After roughly 21 hours of travel, we finally arrived in Santiago on the 6th at about 10:30am local time (Chile is 3 hours ahead of central time). For the first day, the only thing scheduled was dinner at 7:00pm, so we all explored the city a bit and took some time to relax, as we were tired from travelling. Some of us hiked to the top of the park in Santiago (the view from which is pictured on the right).
Today is when the real fun begins. First, we visited El Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, the Chilean Museum of Precolombian Art, where we saw a plethora of artifacts dating back thousands of years which taught us about the history and cultures of South and Meso Americas. For example, the Mapuche people of southern Chile would carve wooden statues, called Chemamüll (wood-people) to place on the graves of deceased persons, believing that this would help them unite with their ancestors.
After the museum, we went to the office of Fernando Toledo for our first info session about copper mining in Chile. Here, we learned about the history of the copper mining industry and the ways in which a country can (but often, don't) benefit from being rich in natural resources. Chile, in particular, has benefited as much as it has due in part to the nationalization of several copper mines in 1976, creating CODELCO, the state owned copper mine. CODELCO competes with private mining corporations, yet is nationally owned, so all of its profits go directly to the state instead of just taxes. This benefits Chile more as a country and allows them to develop as a state more efficiently. In addition to the benefits of the copper mining, we have also begun learning about Corporate Social Responsibility, a.k.a. CSR, which is a voluntary action taken by a company to either reduce its negative impacts or to improve the living conditions of the local communities that are affected, and is an action that goes beyond legal obligations with the goal of avoiding conflict. CSR, then, will definitely be a major course topic as we study the impacts on the Atacameños and the attempts made to reduce them.
Tomorrow, we will be traveling to San Pedro Atacama where we will learn about the Atacameño history and culture, as well as the impacts that the mining industry and tourism have had on them.
But that's all I have for today. Thanks for reading. Until next time!