Good Reading : February 2018
COFFEE TABLE TEATRO OPERA Begin your tour in downtown Santiago, where one of Isabel Allende’s memorable journalistic endeavours took place inside this former theatre that once housed the Bim Bam Bum burlesque club. In the early 1970s, on assignment for the feminist magazine Paula — one of the first Chilean publications to address topics such as divorce, contraception and prostitution — the brazen Allende responded to an ad for exotic dancers at the club. She wrote a widely publicised article about the experience: how she prepared for her audition, what she wore, and how she dealt with taking her clothes off. Interestingly, Neruda crossed paths with Allende during her Santiago journalistic career in a way that altered the younger author’s wr iting life. She requested an interview but Neruda refused, calling her a terrible journalist who was loose with the facts. Instead, he advised her to write fiction, where, the poet said, making things up is a virtue. The Bim Bam Bum closed in 1978, so you’ll have to settle for a walk by its arched stone facade. Huérfanos 837, Santiago GABRIELA MISTRAL MURAL A short stroll brings you to the entrance to Cerro Santa Lucía, a hillside park in the city centre, and nearby is a mural honouring early 20th-century poet Gabriela Mistral. In 1970, Santiago artist Fernando Daza Osor io (1930–2016) crafted the 10 x 5.5-metre ceramic-tile mosaic, Homenaje a Gabriela Mistral, which was installed after winning a local government contest. In muted beiges and blues, it shows the poet – who is recognised for her work in education as much as for her literary output – dressed in a flowing cape, greeting a group of indigenous children. Cnr Av Libertador Ber nardo O’Higgins & Miraflores LA CHASCONA Neruda named his 1950s Santiago home for Matilde Urrutia, who became his third wife; The name ‘La Chascona’ refers to her wild red hair. This quirky multi-level house on a steep hill reflects the poet’s far-flung travels and his sense of humour. The salt and pepper shakers on his dining table were labelled ‘marijuana’ and ‘morphine.’ The house was damaged in the 1973 coup, but Urrutia insisted on holding Neruda’s wake there. The poet died 12 days after Pinochet took power. After you’ve toured La Chascona, a 20-minute walk from the Centre Gabriela Mistral, wander through the surrounding Bellavista neighbourhood – it’s an open-air gallery for street art. www.fundacionneruda.org NEED TO KNOW Allow two days in Santiago and one in Valparaíso for this trail, which you can cover on foot and by public transport. GETTING AROUND GOOD READING FEBRUARY 2018 51 Culture Trails: 52 perfect weekends for culture lovers is published by Lonely Planet, rrp $32.99.