel Allende in My invented country: a memoir: I “invented” my own Chile. My memoir can’t compare to Allende’s beautiful book, but I believe I understand how she created her own country, nostalgically pieced together from memories and old pictures.

Chile didn’t disappoint me this time, and not being anxious nor having as many questions, I comfortably submerged myself in its culture. I learned much more about the country because I didn’t approach people with an uncontrollable sense of awe and thirst; they were more willing to converse and talk as if they were talking to any of their friends because they knew they didn’t have to slow down or speak in a neutral accent to make sure the “foreigner” understood what they were saying.

I still cherish my first visit to Chile, and on this visit I discovered that my memories of this country won't be destroyed by a second or even a third visit. I was afraid of losing the dreamy, nostalgic tones of first experience, but being here has reminded me why I fell in love with this country and why I want to keep returning. I guess I just simply added another chapter to my Chilean memoir. Let’s hope it's not the last.

Thank you, La Bloga, for hosting my travelogues.

Thania Munoz


Journalism Town Hall in Denver

For too long, local citizens have been left out of the debate over the future of journalism. As Big Media get bigger, newsrooms are closing down and more and more journalists are losing their jobs. No one knows this better than people in Colorado. It’s time for us to stand up for the news we need.

Next week we will host a free community forum in Denver to bring together concerned citizens, journalists, lawmakers and community leaders to discuss the future of journalism.

Forum: Saving the News: Denver and the Future of Journalism Date: Sept.16, 2009, 6:30 - 9:30pm Location: Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway, Denver

The forum will be an interactive event, designed to amplify your voice and give you the chance to debate key issues in Denver’s media. Join community leaders and journalists like John Temple, Polly Baca, David Sirota, Wick Rowland, Laura Frank and others for this important community forum.

Our media have always been shaped by policy decisions made in Washington, D.C., and policy will help decide what's next for journalism. That means that each of us has a role to play in the fight to save journalism.

Now is the time for Colorado citizens to have their say.

For more information, to help spread the word, join our Facebook event page and download posters, visit

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