Dia del Patrimonio and the Comeback of Concha Y Toro

Dia del Patrimonio, or Cultural Heritage Day, is an annual event that was established in Chile in 1999 to encourage the general public to know and enjoy the country's cultural, historical and national architecture. Now observed each year on the last Sunday of May, the festival includes neighborhood celebrations and free entry to historic sites and government buildings, such as museums and libraries, throughout the country. Last year over 240,000 people participated in the day’s activities. This coming Sunday, May 26th, is sure to be just as successful.

 Plaza de la Libertad de Prensa, photo courtesy of Espacio de las Artes
Plaza de la Libertad de Prensa, photo courtesy of Espacio de las Artes

The theme for 2013 is 'Patrimonio Y Territorio' (Heritage and Territory) and is intended to invite the public to “reflect on how we deal with and transform our land in order to make visible the challenges we face in the protection and enhancement of our heritage.”

 photo courtesy of Espacio de las Artes
photo courtesy of Espacio de las Artes

Barrio Concha Y Toro is one of the hidden gems of Santiago's heritage. Situated just east of Metro Republica, the tiny stylistically European enclave was declared a 'Zona Typica' (typical neighborhood) in 1989 by the Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales. The neighborhood is one of the best preserved historic areas in the city, with winding cobbled streets and romantic 1920’s architectural facades encircling its central fountain in Plaza de la Libertad de Prensa (Freedom of Press Plaza). It once housed Santiago’s aristocracy, however, over the years, neglect and several earthquakes have caused the area to suffer serious disrepair. Increasingly worried about the decline of the neighborhood, the inhabitants of the area decided to band together to promote tourism and redevelopment of the area- Dia del Patrimonio promises to be a perfect opportunity to showcase the fruits of their labor.

Jose Antonio Ilianovic and Alejandra Balboa, the names behind the organization Espacio de las Artes, coordinate cultural activities as part of a master plan to restore, preserve and enhance the area.

‘‘Every night the square was being taken by violent individuals who got drunk and took drugs without regard for residents or clients of neighborhood establishments (such as gourmet restaurant Zully and cafe Tales). The area was filthy- broken bottles, feces, cigarette butts. However, on the days we have had our activities the plaza is more than just a beautiful place, it’s quiet and safe for residents and tourists,” the organizers wrote in a press release regarding their events.

 photo courtesy of Espacio de las Artes
photo courtesy of Espacio de las Artes

On Dia del Patrimonio, from 10am to 8pm, the public is welcome to wander the plaza and peruse the wares of 30 local vendors while enjoying the sounds of local musicians. The historic Teatro Carrera, built in 1927 and showing Chile's first films with sound, will be included on ‘heritage tours’ taking place at 10am and noon. Also included on the tour are the gothic Iglesia de la Gratitud Nacional and the prestigious school Liceo Aplicacion, built in 1892.

According to a recent article in La Tercera, with the arrival of two boutique hotels and a ‘coworking space’ featuring offices and a bookstore, the next few years will bring heavy foreign investment to Concha Y Toro. To accompany these improvements in the neighborhood, the municipality of Santiago is initiating a plan to modernize the lighting, security and cleanliness of the neighborhood.

Perhaps this is the chance to witness the area in its restored prime, before it once again houses only the high class of the city.

To stay updated on which historic landmarks will be participating in Dia del Patrimonio celebrations, check out the following links:

http://www.monumentos.cl/
https://www.facebook.com/EspacioDeLasArtesBarrioConchaYToro

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