Walmart, their intermediary Carmona group and the government seem to give zero shits about the history, culture and the livelihood of 260 small businesses here in Santiago, Chile. Let me explain.
There is a neighborhood called Barrio Franklin that has been operating as essentially an open-air market for over 150 years. A few years back the Piñera government wanted to shut it down so the terrain could be sold to higher bidders. After public outcry, those plans were scrapped. The neighborhood is full of wholesalers and retailers who sell nearly anything you can think of aside from cars. Nearly anyone who wants to start a small business can afford to do so in this area. Need a decades-old pocket watch fixed? Done. A new professional sewing machine? No problem. Wholesale prices on professional dental tools, floss and razor blades? This place seriously has it all including new and used clothing and shoes, electronic anything, computing, parts, toys, trinkets, raw materials, furniture, leather goods, gifts, etcetera. It’s about six square blocks situated outside of the Franklin metro stop. It’s a cultural institution with nary a shortage of happy customers.
Aside from the convenience of finding all manner of random things in one place, coming down to the Persa Bío Bío is seriously fun for people watching. It’s also experienced a food renaissance over the last five years. In addition to the usual completos and churrascos, you’ll find Mi Jugo mexican food (highly recommended), Middle Eastern right next door (wonderful!), thai food on the other side (not bad), Peruvian all around, ceviches, empanadas, breakfast, a new sunlit coffee shop, and much more. In short, Bío Bío is a blast. Apparently Walmart bought a one of the large galpones a few years back and hasn’t made enough money. I understand they’re planning to turn the historic building into a big fat grocery store, so they told the intermediary company to kick out the 260 small businesses inside the building. Pish tosh. Apparently Carmona did not do so, and this morning a big fat taxpayer-funded police force was called in to kick them all out. You can see pictures here if you like.
I am a fan of free enterprise and business and such. What I am not a fan of is the utter disregard shown by the government, Carmona and Walmart for the historical and cultural institution that is the Persa Bío Bío. If that doesn’t count for anything anymore, what a sad fucking world we’re headed towards. A private company is soldering the doors shut as I write this so that the business owners can’t get back in. As of this writing, I do not know if they have been able to or will be able to get their property out.