While finishing up the manuscript of the new edition of Moon Handbooks Buenos Aires in the Argentine capital, I’ve also been keeping an eye on developments in Chile before heading back to California next week. Despite Sunday’s 7.2 earthquake along the Mexican border, I have no qualms whatsoever about returning to the Bay Area, which is roughly 500 miles (800 km) to the north - just as most of Chile is far from the epicenter of the February 27 event, and has seen little or no damage.
In that context, I’d like to quote from a reader named Dona who took my advice and went to Chile shortly thereafter (I have edited a bit for brevity, punctuation and typos, inserted hyper-links where appropriate, and added some of my own comments in rectangular brackets):
“Just got back from Chile, and as Wayne said, the damage is relatively minor [in Santiago and other places Dona went]. Considering the magnitude of the original earthquake, I have to say that I am very impressed with the structural soundness of most of the buildings. We stayed in a high-rise apartment, and there was evidence of some superficial damage, but as the owner said, the buildings themselves are ‘robust’ and built to withstand earthquakes. The attitude of the people of Chile is impressive - and I would say that Chilenos are ‘robust!’”
“However - things are not QUITE back to normal. We weren't able to visit the Parque Quinta Normal, as several of the buildings within it were damaged; the Palacio de Bellas Artes [pictured here] was open, but it had suffered a lot of damage; and the airport's terminals won't be up and running for another six months, according to the American Airlines person I spoke with [I presume Dona means complete terminal repairs, as Santiago's airport itself is fully functional]. On a lucky note, we didn't have to pay the US$131 fee to enter.”
“We were there when the 7.2 aftershock struck, within moments of the President's [Sebastián Piñera’s] inauguration on March 11, and while we felt the rumbling of the building we were in and marveled at the chandeliers swaying, we didn't see any evidence of more damage. Later, we were in the Metro when the power went off - which meant exiting thru the rear door of the conductor's car and walking on a plank to the platform - to be greeted by subway personnel with flashlights to help us get out in a somewhat orderly fashion. I don't want to scare anyone, as life for most people in Chile is as if nothing extraordinary has happened. All of these experiences make for a more exciting adventure...”
“So - my advice, if you are considering going to Chile, go! The tourism dollars help the economy, and the fact the many people are staying away from Chile was certainly evident. We stayed in Pucón [pictured above] for a week, and the town was virtually empty. I felt bad for the people who rely on tourism dollars to keep afloat, but it made for a wonderful experience for us as we had the place almost to ourselves!”
Dona’s mention of the US$131 reciprocity fee, about which I’ve written several posts (also describing Argentina’s similar recent measure), deserves additional comment. According to Terence Lee, who wrote me from Chile yesterday, “The reciprocity fee was suspended for a few days after the earthquake. It is now being collected as normal.” Nevertheless, a highly placed private sector individual has written me that “We’re working on that, and now that there’s a new government we’ll see if they’re more receptive” to eliminating the fee (for US citizens and those of other countries who impose a similar visa fee on Chileans). That would be another positive step toward reactivating the travel and tourism sector.