Held each year on the last Sunday of May, the Cultural Heritage Day grants the public entry into some of the country's most beautiful buildings. In Santiago, the turnout exceeded expectations.
Photo courtesy fotopresidencia.cl
This year, the last Sunday of May couldn’t have been more perfect for a bout of sightseeing: crisp and sunny, the trees almost bare save a few dried autumn leaves, the snow-peaked Cordillera beckoning in the distance like a distant dessert drizzled in whipped cream.
Shortly before 10:00 am, crowds started congregating outside the iconic buildings of an otherwise empty Alameda. The occasion was the 11th edition of the Día del Patrimonio, or Heritage Day, which this year drew close to 150,000 people in the capital alone, eager to discover or rediscover over 100 of Santiago’s most emblematic edifices.
There were many ways to go about the day. Some preferred giving in to serendipity, ambling in and out of churches and museums clustered around the barrio historic. Others, armed with maps and a leaflet printed by the Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales (National Monuments Service) made a point of getting acquainted with buildings closed to the public on the other 364 days of the year.
Several non-profit organizations were administering visits in specific neighborhoods. Gestarte, a cultural foundation, was in charge of the Arturo Prat-San Diego area and provided punters with free guided tours of four of its main points of interest.
They lead small groups from the delightfully retro Teatro Cariola (see photos) to Juegos Diana (see photos), a game parlor featuring a strange mix of ‘80s video games, a merry-go-round and fun-house mirrors.
Next up was the indie flick mecca Cine Arte Normandie and the visit ended with a tour of the mammoth byzantine Santísimo Sacramento church.
Elsewhere throughout town, the Casa de los Diez and the Club de la Unión proved extremely popular. The former, a gorgeous mansion on Santa Rosa, was used by a group of artists in the early 20th century. The patio is a neo-colonial marvel shaded by an orange tree and surrounded by tall pillars featuring gargoyles. Although classified as a national monument, the rest of the house is in ruins and hasn’t found the adequate funding needed to refurbish it. The latter is a men and members-only social club during the week. Constructed between 1917 and 1925, it is one of Santiago’s most beautiful buildings with its great French halls, multiple dining rooms and a bar made out of carved wood.
The amazing turn-out in the capital and throughout the country proved once again the great interest that goes towards heritage and tradition. All that is needed now is a push at government level to maintain, restore and promote all of Santiago’s architectural treasures.
Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales
Cine Arte Normandie
Club de la Unión