Santiago, Chile: Ignore The Naysayers

The Titanium: The tallest building in Santiago, Chile, currently under construction. When completed, it will be more than 60 floors of office and retail space.

I thought I was going to the worst city on Earth. To hear Chileans describe Santiago – as dirty, polluted, ugly, traffic-clogged and a lot of other negatives – is to imagine urban hell. Most of them said the city was not worth more than a couple of days. Some struggled to come up with things to do and places to visit in the city other than the Cathedral. And yet, I am loving Santiago.

I think it’s clearly an anti big city thing. People don’t like big cities. At least the people who don’t live in them. Big cities generally have big problems, such as traffic congestion and public transportation choked with people. Some people see city living as Hell on Earth. They prefer smaller towns with lots of green spaces and such. So a place like Santiago, to most Chileans who live in ideal outlying provinces, urban living is the worst thing imaginable.

When I was in Salta in northern Argentina, I had nothing but negatives about Buenos Aires – from Argentinians themselves. They basically described their country’s famed city in much the same way as Chileans described Santiago. I am glad I did not listen. I was determined to visit Santiago. And I am glad I did. It’s a vibrant place with lots going for it. Sure, it’s not Paris or Rome, but the city has great neighborhoods in which to hang out, sit and have a good breakfast or enjoy lunch. Based on what I had heard about Santiago, I had planned to stay only two days.  I’ve extended my stay by two days.

Of course I wasn’t about to have Buenos Aires-bashing Argentinians keep me from visiting the city. I have long wanted to visit Buenos Aires. And I will stay as long as planned, perhaps longer. I guess I am a city person at heart. I love cities. And sure, I like spending time in the great outdoors, in small towns, but I don’t mind urban living and all the insanity that comes along with it.

I grew up hearing all the negatives from Americans about New York, the largest city in the United States. People in other parts of the United States love to hate New York. Even some who have never been there. They’re just not city folks.

So I say to you, dear reader, listen to the criticisms, but take them with a grain of salt and go see for yourself.


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