March of the Three-Story-Tall Marionette :Santiago, Chile. January 2007

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet agreed to meet with a marionette, which stood as tall as government buildings in the nation's capitol, Santiago. Bachelet earlier that week had been in talks with Peru about a border. The marionette was part of a production by France's Royal de Luxe theater company.

Hard to say which seemed more odd. The French company's giant marionette roaming Santiago accompanied by a fake rampaging rhino, who caused scenes of faux wreckage like the scene shown below, or that almost two-century-old nations still are at odds about a border, even after Chile taking away chunks of Peru in the 19th century.

We enjoyed our day and night in Santiago, a stopover en route from Easter Island to New Zealand via Los Angeles. Our hotel was at the corner of Paris and London streets in the Barrio Paris Londres neighborhood. There all three hotels on the curving street with London in their names. All seemed pretty good bets.

Downtown Santiago was filled with families on our Saturday visit. Many people brought their kids to see the doll and rhinoceros. The doll may seem to have an old fashioned look, with the green dress. I can tell you that many of the little girls watching her had similar dresses, many with pigtails. They looked like little kids, held their parents' hands and were in general smiling and laughing. It was very sweet to see, especially if you live a U.S. city and mostly see kids when they are out too late at restaurants or pitching fits in museums.

Focus on the Family -- For Real

Chileans seem very focused on their families. David observed that many of them have an "us first" attitude, not in an obnoxious way, but more like they just don't see the rest of the world. A family gathered on the subway may spread out to play with a small child, so that aunts, mom, sisters and cousins block other passengers from exiting. They seem a bit oblivious to strangers sometimes, while very loving to those they know.
On the day of the doll's march, there were children splashing around in their underwear in each of the city's elegant downtown fountains. No one minded, as far as I saw. If people took any notice, they smiled at the ruckus as they passed by.
We treated ourselves to some of the world's best ice cream and ate it in the square near the presidential palace, La Moneda. We couldn't make it to the market, where we'd had a rich salmon ceviche on an earlier visit.
Instead, we had big barbecued beef sandwiches, known as churrasco, from the Don Pepe soda fountain. Known as churrasco, the sandwiches were so good that we returned to have them for dinner before heading to the airport to leave Latin America.

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