by Rachel Brown and Ashley Wu:
Yesterday, half of our group visited The Santiago Times, an English-language news site covering Chile. We had the address of the offices and knew it was only a short walk from our hotel, yet when we reached the given address, we strolled by the building completely unawares. After several moments of confusion and a closer inspection of the dirty windows, we noticed a small makeshift sign that said “The Santiago Times” and an amused face staring at us. No longer questioning our destination, we headed in and settled in for a conversation with editor Nathan Frandino.
We discussed some of the most current issues facing Santiago, ranging from water scarcity to the elaborate props used in student protests. The meeting was a great way to start off our research and sourcing in the city, and was particularly useful as a primer on Chilean politics and recent history. We were surprised to learn that support for Pinochet remains a divisive issue, and many government practices and systems established during the dictatorship still exist in the government’s present structure. Mr. Frandino also commented on the challenge of balancing coverage of Santiago with coverage of other parts of Chile, especially when working on a limited budget. Achieving this balance has posed a challenge for the Chilean government as well. Approximately a third of Chile’s population lives in Santiago, and it is the country’s political and economic center, so naturally much of the government’s focus is on the city. The Chilean government is also much more centralized than in the U.S., which exacerbates the problem: For example, provincial governors are appointed by the president—and not elected. Recent controversies such as the debate over the HidroAysen dam in Patagonia have increased demands for the government to focus on the whole of Chile, and not just Santiago.
On a side note, Mr. Frandino, despite his position in the upper rungs of the editorial chain-of-command couldn’t help but express (multiple times!) his jealousy of the adventures we were to embark on as writers and reporters in this fascinating country.
Story ideas bounced around the room and covered everything from the wine industry (where grapes apparently can be “sunburnt,” leaving us to ponder when a “sunburnt” grape becomes a raisin) to the Esmerelda, a ship once used as a torture facility and now serves as a floating exhibit for Chilean naval history.With every question that was asked, exhaustion turned into enthusiasm and we couldn’t wait to try out all the suggestions that Mr. Frandino offered of places to see, things to taste, and people to meet. We have much to look forward to in Santiago, Valparaiso, Antofagasta, and beyond!