Five touching moments from the Chilean miner rescue
By Liz Goodwin


A Chilean legend maintains that after God had created the wonders of the world he had many pieces leftover. He had raging rivers, sprawling glaciers, valleys and soaring mountains, snow-capped volcanoes, sparkling lakes, beautiful forests and deserts, icy fjords and sandy beaches. Rather than let all this beauty go to waste, he put them together in a remote part of the world, and so Chile was born.

Shaped like a long narrow strip and making up the western part of South America's tail, it is 2,610 miles (4,200km) in length and at most 115 miles (180km) wide. Travellers are drawn to this country because of its multitude of natural attractions, from the northern desert to the Lake District, and the mountains and fjords of Patagonia in the south. It has some superb National Parks, including Easter Island famous for its mysterious giant statues, and numerous activities for outdoor enthusiasts.

Chile's European heritage is evident throughout the country and travellers here are likely to feel more familiar with its culture than those of the neighbouring countries, with their strongly indigenous lifestyles.

CHILE: The Mapuche People

A fascinating culture in the South of Chile. The name Mapuche literally means people of the earth.

History of the Mapuche

The Mapuche people lived in the fertile valleys of Southern Chile at the time of the Spanish arrival. They lived in small groups with a culture based mainly on hunting and gathering. Toiling on the land was not necessary for many, and what work there was was evenly divided among the sexes. Their division among family clans was both their saving grace and their downfall. As they remained divided and separated from other civilizations, they were unable to develop further, like the neighboring Inca culture. However, it was this very division that made it impossible for the Spanish to destroy their culture in one blow the way they had done previously in Peru. Each time the Spanish put down a Mapuche uprising another would come out from the woods and attack. The conflict between the Spaniards and the Mapuche lasted for some 300 years, and is known as the Arauco War. They were able to resist the Spanish conquest for years adapting their techniques and using their vast numbers to combat the enemy. They were also noted for their horseback riding, a skill of course that was only learned after the arrival of the Spanish with their horses. The Spaniards were never able to maintain any hold South of the Bío Bío River.

After Chile declared its independence from Spain more and more settlers came and took over Mapuche lands. The Mapuche finally signed an agreement to co-exist with the new Chilean government and have their lands incorporated after much military pressure and diplomatic discussion.

The Mapuche generally live in the Southern end of Chile, around Temuco and there are still a few across the mountains in Argentina as well. Currently they make up approximately 4% of the Chilean population, although many Chileans have at least some Mapuche or Ayamara in them. Many continue to live within their own communities somewhat separate from the rest of Chileans. While most Chileans are proud of the history of the brave Mapuche warriors fighting off the Spanish conquistadors, tensions exist between the two cultures today.

Mapuche Language

The Mapuche people speak the language Mapundungu. At the time of the Spanish arrival there was no written record of the Mapundungu language, so the Latin alphabet has been applied to the spoken language and there are some spelling discriminations. Only 20,000 people still regularly speak the language, as many Mapuche are bilingual and it is very uncommon for other Chileans to learn the language. About double that number are able to speak Mapundungu, with almost all of the speakers living in the South of Chile. There are several Mapundungu influences in Chilean Spanish and several cities and other locations have Mapuche names. The language appears to be isolated, with little in common with surrounding languages such as Quechua. There are two main dialects of Mapuche spoken today.

Mapuche Legends

The football team Colo Colo, one of the most popular in the country, is named after a legendary Mapuche animal that has different forms depending on who you talk to, with body parts of a snake, rooster, and rat and cries like a newborn child.

The Peuchen is a figured feared by many Mapuche. It is able to shift its form instantly and become any animal. It has the ability to petrify its victims and suck the blood from humans and animals alike.

Like most ancient cultures, the Mapuche have their own version of the great flood. They speak of two serpents, one the keeper of land and the other of water. When the water serpent Kai Kai tried to take over the land from his enemy, the serpent Tren Tren, the other snake protected the people by bringing them to the mountains. Once the water subsided the people were able to return to the valleys and repopulate the earth.

The first two humans in Mapuche mythology are Lituche and Domo. Domo, the first female was created from a star and the flowers and grass grew so that she could walk upon softer ground.

One of the most fascinating figures in Mapuche culture is the Machi. She is often described as a good witch, but in truth her role is that of a spiritual healer within the Mapuche community. Healing ceremonies are private affairs and outsiders of the community are very rarely able to view the process. The Machi has an extensive knowledge of medicinal herbs. Her training comes from an apprenticeship with an older Machi would guides the younger woman into the rights of weather prediction, dream interpretation, warding off evil and curing illnesses.


Chilean food should not be confused with the spicy dishes common in Mexico. Unlike Mexican meals, the hot chili is not too frequent in Chile.

Typical Chilean Dishes

EMPANADA DE PINO - typical turnover filled with diced meat, onions, olive, raisins and a piece of hard-boiled egg, baked in earthen or plain oven.

EMPANADA DE QUESO - typical turnover filled with cheese.

PASTEL DE CHOCLO - a typical chilean summer dish. Ground corn and meat, chopped onions small pieces of chicken, pieces of hard boiled egg, olive raisins - baked in clay or regular oven. Similar to a shepherd pie.

BISTEC A LO POBRE - beefsteak, french fries, fried onions, topped with a couple of fried eggs.

CARBONADA - meat soup with finely diced beef and all kinds of vegetables such as potatoes, onions, carrots, broccoli, green pepper and parsley.

CHANCHO EN PIEDRA - a typical Chilean seasoning. Tomatoes, garlic, and onions grounded together in a stone.

CHARQUICAN - ground or diced meat cooked with garlic, onions, potatoes and pumpkin all mashed. It is a mushy dish but great.

CAZUELA DE AVE - chicken soup with pieces of meat, potatoes, green beans or peas, rice or noodles.

CAZUELA DE VACUNO - beef soup with pieces of meat, potatoes, corn on the cob, carrots, onions, green beans, garlic, chunks of pumpkin, rice or noodles.

COSTILLAR DE CHANCHO - baked spare ribs.

ENSALADA A LA CHILENA - sliced tomatoes and onions with an oil dressing.

HUMITAS - boiled corn leaf rolls filled with seasoned ground corn.

PALTA REINA - avocado filled with tuna fish or ham covered with mayonnaise and served on lettuce leaves.

PARRILLADA - different kinds of meat, sausages and sometimes entrails grilled over charcoal and served with potato salad or rice.

PEBRE - seasoning of tomatoes with chopped onion, chili, coriander, and chives. Usually served in a little clay dish.

PERNIL - boiled whole hock (ham)

POROTOS GRANADOS - fresh bean dish with ground corn and pieces of pumpkin served hot.

SOPAIPILLA - a flat circular deep fried 'bread' made of pumpkin and flour.

Bistec (Bife) a lo pobre

Chilean Seafood

ALMEJAS CON LIMON - raw clams with lemon juice.

CALDILLO DE CONGRIO - conger-eel soup with onions, potatoes and carrots

CEVICHE - minced raw sea bass in lemon juice.

CONGRIO FRITO - deep-fried conger eel.

CHUPE DE LOCOS - abalone bread pudding.

EMPANADA DE MARISCO - turnovers filled with chopped seafood onions and seasoning.

MARISCAL - cold soup with all kinds of raw seafood

OSTIONES A LA PARMESANA - scallops on the shells in melted butter and covered with grilled Parmesan cheese.

MACHAS A LA PARMESANA - parmesan cheese raisor clams.

Machas a la Parmesana with lemon and Pebre

Chilean Sandwiches

ALIADO - ham and cheese sandwich

AVE MAYO - diced chicken meat and mayonnaise

AVE PALTA - diced chicken meat and mashed avocado

AVE PIMIENTA - diced chicken meat and red pepper

BARROS JARPA - grilled cheese and ham on white bun

BARROS LUCO - grilled cheese and meat on white bread

CHACARERO - sliced meat, green beans, chili and tomatoes

CHURRASCO - beef sandwich

CHURRASCO CON TOMATE - thin sliced meat and slices of tomato on white bun

CHURRASCO CON PALTA - thin sliced meat, mashed avocado on white bun

COMPLETO - hot dog with all kinds of trimmings: mayonnaise, tomatoes, onions, dilled pickles sauerkraut, etc.

ESPECIAL - hot dog with tomatoes

ITALIANO - hot dog with avocado, tomatoes and mayonnaise.

HAMBURGUESA - hamburger patty. It isn't always served between buns.

LOMITO COMPLETO - sliced pork meat withsauerkraut, mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup

PAN AMASADO -homemade bread

Typical Chilean Desserts

MANJAR - a brown spread or cake filling made from boiled milk and sugar. Some visitors say it tastes like caramel. Manjar is quite sweet and is used in many cakes and sweet dishes.

MOTE CON HUESILLO - cooked dried peaches and stewed corn served as a drink

PAPAYA CON CREMA - papaya preserves with whipped cream.

BAVAROIS DE LUCUMA - bavarois (type of custard)of a variety of eggfruit

ALFAJOR - a flat round pastry filled with manjar and covered in Chocolate

BERLIN - a round donut filled with manjar or jam / jelly

KUCHEN - a German fruit flan often found in the South of Chile


Below is a list of some typical Chilean Drinks.

BIGOTEADO - (Warning: avoid drinking this no matter what state you are in!!!) This 'drink' contains the leftovers of any glasses that happen to be lying around which are then poured into one resulting in combinations that test the most harden of stomachs. This is usually given to someone as a joke when they have had so much to drink that they don't realize what they are currently consuming in front of them.

COLA DE MONO - Aguardiente liquor with milk, Cinnamon, coffee and sugar. Typical drink around Christmas time.

LECHE CON PLÁTANO - fresh milk blended with banana.

MOTE CON HUESILLO - cooked dried peaches and stewed corn served as a drink.

The Local Currency

The following are the Coins and Notes / Bills in Chile:

Chilean Coins: $1 - $5 - $10 - $50 - $100 - $500

Chilean Notes/Bills: $1,000 - $2,000 - $5,000 - $10,000 - $20,000 - ($500*)

*There is the odd $500 note floating around but you will almost always see the coin version.

In local Chilean slang (especially with the young people), the $100 peso coin is called 'una gamba' and $1000 is called 'una luca'. You can use multiples of Luca e.g. $8000 = 8 luca(s) The final 's' is not often pronounced. When you have one million pesos, it is usually called 'un palo' or 'un guatón'.

By the way, don't pay the bus drivers with anything less than a $10 coin as they will often throw them out the window while looking at you in disgust. Also, don't pay the bus driver with anything larger than a $2000 note unless you are paying for more than a couple of people. There is now a special prepaid card for buses called the BIP card which is now used in most buses in Santiago.

The $1 and $5 peso coins are quite worthless in Chile. The only use they have is to fill up a jar or a bottle for decoration.

Business Meetings in Chile

Sometimes if you have an appointment and you arrive on time, you will be kept waiting even if the person is not doing anything important. It makes them 'appear' like they are very busy and 'in demand'. The more important you are, the less you have to wait. This concept is not normally the case with reputable companies that have an international ideology.

Most business meetings begin with a handshake (regardless of the gender) especially in first meetings. As the business relationship develops, both parts become more demonstrative which can include the kissing on the cheek with women and sometimes embracing between men. The latter is more normal with close associates.

Don't rush immediately into the topic to be discussed. Chileans will normally start with polite social chat and will often ask about your family. They are not being nosey, just showing a general interest in you. It is polite to ask about their family too. Business meetings are often considered as being between two people more than two companies, hence the personal interaction.

If there is time, it is often good to bring up topics like Chilean wine and the natural beauties of Chile. If you can show that you know or have learnt something about Chile, it will be appreciated and will give them the opportunity to feel good about their country.

Avoid business visits in the months of January and February as executives and staff tend to be away on holiday, slowing down general business activities.

Work Environment in Chile

Spanish is the national language. Being able to speak some Spanish will make a considerable difference in your work (and general life) relationships.

Please note that these are only generalizations.

It is common that Chilean business people do not answer e-mails, faxes, letters or phone calls promptly. Acknowledging messages is not a common habit and many business people might not respond until there is an opportunity or something definite to answer.

If you ask someone to do something, don't expect them to do it right away even if they say they will. Most things are left until the last moment and sometimes it is good to follow up orders and arrangements to make sure that everything is getting done on time.

Chile has one of the highest rates of working hours in the world, though unfortunately this doesn't convert into higher productivity. A couple of years ago, a law was passed to make the working week 45 hours instead of 48 as before. Since Chileans tend to put things off until the last moment, it usually means they have to work extra hours anyway in order to meet the deadline.

Chilean Business Dress Code

Appearances are an important part of Chilean life so make sure you dress well.

Dress codes are generally formal and conservative; suit and tie for men and discreet business suit (skirt or trousers) for women. Navy blue suits seem to dominate and men tend to put on their jackets when leaving the office, even if it is just for lunch.

Lunch breaks are normally 1 hour though can sometimes be up to 2 hours for top level workers. In Santiago and other big urban areas, it is not common to go home for lunch, nor to take a 'siesta'.

It is common practice for office workers to work past their finish time. Those that do, almost never get paid overtime and it is done to appear as though they are committed hard-workers in the eyes of their boss. Sometimes they don't have anything to do but they stay on anyway. In some cases it is even frowned upon if your leave your job at the right time (it is not considered as inefficiency as in some other countries).