Valparaiso, part 2 (with protests, food, and cats)

October 26, 2019 • 9:00 am

Demonstrations continue throughout Chile, despite the President’s promise to reform medical care, pensions, and other issues. We’re still under curfew in Valparaiso, and the Guardian reports that the legislature, which sits in this town, was evacuated yesterday after protestors tried to force their way in.

In the capital of Santiago yesterday, there was a giant protest, with over a million people reported to  have taken to the streets. Here’s a photo of the crowds:

Photo: Pedro Ugarte/AFP

There is no sign of the protests abating, and some say that they won’t until President Sebastián Piñera resigns. Our ship departure has been delayed nearly a day because (I think) it cannot load passengers in the evening after curfew.

Here are a few signs of the protest in Valparaiso. First, a burnt-out grocery store (grocery stores appear to be the main target of the protestors):

Police and protestors in front of a grocery store two days ago; the cops are guarding the entrance to prevent looting.

Police by a water cannon truck:

Some of the protestors. The ones I’ve seen in Valparaiso have generally been young:

A video of protestors and cops:

Here the protestors chant (as far as I can make out), “Todo la comida!” (“All the food!”) The cops stood firm and were not violent, though they have fired tear gas in the city.

After a while, we heard sirens and more cops and a water-cannon truck converged at the store. Here you can see the truck firing a rather lame stream of water, which did, however, disperse the protestors.

Fresh blood on the street:

Life goes on, though many stores and restaurants are closed. Here’s a line in front of one of the few open pharmacies; someone has written in Spanish “War on the state”:

The markets have reopened, though not fully: a sign that people still need food. They buy from little food shops since the supermarkets are closed (or looted), and many people are walking about hawking toilet paper.

Here’s a seller of traditional herbs (readers who know what they are should weigh in). One US dollar is worth roughly 725 Chilean pesos, so most of these are about a buck.

Empanadas, one of the national foods of Chile (and Argentina) are on sale again; they were hard to find the last few days. We didn’t essay one of these two days ago as we were on our way to lunch, but had some yesterday, pictured below. I like the classic “pino” empanada, with meat, onions, olives, and hard-boiled egg.

These are the main varieties:

The pino empanada, exterior and dissected. (They cost, as you see above, about two bucks, and make a substantial lunch or snack.)

Although most restaurants were closed, we found a nice seafood restaurant up on the hill with a terrific view of the port. Here’s the Inquilino, only a few months old:


We started with the local drink (also a local drink in Peru), the famous  “pisco sour“, made with pisco (colorless brandy), lime juice, and simple syrup. In Peru they add a beaten egg white to froth it, but I’m not sure they do that in Chile, as ours was sin huevo.

The proprietor gave us, gratis, glasses of the terrific local red, made from a grape I’ve had only once before in my life, Carménère. It’s related to cabernet, and reminded me of a California cab, with a slightly minty and dusty nose. It was fabulous. Chilean wines, especially reds, are famous, but so far this is the only one I’ve tried. Today we’ll have another fish lunch, even though I’m not usually a piscivore.

The dishes: fresh seared tuna steak with toasted sesame seeds, served with roasted potatoes, thinly-sliced avocado salad, and a bundle of vegetable spears. The tuna was properly cooked, i.e., slightly and pink. This may have been the best piece of tuna I’ve ever had.

Local Argentinian beef with a wine reduction sauce and mushrooms, served with salad and roasted potatoes. Also washed down with that nice red wine.

Dining on the terrace overlooking the city: a reflection in the restaurant’s glass:

Yes, I am eating nice food while others are protesting, and I feel a tad guilty about it, but we are having only two nice meals here over our five days, so I don’t feel that guilty.

Valparaiso has many stray dogs and cats but, more than any place I’ve ever visited, the locals take care of them. Two days ago I watched a woman walk a stray dog across a busy intersection, hugging it when they made it across. (The cars honked to warn the dog to stay out of the street.) The strays are all pretty plump, and two of them even refused a piece of empanada when we offered it to them yesterday. What kind of stray dog refuses a pastry-encased meat pie with egg? And everywhere people leave out basins of water and bowls of dry food for the dogs.

The cats are not in as good shape, but are still not starving. Here are some of them:

EVERYTHING FOR YOUR CAT (a pet store, but it’s a double entendre, too):

This is a well-serviced cat. Every animal is tame, both cats and dogs, and let you pet them.

The cat below is someone’s pet, and was sitting on a stool outside a fish store.

And, since it’s Caturday, this post counts as a Caturday felid post. Sadly, I may miss several of them while on the boat, the first time that’s happened in years.


42 thoughts on “Valparaiso, part 2 (with protests, food, and cats)

      1. I remember watching a TV show (on PBS??) about free range dogs who have homes (with humans) but spend the days carousing with their fellow canids, returning to their homes for dinner and a bed. I can’t remember, however, where the documentary was filmed. Memory, perhaps faulty, says “somewhere in South America”. I could easily be wrong about the location, but I remember well the lifestyle.

  1. Thank you for reporting on the situation there. I’ve been following the protests across the globe. Looks like we aren’t the only ones disgusted with the “ruling classes.”

  2. I think you should contact CNN or someone out there and see if you can get paid for this. Great photos. I wonder, are you using money or plastic there?

  3. I associate Carmenere with Chile in the same way I associate Malbec with Argentina.

    The signs on the herbs identify and tell what they should be used for. Top row—

    Artemisia: mugwort (to eliminate cancer, stomach ache)
    Sabina: Aloe vera
    Natre: I don’t know what that is, but claims to be good for diabetes, antiinflammatory, fever, liver
    Olivo: olive. For hypertension, cholesterol, triglycerides, prediabetes
    Eucalyptus: eucalyptus. Cough, asthma, colds, diabetes, high triglyceride, cholesterol, bronchitis
    Sarzaparilla: sarsaparilla. Sign is difficult to make out — something for blood, cholesterol
    Hojas de quillay: leaves of soap bark (quillay a saponaria) — for cough, flu (gripe), colds
    Laurel: ?, diabetes, colds

  4. Middle row—
    Gincgo biloba: Ginkgo biloba == for poor (blood) circulation, Alzheimer’s, gastric cancer, multiple sclerosis
    Pita: agave. For diabetes, as a laxative, for fever, to add to mate (why would one?)
    Bolso: peumus boldus. For kidney stones, liver, to help lose weight
    Espino blanco: common hawthorn – for insomnia, heart, stress, hypertension
    Cruz de canelo (should be “canela”) is a cross made of cinnamon sticks. To protect from evil, envy, and keep bad energies away
    Verbena: verbena or vervain -for depression, stress, nervous system; desintoxicases the body; hypothyroidism, liver
    Sabin I’ll: I don’t know what it is. Supposedly to be used for kidney stones, urinary infections
    Pingo pingo: ephedra multiflora — for prostate, diabetes, kidney stones, liver, is a diuretic, purifies blood

  5. Finally—
    Barraco: escalonia illinita – for liver; use as sahumerio (incense)
    Ruda: ruta, rue — headache, poor circulation, cholesterol, regulating menstruation
    Cola de caballo: horsetail (equisetaceae): kidney, liver, diuretic, cistytis, urinary infections
    Manzanilla: chamomile – cistitis, urinary infections, for hair (to lighten it)
    Mágico: piper aduncum – internal and external wounds, ulcers

  6. That meal looks and sounds AMAZING. I’m not surprised the owner gave you a free bottle of good wine. People in that region are known for their generosity and their welcoming natures. They’re a beautiful people with wonderful spirit.

    I hope the protests stay largely peaceful right now and that you stay safe. Thank you for these updates and best of luck to you.

    1. Oh, and I have to try that pisco sour! Sounds good. You’ve had many different drinks in many different places, so how does it rank? You didn’t really comment on whether or not you enjoyed it.

    2. I have found the Chileans a warm and hospitable people so far. For example, yesterday we walked into a dark and forbidding bar in the market to have a liter of Crystal cerveza, and the locals, not by any means well off, were really lovely. One guy pulled a lemon out of his backpack and asked the bartender to cut it up for us and then showed us how to squeeze lemon juice into our beer, which appears to be a Chilean (or local) habit. When we left, half in the bag, everyone said “adios”.

      1. Fantastic story! And just what I would expect from the people there. Even under all this pressure, they’re still so welcoming and generous.

      2. In my experience, squeezing lemon or lime juice in beer is done in Mexico (at least sometimes) but the reasons aren’t at all clear — many theories online. I recall being served beer with a slice of lemon when I was in Mexico in the 1960s and now I wonder what other Latin American (or other countries) consider lemon or lime a desired accompaniment to beer.

        I see recipes for beer that include lemon juice but have no idea if that’s related to serving lemon alongside beer.

        1. Remember that a shandy–half lemonade, half beer–is a popular summertime drink in England. I quite like it. And I like the Mexican “michelada”, too: beer, tomato juice, and hot sauce

          1. The lemonade shandy used to be known as ‘the driver’s drink’ in the days before strict drink-drive laws came in.

            Half beer, half ginger beer is a pretty good shandy as well.

            Stay safe.

        2. Lager & Lime Juice was popular in Brit pubs in the 70s, but Brit draught lager back then was chemical swill & it wasn’t supercold the way crap beer & crap lager is supplied today, thus it tasted vile without the fruit juice addition. Another one was Lager & black current juice!

          Then for a brief time in the late ’90s to early ’00s Mexican pale lager, drank straight from the bottle, with slice of lime in the neck became the chic fad – it coincided with Brit wine bars [wine & spirits only so as not to compete with normal pubs] suddenly had permission to serve beer too. IMO this fad started in Brit business district wine bars among the lawyers & accountants & was reinforced by the budget airline, mass market, bucket shop holiday makers returning from their cheap-as-chips Spanish & Mexican holidays [particularly the annoying just-back-from-Ibiza-look-at-my-tan umicells]. The big brand was Corona & it was a real money spinner for the pubs & clubs – extraordinarily cheap to ship in from Mex & then just sell it for five or six times that price. A booze bonanza. Just about any adult liked an ice-cold Corona with lime slice because it smells of lime, it tastes of lime & it requires absolutely no imagination, judgement nor discernment to be on trend.

          A lime slice is added to these bottles of CLEAR GLASS light lager because sunlight almost immediately destroys the healthy, desired aroma of hops. Once the hop smell is gone the lager smells disgustingly like a wet dog – a slice of lime covers up how nasty & cheap this lager turns in the open air.

  7. “…the legislature… was evacuated yesterday after protestors tried to force their way in.”

    Hey, just like home!

    1. Let me add that tuna prepared thusly is a seafood dish that can stand up to a red wine pairing.

      Never let us forget that, in From Russia With Love, it was his drinking red wine with fish that first alerted James Bond that the Englishman on the train was in fact a Soviet spy:

      1. Thank you for keeping us posted and please remain safe.

        I’m not much of a piscivore but the tuna looks wonderful. The best beef I’ve ever had was Argentinean served in a Lima, Peru restaurant. So very good, we selected it for dinner multiple times. And, although I’ve never had a Pisco Sour in Chile, I can vouch for the deliciousness of those served in Peru.

  8. I can never get enough of the food porn at WEIT. Very jealous, it all looks delicious as always.

    Personally I’d stay away from ‘pino merken’ given that ‘merkin’ means ‘pubic wig’. You can never be too careful. It might be the South American equivalent of bird’s nest soup.

  9. Fourth photo down, that is a Chilean national police riot truck, but the five guys in front of it with assault rifles [FAMAE IWI Galil ACE?] are a bit dodgy – reminds me of the fly-by-night para-military cops we had in the UK in the ’70s-’80s [the Irish ‘Troubles’ & the July ’81 city riots]. They are dressed in Chilean army kit, but only half of it & the guy on the right is too much of a podge for Chilean military street soldier.

    I noticed from yesterday’s photos & looking on the ‘net that most Chilean police have unit patches, name patch, chest cam, ‘walkie talkie’ & a pistol & baton only [plus gas canisters & the like]. If they are special police they have their acronym across their backs & are likely carrying an assault weapon.

    But these guys look like a police political snatch squad for rounding up leaders [one of them is carrying cable ties] – no arm patch IDs, lower half of faces are covered. Unidentifiable if things go tits up.

    1. Thank you PCC for the interesting and informative photos and comments while you are on this trip.

      Yet again I am impressed by the observation skills and background knowledge of the many readers of this site. Michael – you continue to amaze me with your assessment of the military in the above photo. How many would pick up on those clues?

  10. The Cono Sur Bicicleta carmenere is widely available in supermarkets in the UK. Very nice it is too; and very good value.

    1. The Reserva gets a “good” from Wine-Searcher.

      Average Price (ex-tax) $9 / 750ml
      Aggregated Critic Score 88/100
      Average User Rating 3.5 Stars – Good,
      21 ratings

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