A Walk through Pablo’s Neighborhood

Visiting Bella Vista, Santiago’s most colorful Bohemian barrio and home to Pablo Neruda was a wonderful way to spend our last full day in this eclectic city.

This was our second Neruda home to visit on the trip, our first being in Valparaiso.  Too bad we won’t be able to see the one in Isla Negra since tomorrow is Easter and it will be closed.  At any rate, I was thrilled to visit this one.

Neruda loved the sea and considered himself a land captain. This love is reflected in the small cabin-like imagerooms and wavy furniture.  Of course, the greatest love of his life was Matilde and when she was still his secret love, he found this multi-terraced hide away full of nooks and crannies far away from the center of town so as to be discreet.  Eventually, they married and lived here together.  My favorite piece in the house was a medusa looking painting of Matilde done by their friend, Diego Rivera.  It shows 2 faces of Matilda (one turned secretly to the side) and of course, her prominently curly hair which Neruda loved.  Neruda’s profile can be seen in her hair.

Neruda was a connoisseur of rare antique books, and objects from around the world, his favorite being from France where he served as an ambassador for several years.  He was also a senator for a while and ran for president of Chile at one point, but dropped out to support the other candidate.  As in the Valparaiso house, this one too was full of whimsical colorful objects such as a giant pair of shoes.  I also found it interesting that he drank only from colored glasses because he said it made the water taste better.  Think I will try that!

In the early 70′ s, Neruda was living in the Isla Negra house when his health began to fail. After the coup (military take over), Neruda’s health went downhill quickly and he died sadly in 1973.  Although his home in Santiago was vandalized, Matilde held a wake for him there to show the people how Chile’s most beloved poet was treated.  Pablo’s funeral was the first protest to be held in Chile against the military takeover.  Today I bought a shirt in honor of him.  He once said ,”Confieso que he vivido” (I confess that I have lived).  My shirt is close – it says in Portuguese, “Confesso que vivi” (I confess that I live).

This shirt as well as other souvenirs were bought in the shops in his neighborhood, Bella Vista.  I imagepurchased some earrings made of lapis lazuli, a semi precious blue stone found only in Chile and Afghanistan, and also some copper bowls since Chile is known for copper mining.  We enjoyed the day strolling through the shops and dining at one of the quaint sidewalk cafes where you can always find a musician strumming his guitar and crooning romantic Chilean tunes. Later, we had Pico sours at another restaurant. Pisco is a delicious grape-based liquor made in chile and Peru.

In the evening we enjoyed a different type of music, a musical production of “El Hombre de La Mancha” right across from our hotel at the Teatro Municipal De Las Condes.  Thankfully, we both know the story so it was somewhat easy to follow along.  The music swelled and the acting was passionate.  A great performance!  And what better way to end our evening then dining at the Estro restaurant only a few feet away.  We sat outside enjoying the outdoor firepits, sipping our wine and eating corvina, a sea bass, but not our “Chilean sea bass.”

I was tired but happy and looking forward to sinking into my cloud-like bed.  But before we dozed off we noticed that chocolate Easter eggs had been placed on the end table.  A sweet reminder that tomorrow is Easter and our last day of vacation.  But it’s not over until it’s over so I fell asleep with a smile on my face.


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