Chile is a long, narrow country stretching along South America’s western edge, with more than 6,000km of Pacific Ocean coastline. My perception of scale changed as soon as I set foot on this continent. Chile is such a vast country, so different and rich in landscapes and cultures that it is constantly changing my notion of what “big” actually means.
Coming from the UK to Chile, a country that reminds me in many ways of my home country Spain, my brain immediately drew connections between the two and made me feel like I had come back home; but at the same time my senses were telling me it was different… so very different.
The Chilean Language and People
The accent and the use of language were the first differences I noticed. Though both forms of Spanish are coming from the same root the use of words and inflection take a while to get used to. The Chilean people speak in a very sweet way, everything sounds easier and calmer and it is difficult for me to imagine a person here getting angry. I felt like I am shouting all the time and I have found myself readjusting my volume and my words, so I could adapt to the pace and the sounds of this country. The Chileans will tell you all about their country and explain their culture. From what I have experienced so far, they are generally open for any kind of conversation, such as politics or football. On the other hand they seem to be quite reserved when it comes to their personal stories. One thing that was very clear from day one was that Chile is still a very male dominated society. Hopefully that will start to change soon as it is slowly across the world for the betterment of all.
The Capital: Santiago de Chile
Santiago, the Chilean capital, sits in a valley surrounded by the Andes and Chilean Coast Range mountains. My first day in Santiago can be described as a warm reception to the country. The sun was shining even though it was winter.
The food in Santiago is amazing and often made from all natural ingredients. The quality of the food is so good, and a standard meal is better than what you would get in most expensive restaurants anywhere else. There is a lot going on in Santiago and it can be overwhelming. It seems much messier, almost chaotic, than what I am used to living in the countryside of Scotland, but it was also nice to feel the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Place where the Magic will Happen: Arica
Arica is the city that has become my base in the North of Chile and where the new ABURY collection would be born. On my way there it became clear straight away that nature takes pride of place here; it is the protagonist of the scene. I love this, as it is a constant reminder of the power of nature over humans. It is so immensely beautiful and powerful, I’m overwhelmed again and again.
Arica is situated on the coast almost right on the borders to Bolivia and Peru. It is a dreamy city that does not change much and where things happen calmly and at a very slow pace. When you look into the history of the city you can see it is full of conflicts, battles and changes in borders. Right at the top of a prominent cliff the city shows a huge Chilean flag reminding us all in which country we are in. Arica is entirely surrounded by the desert and the Altiplano in the Andes. The extreme conditions here make it very difficult to live if you are not in the city or in one of the few protected valleys.
Arica is right on the coast where it caresses the Pacific Ocean. I could dip my feet into its cool waters which I am glad to finally tick off my list of things I have always wanted to do. The ocean is an incredibly strong force of nature and there is a real danger of a tsunami as the signs on the beaches constantly remind you. The tremors are part of the locals everyday routine as the tectonic plates collide very close to the coast. The people of Arica are all very relaxed about it. I was not! The city has already welcomed me with a tremor of 7.1 in magnitude with the epicentre only 500 km away…
The indigenous community is big here. There are many people coming to Arica especially from the Aymara culture as their towns are getting neglected which leaves the new generations with no opportunities. They are mainly placed in the poor areas of the city’s outskirts where their families live all together in the same house. These are also the areas where the female artisans live that I am working with on the new ABURY collection. Visiting these areas I feel very lucky and privileged coming from my background.
Working with the community in Arica I feel a big sense of responsibility with regards to my work with them. I am thriving to achieve my purpose of helping them to use their incredible skills and go beyond – and cannot wait for everything else that is waiting for me on this adventure.