Santiago is a city of parks, water bodies, sculptures, churches and a marked European influence. The homes I visited were in stylish and comfortable high-rise buildings. The localities where the underprivileged live are also clean and well-maintained, with sturdy buildings designed to withstand the frequent earthquakes. Here, Europe recedes and Latin America emerges on street upon street of two-storey houses, vibrant with graffiti and murals. With the low, snow-peaked mountains of the Andes hovering protectively, Santiago sits in a valley. A beautiful backdrop—but one that leaves it vulnerable to smog. In winter, the city waits for rain to relieve the smog. The day I was leaving, a pollution crisis was announced. Forty per cent of the city’s cars were kept off the roads, and schools cancelled sports and physical education classes.
Touch of Pinochet
Since I was in Chile on a tight schedule, I had studiously avoided learning about sights that I might never see. So when we landed in Iquique, about 1,500 km north of Santiago, I was astonished and mesmerised by the landscape: sandy hills extending from the Atacama desert on one side to the beach-lined Pacific on the other. Since the mid-1970s, Iquique has had a free trade zone, and Sindhi entrepreneurs were among the first to make good of it. Now numbering a few hundred, they form a close-knit group of fun-loving, cosmopolitan families. I stayed with the gracious Renu Melwani, in what was once Pinochet’s Iquique home. Driving to the free zone next morning, I passed shacks selling seafood....