Barrio Cívico of Santiago
Imposing buildings, structure, clean architectural lines and control. These are just a few phrases which best describe the city landscape of Santiago’s operational center — Barrio Cívico.
When visiting Santiago, grab your camera and set out on foot to dedicate at least one of your afternoons to exploring the architectural wonders of the capital’s “civic neighborhood.”
Barrio Cívico is not the place to visit if you’re looking to come into contact with the hustle and bustle of working-class life in Santiago. Forget markets, small businesses, local shops, or anything of this nature. It’s the living memory of historical events never to be forgotten, and the central hub for political action.
Be prepared for the stern confrontation of the imposing government buildings in this area — the majority of which tend to shoot up for at least 12 stories — and keep your camera at the ready. You’ll find plenty of moments of city life to snap away at. Business, progress, development and order are mottos which govern the attitudes and thoughts of the people passing by.
If you take the metro and get off at La Moneda station, you’ll pop up right in the middle of all the government action and you can easily make your way from one end of the neighborhood to the other, starting at La Moneda and finishing up in Parque Almagro.
Palacio de la Moneda
One of the best things about Palacio de la Moneda, commonly referred to as La Moneda, is that it’s open to the public. Make time to take a stroll around the grounds of this Italian-designed government house, which took an amazing 26 years to build. It’s also worth pointing out, for anyone visiting with particular interests in Chile’s political world, La Moneda also houses the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Public Security, the Presidential General Secretary, the Government General Secretary and the Ministry of Social Development.
Perhaps you know, perhaps you don’t, but La Moneda is no stranger to bloody history. On the 11th September 1973, it was attacked by the Chilean Army, led by General Augusto Pinochet and subsequently became the scene of President Salvador Allende’s solitary death — giving way to a military dictatorship which lasted an astonishing 17 years.
Plaza de la Constitución
A few silly facts to take in about this plaza is that it first began life as a parking lot in 1915. By 1925, however, the government decided to turn it into a public plaza. The idea was to reduce tension caused by the busy activity of civic center life. Therefore, if you fancy a quick rest and the chance to gaze at a few statues of former Chilean presidents, choose Plaza de la Constitución. It makes for a pretty good pit-stop in the middle of Santiago’s metropolis madness.
Plaza de la Ciudadanía
If there’s one place in Santiago which cannot seem to meet the expectations of any government, it’s Plaza de la Ciudadanía. Renovations are constant, so don’t be surprised if you pass alongside the area and it’s cordoned off for construction. The latest works were finished in March 2014 and officially inaugurated by Chile’s former president, Sebastián Piñera.
So… what does it look like at present?
It’s a contemporary space, without a doubt, but it doesn’t appear out of place beneath the older buildings which loom over. Rather like a large patio of grassy lawns and cobblestone squares — La Moneda’s back garden, if you will — it cleverly reflects on the ground what can be seen in the uniformed nature of the surrounding buildings. Undurraga also believes that the cobblestone paving ties in with the classic, historic feel of the surrounding constructions, even though the pavement lines and the grassy areas give the plaza a contemporary look.
It’s also arguably most famous for the forever burning torch erected by General Augusto Pinochet on the 11th September 1975 — marking the second anniversary of Chile’s 1973 military coup. The Llama de la Libertad (The Torch of Freedom) burned for an incredible 30 years in the plaza until it was removed in preparation for the Bicentennial Celebrations in 2010.
Finishing up in Paseo Bulnes
Paseo Bulnes is a six-block-long pedestrianized pathway which connects Parque Almagro with La Plaza de la Ciudadanía and La Moneda. A great place along Paseo Bulnes to grab breakfast, a small afternoon snack, or a couple of happy hour cocktails is La Fuente Oficial, located at 72 Paseo Bulnes — offering unspoiled views of Plaza de la Ciudadanía and La Moneda.
About the Author: Tracey Chandler is press and publicity manager for The Santiago Times and has worked as a freelance writer in Latin America since 2009. Originally from London, she left the UK in 2008 and has lived in Venezuela, Argentina, and Chile. She has written for over 15 different blogs/online magazines on subjects relating to Latin American travel and lifestyle. Contact her directly via firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas for possible long-term partnerships and/or creative projects.