Tuesday March 1, 2016:Santiago

This morning I left the Airbnb apartment and walked to the Crowne Plaza Hotel where the Grand Circle starts the 12-day tour of Chile and Argentina. I checked in and then joined Gary, Maria and Susan.  We took a taxi to the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights) which was inaugurated in 2010.

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In the lobby there is a map of the world made up of photos of human rights violations across the world.  Below are pages each listing a human rights investigation after 1973 with the country, the period being investigated and the result. It was a painful reminder of how many places in the world have experienced and are experiencing human rights violations.

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No photos were allowed in the museum itself.

The main two floors covered the period from the military coup in Chile in 1973 that resulted in the death of socialist president, Salvador Allende and the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet who ruled the country from 1973 to 1990.  It covered the tortures, executions and disappearances during the Pinochet period and then the time when he was forced to step down in 1990 and the country was returned to democracy. I found it fascinating and also upsetting especially the videos of testimonals of those who described the events of the coup itself and the atrocities afterward. It is hard to recognize again how inhumane many of the human race can be, all over the world.  I was moved by Allende’s speech to the people of Chile from a radio station while the city was under siege, just before he shot himself.

There is a room with electronic candles and a database you can search for the name of a  victim.  The room looks out at a wall wth hundreds of photos of the missing and the dead, that is also very moving.  I ran out of time and sadly did not manage to go up to the top floor where there was a termorary exhibit on the broader issues of Human Rights world-wide.

I would highly recommend this museum to anyone visiting Santiago, and would like to go back and see more some time in the future if I can ever return.

We went back to the hotel and met the Grand Circle tour leader, Marta Ficarra,  and the other travelers at 2:00 pm for an introduction to the trip.  There are 30 people on the trip, most of whom are part of the Rossmoor Travel Club.  Gary organized the trip for them and I paid dues to join the Club, as did Susan, so that we could travel with them as part of the group.  There are also 12 people who are not part of the Rossmoor group, coming from NC, WA, IN and FL.

Marta comes from Argentina and is an English translator, so her English is excellent. First impressions are that she will be a wonderful guide! She gave us much of the usual “spiel” for Grand Circle/Overseas Adventure Travel Tours, including the idea that we are travelers who will learn a lot from our journey and experiences as opposed to tourists just visiting the sites.

She showed us the map and told us we will be traveling 1,800 miles together – quite a way, but not a surprise considering that Chile is 3,000 miles long (but less than 100 miles wide).

At 4:00pm we were taken by bus to a winery, Paseo del Vino, about 45 minutes drive South from Santiago.  It is in the Maipo Valley which is one of the largest wine growing areas in Chile.

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Paseo del Vino is a very small winery, only 1 acre, and the owner, Roberto, is a very dedicated educator.  He did an excellent job giving us background on wine growing in Chile:

  • There are more than 300 wineries in Chile – 80% of the wine produced is red
  • Chile makes 2% of the wine worldwide, but is 4th in the export of red wine (behind France, Italy and Spain) 80% of their wine is exported
  • Chile can produce red wines with the best quality of fruit – highly concentrated – a result of the soil, water and weather
  • Chilean wines cannot be stored for many years – they are ready to drink out of the winery and for 1-3 more years only
  • Maipo is the best wine area – it has deep water, the right soil, and the right climate – very hot in summer through harvest time, and high temperatures during the day but low temperatures at night, so the vines only get water that is deliberately applied and the plants can rest at night, saving all their energy for the production of highly concentrated fruit
  • He is able to cheat the plants – he stops watering in the very hot weather so that the plants think they are about to die and therefore put all the nutrients into the fruit for seeds. After the harvest, he waters really well so that the vines restore energy to the leaves for photosynthesis so that energy is available in spring to start again.
  • He is able to produce 3,000 bottles of organic wine on his 1 acre – carmenère (which is unique to Chile), cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese and syrah.

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Roberto then told us how he deals with the three main pests without toxins – of course as an enthusiastic organic vegetable gardener, I found this particularly interesting!  The three pests and their controls are:

  1. The Burrito beetle with chickens that find them on the ground under the vines when they fall off leaves in defense against birds (Roberto rents 40 hens from a neighbor for a week and they take care of the problem – he pays the neighbor in wine)
  2.  A very small red spider that sucks the sap from the leaves is food to ladybugs who can each eat 300 (Roberto grows flowers and leaves grass between the rows of vines to attract then, and provides habitat for them to over-winter)
  3. A pest that only arrived from the north in the last 5 years, a very small, yellow moth that lays eggs in the small grapes and whose larvae eat the grapes from the inside as they grow (Roberto hangs about 400 plastic capsules on the plants that release pheromones in the heat causing the male moths to try to mate with the capsules instead of the females who are only ready to mate for a short period – the government provides the capsules)

Roberto took us outside and described the process of growing vines from cuttings.  It takes 10 years for a vine to start producing good fruit, and the vines have a 40 year lifespan – as they get older they produce less fruit, but it is of a higher quality.

He explained that they use the skin (for color and about 12% of the tannins and antioxidants), the seeds (which provide the other 88% of the tannins and antioxidants) and the juice (which contains the sugars for fermentation and acids).  He told us that there is only one grape, the “tears of Christ” in the world that has red juice – he said that the wine is no good, but can enhance the color of merlot, for example, which does not have golod color, if about 2% added.

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Roberto then told us about corks, a subject he really cares about!  He showed us a cork oak and explained that only in Portugal do these trees grow well enough to produce the right quality and thickness of cork required for wine bottles.  The very best are cut straight from the bark, the next quality are made from pieces glued together and the next after that are made with the smaller particles. He only uses corks imported from Portugal of the best quality.  They can be squeezed in the bottling process and then expand again to create a perfect seal.  He hand corks all his bottles individually with a machine he demonstrated.

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We tasted three of the wines produced there including a sweet red wine that is served cold and was surprisingly excellent (I don’t usually like sweet wines and I have not had a red wine served cold before.  After this we had dinner at the winery – a traditional dish, corn pie, made with corn, minced meat and chicken – quite delicious!

For dessert we had Lucuma ice cream which I really liked.  We had seen lucuma on a menu in Santiago, and I had looked it up in my mobile Spanish Dictionary app, which did not recognize it – one of a number of things unique to South America and not found in Spanish as spoken in Spain!

As we left I admired the windows in the winery that are various colors of glass with whole bottles inserted!

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One thought on “Tuesday March 1, 2016:Santiago

  1. You can thank our government, Henry Kissinger, and our CIA for General Allende’s coup and the resulting horror. President Salvador Allende’s farewell speech:
    “I will pay for my loyalty to the people with my life. And I say to them that I am certain that the seeds that we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans will not be shriveled forever.” I hope he was right.
    I wonder what we are doing down there now.

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