Monthly Archives: August 2012

Keep an Eye Open for Chilean Film “No”

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Jane Fonda, Christopher Reeves and Richard Dreyfuss all sent messages to the Chilean public during the lead up to the 1988 vote that would ultimately end the Pinochet dictatorship. I had no idea. Mr. Dreyfuss impressed me the most because his message was delivered in Spanish. It was after all, an edited video recording. Not so hard to translate and practice speaking, especially if one is a professional actor.

I found this out after watching “No”, a movie (dramatized non-fiction made to look like a VHS tape filmed in the ’80’s) released in late May (Director – Pablo Larraín, Screenplay – Pedro Peirano) about the political advertising campaign held by those promoting the removal of Pinochet. After years of dictatorship, Pinochet began to succumb to international pressure and offered a plebiscite asking the people if they wanted eight more years of him. The “Sí” and “No” sides each got to have 15 minutes of free time to air what they wished for a period of 27 days leading up to the vote. It was the first time in over 15 years that any opinion other than a state-sanctioned one was allowed to be expressed on television. Most people expected that the vote was rigged and few expected Pinochet to lose. The film primarily documents the progression of the No campaign, including the death threats faced by its directors. Some people wanted them to use hard-hitting statistics showing the reality of deaths, torture, detentions and political exiles, but ultimately the campaigners presented their information in a more lighthearted way with song, dance and humor, stressing Chile’s future. It seems they didn’t want to continue to use fear as a tactic of control. The Yes side couldn’t get any artists to work for it – they were all united on the other end of the political spectrum – and presented some very pathetic attempts at humor, some of them macabre and much of it quite snobby. My Chilean counterpart seated next to me in the theater expressed sadness and remembrance at the clip of the then non-elected “president” saying that he hadn’t done anything wrong that he could recall, but sorry if in fact he had pulled some shit. Loose translation there. I want to tell you the end, but I won’t.

Aside from learning more about a very specific slice of history and some fun 80’s style, this film is a great way to pick up a bit of Chilean slang. After it’s success at Cannes (winner 2012 “Directors Fortnight” and “Art Cinema Award”) , Sony Pictures Classic purchased North American rights to the film. Here is an interview in English with the director Pablo Larraín and the Mexican principal actor Gael García Bernal.

Peruvian Sandwiches How I Love Thee!

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If you haven’t yet had Peruvian food, you must try it straightaway. It’s hard to sum up simply or to compare it to any other food. They have their version of empanadas, lots of seafood dishes with rice, noodles and yucca. Peruvian ceviche (or cebiche) is made with “tiger’s milk”, raw onion, giant corn kernels and boatloads of fresh seafood. Ají de Gallina is another popular specialty made with chicken, yellow slightly spicy peppers and condensed milk. It’s velvety delicious. Peru and Chile share many common base ingredients that are not typical to other countries, like lúcuma (a somewhat maple syrupy tasting fruit with a texture like mousse), palta or avocado (called aguacate everywhere else), pisco (a grape brandy native to the two nations) and others, but the flavor combinations are very different.  There are so many great Peruvian restaurants in Santiago and they’re usually full of people. There are many that have your 8 page menus and full bars, but even the tiny corner shacks specializing in spit-roasted chicken and hand cut french fries must be raved over. It’s the sauces that do it for me. Most dishes from Peru are either topped or served with a smattering of sauces, particularly spicy or garlicky ones. One place I particularly love called Donde Guido on the corner of Merced and Mosqueto, just a block west of Ave. J.M. de la Barra in Bellas Artes serves up all kinds of chicken sandwiches and burgers topped with up to nine sauces: olive tapenade, guacamole, garlic, mayo, ketchup, ricotto (hot Peruvian red pepper), ají (mild yellow pepper) etc. Their service is friendly and quick. There is a tip jar on the counter for the chefs. If you are nowhere near South America, maybe try your hand at making some dishes. Here are a few recipe/foto links to get you started. Here is a pic of Marcela and Andy the last time we were about to dig into these full tummy stuffing french fry topped wonders.

Santiago Festival Internacional de Cine

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Quick FYI: The 8th Annual International Film Festival in Santiago starts in a few days. It runs from the 17th through the 25th at various theaters around the city. They offer packages for students and other club benefits (like club La Tercera) etc. Anyone can pick up an 8-pack for 16 luka, which translates to 4 bucks per film. The “academic” activities (roundtables, workshops, etc.) at the Universidad San Sebastián are free of charge. There are other musical events and other parallel happenings as well. Very affordable! Go to the site to choose your film. If there is something you really want to see, make sure to get there on time/early so you don’t show up to a booked room. Sometimes the schedule changes at the last minute, so double check that, too. Lastly, the part where it says English on the website is just someone being cute. It’s not. Argentina, Mexico, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Chile, Ireland, England, France, Denmark, the USA (Booker’s Place and more), etc. represented with well over 100 films.

EL ARADO by VICTOR JARA (The Plough)

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This is one of the most touching songs I’ve ever heard, so I thought I’d share my translation of it. You can listen to it here. The English is to the right of the original Spanish.

Aprieto firme mi mano,                                   I grip the plow tightly
y hundo el arado en la tierra                           And I sink it into the earth
hace años que llevo en ella                             As I have been doing for years.
Cómo no estar *agota’o?                                How am I not exhausted?

(*The apostrophe represents the unpronounced “D” common to Chile and the Caribbean)

[Repeat]

Vuelan mariposas, cantan grillos                    The butterflies soar and the crickets sing,
la piel se me pone negra,                                My skin grows dark under the sun
y el sol brilla, brilla, brilla.                              As it shines on and on and on.
El sudor me hace zurcos,                                Sweat trickles in furrows down my skin
yo hago *zurcos a la tierra, sin parar.              As I dig furrows into the earth without end

(*or spelled Surcos)

[Repeat]

Afirmo bien la esperanza                                I hold tightly to hope while thinking
cuando pienso en la otra estrella                     of my other star (his wife, I believe)
nunca es tarde me dice ella                             She tells me it’s never too late,
la paloma volará.                                            And the dove shall continue to fly.

[Repeat]

Vuelan mariposas, cantan grillos                   The butterflies soar and the crickets sing
la piel se me pone negra                                My skin grows dark under the sun,
y el sol, brilla, brilla y brilla                           As it shines on and on and on.

Y en la tarde cuando vuelvo,                         And in the evenings when I return
en el cielo apareciendo una estrella               A star appears on the horizon (his wife as he nears home)
nunca es tarde me dice ella                            She tells me it’s never too late
la paloma volará, volará, volará                     The dove shall fly and fly and fly.

Cómo yugo de apreta’o                                 Much like a yoke held tightly
tengo el puño esperanza’o                             I hold my hand in a fist, ready
porque todo cambiará.                                   Because everything will change.

Victor Jara was a Chilean folk singer and teacher. He was a national figure, tortured and machine gunned to death by the military under General Augusto Pinochet at the age of 40 within days of the coup d’etat September 11th, 1973 at the Estadio Chile (since renamed the Estadio Victor Jara). He was part of the Nueva Canción musical movement, and frequently sang about “common” folk – that is, the majority of the country that was not part of the small, elite ruling class of families. This simple song weaves together themes of hard work and hope made worthy of struggle because of love and family. It gets me every time.

Check out this wikipedia entry for more information on his life and work.

Recycling in Santiago, Chile

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Recycling in Santiago is getting easier. I just found this rad website called Suma Verde sponsored by Chile’s Ministry of the Environment that shows exactly where to go to recycle yer junk. The website is in Spanish but I’m confident you can figure it out. On the home page you can select the type of waste – or “residuo” – and then you select your region. If you are in Santiago, or the Región Metropolitana, you then select your “comuna”. I did a search for just ñuñoa neighborhood and found 27 spots, many of which are at grocery stores. Aside from those, there are “puntos verdes” all over Santiago for recycling glass if you happened to not have a returnable bottle. Returnables for soda and beer are cheaper than the disposables. The puntos verdes are large, green tubs that are impossible to miss as they are as tall as many Chileans. Chile Recicla, a private entity, in conjunction with municipalities also holds events around the city to collect E-waste – old TV sets, outdated computers, etc. Their website is also in English, making it really easy to take care of your junk.

They’re Taking Our Jobs!

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Her last name means “of the kings” and her opinion she doth spread down from her pulpit as if she were on high. Such is the nature of crackbook. She got me thinking about nationalism and her gripe was about a news report showing how Spaniards are coming to Chile for work. She contends that because Spain hasn’t always treated her colonial offspring very well, that Chile shouldn’t welcome them. There is a nationalist tendency to cry out that foreigners are taking the jobs that should rightfully go to Chileans, a tendency that knows no borders really. I know a number of Chileans who live/work/love/recreate and build families inside of Spain. Should they not be there? I can’t see how a Chilean firm would go through the effort and expense of contracting foreign-born persons for work if they can get the right employees at home. There are many Peruvians inside of Chile working as nannys, day-laborers and gardeners – low-paid wage work that Peruvians snatch up and Chileans happily hire them because they fill a need. Is that okay? The history of the world is full of people migrating for better farmland, hunting, education and all manner of economic betterment. That is never going to change. It makes the world a more dynamic and interesting place.