Booking our February/March 2016 passage on the Oceania Regatta from Lima, Peru to Buenos Aires, Argentina we started early, Spring 2017. We made two excellent choices: a stateroom with balcony on the port side. Waking each morning we were treated to views of the shoreline. On the morning of February 15, 2016 as we sailed the Chacao Channel toward Puerto Montt I was up 4:15 am before the sun rose to photograph our approach to the city.
I knew a classic 8,701 foot high stratovolcano topped with glaciers, named Orsorno, was out there and, amazingly, appeared on the horizon, seventy five miles distant to the northeast outlined by the gathering dawn. The sky was just brightening from total darkness at this time.
Thinking about the Aran Islands for my posts, “Killeany Bouy” and “Inisheer Welcomes the 2014 Gaeltacht Irish Football champions” brought me back to Isla Mocha.
Herman Melville’s thoughts were in and around this island off the central Chilean coast when he penned “Moby Dick” in the mid-nineteenth century while sitting in the city of Boston. He was brought Moby Dick not only by his own experiences on a whaling ship, almost certainly Melville owned a copy of Jeremiah N. Reynolds’ “Mocha Dick: Or The White Whale of the Pacific: A Leaf from a Manuscript Journal,” an true-life account of adventures around Isla Mocha. Sometime around 1810 Reynolds personally experienced encounters with Mocha Dick after the crew of an Antarctic expedition mutinied, stranding him at Valparaíso, Chile where he remained for two years.
Located 38°21’45.62″S, 73°55’6.91″W, around 8 miles in size north to south, 3.5 miles east to west Isla Mocha is surprisingly simple to find. A ridge of mountains run the north south axis, just 20 miles off the coast, a ship following the coast will find it easily, as I did from the balcony of the Oceania Regatta during a “sea day” of travel between Valparaiso and Puerto Montt.
Since waking that day I was on the lookout for Isla Mocha. In preparation for our month-long cruise around South America every mile of our itinerary was scoured for interesting sights, experiences and information. When I first learned of Isla Mocha (Mocha Island in English) and the connection with Melville reading about it in Boston, just as I was in Ithaca, one of my goals for that day was to catch sight of Isla Mocha as it rose from the horizon.
My goal was made easier for the cloud formation from the island mountains. Here is my first photograph, taken from our balcony on the port side. I chose the port side just for the landward view as the ship progressed southward on the western coast of South America. The Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III was tripod mounted with an EF 70-300 f4-5.6L variable lens set to 70 mm. We are northwest of the island with the coast just visible.
Another view with 188 mm focal length. The ship must have turned eastward, as the view progressed the island came closer. It was a fantastic thought to cruise above the subduction zone where the Nazca plate dives beneath the South American Plate. In the distance, on a clear day, the volcanic cones Villarrea and Quertrupillan are visible.
With the island due east, only a few miles away, the lens at 221 mm focal length. A fisherman is having an easier day in a calm sea. The indigenous people told stories of the souls of the dead travelling west to Isla Mocha. Pirates used the island as a resupply base. The fishing boat was the only sign of life.
That was February 14th Valentine’s Day. With Isla Mocha passing into the distance I changed for an evening with Pam. Here we are headed to dinner, somewhere off the coast of Chile’s Lakes (and volcano) region.
After reading my last post “Valparaiso Connections VII” why Captain Pratt was so honored by the nation?
On that morning, May 21, 1879 the two Chilean ships blockading Iquique port were surprised by two Peruvian warships from the port of Callao, the monitor Huáscar and armored frigate Independencia.
Arturo Prat commanded the Chilean corvette Esmeralda. Carlos Condell de la Haza was Covadonga’s commander.
The Chileans are outgunned by the Peruvians in armored ships. Condell fled in the Convadonga, pursued by the Independencia. This was the wiser course and most militarily effective because, following the Convadonga into shallow waters the deeper draft Independencia lost advantage when it ran aground and was lost.
Prat stood ground in the middle of the bay, any canon shots simply bounced off the heavily armored Huascar. The Esmeralda suffered shot after shot until the command of the Huascar, Captain Graf, decided to ram the Esmeralda to force a surrender and safe useless death.
At the first ram to the stern, as the ships were in contact, Prat ordered an attack, “Let’s board, boys.” In the confusion only two seamen joined Prat. One failed to board, Prat and Petty Officer Juan de Dios Aldea attacked. Dios Aldea was mortally wounded. Prat continued to advance alone, to the amazement of the Peruvians, awed at his courage. Prat was gunned down on the deck of the Huascar.
He crew watched in horror. When the Esmeralda was rammed again, this time in the bow, Sublieutenant Ignacio Serrano lead of 10 Chileans to board for an attack with machetes and rifles. They were massacred by the mounted Gatling gun, only Serrano survived.
The example of Prat and his crew is taught today. Arturo Pratt is the most common street name, as well as plazas, buildings. Four major warships were named after him. The current active ship is the frigate FFG 11, the Capitan Prat. The Chilean naval academy is named Escuela Naval Arturo Prat. His portrait is on the 10,000 peso Chilean note.
Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
This is an answer for those of who responded to my last post Valparaiso Connections VI with “what does that desert in Peru have to do with Valparaiso?” It starts with the Plaza Victoria at the end of Pedro Montt Avenue. Victoria, as in victory not Queen Victoria. At the beginning of the 19thcentury this was a beach, the site of several ship wrecks. It was set aside as a gathering place by the Mayor, named Plaza Nueva (New Plaza), for a bullring until bullfights a law banned bullfighting on September 1823. The plaza became a place of public executions and, after Chile’s victory in the Battle of Yungay, a place of celebration, formally renamed for the victory.
The Central Valley of Chile is an exception to the topology north through Lima where agriculture and population centers follow river valleys watered by the Andes and surrounded by waterless wastes. Yungay, is among one of those watered desert valleys. Located 120 miles north of Lima, Peru at about 8,000 feet just below a summit of the Western Andes, remnants of cultures from 10,000 B.C. are proof of agriculture and human settlement. It was near Yungay, on January 20, 1839 (summer in the southern hemisphere) a force of Chilean and Peruvian dissidents called the United Restorative Army defeated a Peru-Bolivian Confederation Army to end the War of Confederation. The resulting split into different countries of Peru and Bolivia weakened a threat to Chile and Argentina, aimed in large part toward the broad and fertile Central Valley of Chile. The desperation in view in my post Valparaiso Connections VI was in large measure a motivation war, this motivation is still powerful today.
The subsequent prosperity allowed reclamation of the land of Plaza Victoria from the sea. For example, in my post Valparaiso Connections V we learned how French immigrants arrived and developed Central Valley wineries in the 19th century. Around the time of the victory Chacobuco Street was built adjacent to the plaza on reclaimed land, the Plaza Victoria was pulled from the sea.
The concrete Lions and bronze statue captured in the above gallery, were elements of a round of enhancements to Plaza Victoria begun 1870.
Monument to the Heroes of Iquique
Here we see from the Regatta bridge a monument to the Heroes of Iquique. The Battle of Iquique, May 21, 1879, is remembered annually as Naval Glories Day (Dia de las Glorias Navales) .
This monument commemorates the destruction of the Chilean warship Esmeralda. At the monument peak is Arturo Prat Chacón, captain of the Esmeralda who perished with his wooden ship. He and the crew were blockading the then Peruvian port of Iquique along with another ship, the Covadonga.
May 1879 was in the initial phase of the War of the Pacific, fought over rich mineral deposits of the Atacama desert. Today, the Chilean flag is over these barren wastes, seen here flying over a roadside memorial to an automobile accident victim. The desert is the backdrop, there are no animals or plants here, only red dirt. NASA uses the Atacama in simulations of the Martian environment.
There are deposits of the mineral saltpeter, mined by large operations. Here is the entrance of a World Heritate site we visited while docked at Iquique.
The mining operation was literally scraping the deposits lying on the ground and processing it into, among other products, nitrogen fertilizer. At that time the operation was hugely lucrative, employing thousands in very difficult conditions. That is a different story.
Captain Prat faced two armored Peruvian warships, one the iron clad Huáscar. Over the course of four hours the Esmeralda was overpowered and sunk. The Huascar and the 22,500 mountain peak at Yungay, Huascarán, are named for an Inca chief.
The monument honors the bravery of Captain Prat and his crew, all of whom are named on plaques.
After the Huáscar rammed Esmeralda a third time to sink it, the Huáscar captain, Miguel Grau Seminario, rescued Chilean survivors in danger of drowning. In the meantime, the armored Peruvian warship was lured into the shallows and destroyed. Although the blockage on Iquique was lifted Peru lost one of its most powerful ships at the cost to Chile of an older wooden ship.
The defeat and examples of the Esmerelda crew and captain brought a wave of recruits to the Chilean forces. Chile was the victor of the War of the Pacific, vast tracks of the Atacama desert were taken from Bolivia, including the Saltpeter mines, shutting that country off from the Pacific Ocean. There is a connection between these memories and the Training Ship anchored in the harbor, the sixth ship to carry the name, Esmeralda (BE-43).
See my posting Valparaiso Connections V for the more recent history of the Esmeralda.
Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
Ricardo left a blank between the French Memorial Column of the Parque Italia, seen above. He made of mention of Salvadore Allende Plaza. The above photograph includes a graffiti inscribed corner of the set of steps, a platform and the area in front, a plaza, dedicated to the memory of Allende and named “Plaza del Pueblo Salvador Allende Gossens” on the 100th anniversary of his birth, 2008. The structure was not new, it was called “The People’s Plaza”, the name change was pushed through by Alberto Neumann, communist councilor. So the suppression and torture (see “Valparaiso Connections V”) was not successful in wiping out the ideals, such as they are.
The accomplishments of the Allende Presidency are another matter. The Macroeconomic Populism policies he implemented left the economy in tatters. We have only to look at the current state of Venezuela to see the entirely expected results of this economic model: hyperinflation followed by stagflation and implosion. The reactionary military coup of 1973 was, in the essentials, a rational response and a rescue from economic and social disaster until the reaction itself descended into madness.
The following series of photographs are from a neighboring country, Peru, are an illustration of the pressures the political elites of Chile are negotiating. Taken from the road between the port of Mollendo and the city of Arequipa, on a vast, waterless plain.
Migrants from the Titicaca Region formed a cooperative named “Asociacion Las Caymenos Agro Exportadores”. It is the named scrawled on the small cement brick wall.
Desperate people from rural areas migrate to cities, form associations or regional clubs based on a common origin, and grab land as a group.
In this case, it is property useless for the named purpose, “agricultural export.” What they have is a dream. a dream of the government directing water to the area.
Towards this end, individuals of the group mark out plots using rocks and build structures from concrete brick and metal roofing.
This small patch of water is the basis of their desperate hope.
This is a more consolidate group of migrate squatters on the road called “1S” near the turnoff for Lima and a place named La Reparticion.
Dreams for a better life, offset by desperate circumstances bring us back to Valparaiso and the Parque Italia adjacent to Allende Plaza. The park is a small patch of green, some wonderful trees, with statuary and monuments dedicated to people of Italian heritage.
Beyond the sleeper are statues each on a plinth. The second from the right is a bust of Giovanni Battista Pastene, a gift from the city of Genoa dedicated October 12, 1961. Pastene was the first governor of Valparaiso (the region, not the city) in the 16th century. He came to Honduras in his own ship, enter the service of Pizzaro and, as master of the ship Conception, was a maritime explorer.
The Italian refugee collectivity of Valparaiso presented this column, in 1936, surmounted by a bronze sculpture of the Capitoline Wolf feeding the infant founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. It is a copy of an ancient statue kept on Capitoline Hill, Rome, Italy.
The wife of Allende was of Italian heritage, Hortensia Bussi. The Fire Brigade Sesta Compagnia di Pompieri Cristoforo Colombo, operates today from Independence Avenue.
Here we have a gathering of friends, sharing the shade and beverages on this Saturday summer morning.
Trundled along within our bubble, the Mercedes tour bus proceeded up Avenue Montt when Ricardo pointed out this statue for ridicule. A depiction of the Chilean national bird, the Condor, porteños derisively call it “The Chicken,” and in truth the wingspan is undersized. From the vantage of the above photograph, the statue form does capture an impression of soaring among the hills of Valparaiso. Keep in mind, beyond those hills is Aconcagua, the highest mountain of the western hemisphere, home to Condors.
A reason for writing multiple Varparaiso “connection” posts is to better understand the jumbled impressions from that day. In a previous post I coined the term Varparasians for natives of the city. I found in researching this post the residents, as for Buenos Aires, call themselves porteños (people of the port). This cast iron statue speaks to the contributions of French immigrants to the city and nation.
Here the view is south towards (what I believe is) Cerro Florida (Florida Hill). France Avenue continues, beyond the monument, following a steep and winding path up the hills, at the crest intersecting with German Avenue. Adjacent, on the right, is Park Italia where we’ll visit in part VI. Above a cast iron basin, at each corner of the commemorative column base is a female mask, above them a gold band inscribed (from the) “The French of Valparaiso” with 1810 – 1910 to denote the centennial. A condor with outspread wings surmounts the column.
The artist, Nicanor Plaza, born in Santiago, Chile was living in Florence, Italy at the time of this commission. He was a natural choice for the commission. Trained in Chile and Paris, Plaza taught for the Academy of Fine Arts of Santiago. It is of cast iron, produced by the French company Val Osne, an art foundry dating back to 1835. The owner, Jean Pierre Andre Victor, invented a cast iron ornamental technique originally used to produce street furniture.
From 1854 to 1895 immigration from France burgeoned, from a country total of 1,654 to 8,266. This cohort is credited with developing the vineyards of the Central Valley, still famous today. The Chilean president Augusto Pinochet descended on his father’s side from an 18th-century French Breton immigrant from Lamballe and his mother was a descendant from 17th century immigrants, partially Basque. Pinochet’s legacy can only be attributed to himself and the ruling Junta. What is of concern is (1) Pinochet was protected against prosecution throughout his life. (2) The same people who protected him still hold power. A case in point is the Esmeralda, still in service.
I took this photograph at dawn from our stateroom balcony, it is the Esmeralda, a four-masted top sail schooner, from Spain, christened May 12, 1953. From 1973 to 1980 it was a floating torture chamber where up to 100 persons were subjected to hideous treatment by the Pinochet regime. Protests erupt wherever it docks in a foreign port yet it remains in service. A relatively small part of the puzzle, yet it serves as an unacknowledged monument to the failure of Chile’s ruling elite to come to terms with the recent past.
“Valparaiso Connections III” brought us to Pedro Montt Avenue and the building of this imposing façade, Congreso Nacional de Chile (National Congress of Chile). The very fact it is in Valparaiso is a recollection of the former National Congress, disbanded by the ruling Junta on September 13, 1973. During the final years the Pinochet dictatorship chose Valparaiso for the site of a new congress building. The former National Congress building still stands in Santiago, now housing the offices of both houses of congress.
I am fascinated the façade is shared by two founding fathers of Chile, Bernardo O’Higgins and José Miguel Carrera. O’Higgins father never married his mother (in other words, Bernardo was a bastard). Cared for by his mother’s privileged family, he used his mother’s family name until the death of his father. Carrera, was also born of privilege, the acknowledge son of his father who attended the best schools, well positioned to lead the movement for Chilean independence. Benefactors looked after O’Higgins, they sent the seventeen year old to Europe to finish his education.
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In the chaos of war, in spite of ill-health and lack of military training, O’Higgins out performed Carrera as an officer through reckless bravery; surviving, he became an admired military leader through this example and ultimate victories. Carrera resented being overtaken (by a bastard), did not respect O’Higgins leadership and the two feuded. O’Higgins became the first head of the independent Chile while Carrera gathered a force. Exiled in Paraguay, Carrera marched across the intervening wastes battling indigenous forces. Eventually captured by those loyal to O’Higgins, Carrera suffered a mock trial and execution.
All five of Carrera’s legitimate offspring married and prospered, today his descendants number in the hundreds, being the majority of Chile’s ruling class. Today, the followers of Carrera (Carreristas) fight for his recognition against the O’Higginistas, who they despise. The balance is on display on the National Congress façade on Pedro Montt Avenue. The building is next to Plaza O’Higgins.
Measured by acreage, O’Higgins is far ahead of Carrera. The following photograph, from my posting “A Far Country VII: View of Tempanos Fjord” is from within Bernardo O’Higgins National Park, the largest protected land in Chile.
A large lake in Patagonia is named after General Carrera.
Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills
“Valparaiso Connections II” left us with these friendly Valparasians, if such a word can be used to describe residents of the city, chatting on Argentina Avenue.
It was Saturday, the happy occasion of the weekend street fair, kiosks sprouting like mushrooms, thinly attended this early morning.
We did not pause to wander, instead turned up a street known as Pedro Montt, named for a Chilean president of the early 2oth century. Was we turned, monumental street sculpture, rising from the kiosks, caught my eye.
A creation of the great national artist Mario Irarrzabal, it invokes solidarity through the image of four thick copper cables twisted together to form one, the union that can happen to achieve bigger things. Opened in 1995, crafted of iron, wood and copper, after Pinochet passed power to a new democratic constitution and still held office as a Senator, protected from extradition, in the National Congress located just to the west of the monument.
The imagery works on multiple levels. Known as “Copper Cable Monument” or “Copper Column,” the monument also stands for Chilenización del cobre (Chileanization of copper), a movement began during the presidency of General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo. Concluded in the presidency of Salvador Allende, the takeover of foreign owned mines lead to the isolation of Chile and was a component of the support of the USA, via the CIA, for the Pinochet 1973 Chilean coup d’état. Pinochet retained state control of the mines in the face of strong popular support for the huge contribution to state coffers. To this day CODELCO (in English National Copper Corporation of Chile) operates as a corporate entity.
As with our guide, Ricardo (“Valparaiso Departure I”) and the companions at the start of today’s post, Irarrzabal was profoundly affected by the Pinochet dictatorship. Under its influence as well as the sculpture of Easter Island, the artist began work on monumental sculptures. Pam and I visited one on the other side of the South America “cone,” Punta del Este, Uruguay.
Built from Brava beach at the height of the dictatorship, 1982, of concrete, steel rebar, mesh covered with a corrosion resistant coating, the artist title it “Man Emerging to Life.” He was a young man at the time, the work built his reputation and he repeated the theme internationally as well as, in 1992, 1,181 miles away the “Hand of the Desert.” At that time while Chile was emerging from the Pinochet dictatorship the palm as well as fingers are visible. The “cone” of South American, Chile and Argentina, are encompassed by the left hand of the east, a right hand of the west.
Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills
Ricaro’s name tag reads, “Oceania Cruises, your world, your way.” I began my two previous blogs with Ricardo, “Valparaiso Separation” and “Valparaiso Connections I.” There’s a lot to be said for the Oceania tours. Every one lead by a knowledgeable native of the host country, fluent in English, we became familiar, some more than others, with them personally, one non-representative example. As were progressed down the coast from Iquique to Cape Horn we met a cross section of Chileans. Unlike other countries, in Chile we met only unsmiling guards on the streets, no protest rallies.
As the tour bus is about to turn down Varparaiso’s Argentina Avenue, here is a flash forward to an elaborate demonstration tableau in the Plaza de Mayo, the Casa Rosada as a backdrop, rose as in the color of bull’s blood used as pigment. The protest was in support for veterans and causalities of the ill considered 1982 Falklands War. We zoomed by the Parque De La Memoria, dedicated to the 30,000 people “disappeared” by the same military dictatorship of the Falklands War debacle.
Our entry to both Valparaiso and Buenos Aires was a cruise over the secret graves of thousands dropped, alive, into the ocean from military aircraft.
What is most chilling is the silence about this throughout our travels in Chile. No memorials, no protests, silence, only stone faced military guards.
The following is from Basílica y Convento de San Francisco de Lima, beneath which are catacombs piled with disarticulated skeletons buried and cared for in the Catholic tradition .
In Lima’s Plaza de Armas we witnessed this peaceful demonstration by pensioners protesting low payments. To be honest, around this time, in Chile, there were huge demonstrations, hundreds of thousands in Santiago, about the same issue.
The Lima crowd was peaceful.
Watched by a heavy contingent of armed police supported by large “paddy wagons” to cart people away. The vehicle marked “Prodegur” (i.e., prosecution) was one of them. Given the history of government disappearances in the region, how brave the demonstrators must be.
Our vehicle turns onto Argentina Avenue, passing under Spanish Avenue and these supports bruiting the “Patrimony of Humanity” status of Valparaiso.
We’ll start in the parking lot of the Valparaiso Passenger Terminal, introduced in my last posting, “Valparaiso Old and New”. The terminal was our first stop in Valparaiso, it services cruise ship passengers, it was in the parking lot we met Ricardo, a guide and city native. In his late sixties, Ricardo lived through numbing changes: the political turn left and election of Allende, followed by a military coup d’état (called golpe de estado in Spanish) and rise of a military officer, Pinochet, to dictator. From the 70’s through 80’s Pinochet ruled, abolishing the congress in Santiago, enjoying ruthless suppression of opponents with the full support and assistance of the military. In the late 80’s Pinochet allowed a return to democracy, a new constitution with a bi-cameral (two houses) congress in Valparaiso and elected president. Ricardo was quiet about these times, as are most Chileans and we did not press him.
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The bus passed a carved wooden statue of the albatross, near the terminal entrance. A bird of the southern ocean, familiar to mariners for the habit of following ships, this aspect of soaring the a familiar posture.
Here is a specimen in this posture following the Regatta on February 22 as we traversed the Southern Atlantic between the Falkands and Punta del Este. That day, many albatross soared among the 20+ foot waves, the wingtips very close to the water surface.
The day before, February 21, the Regatta approached the southern most point of the western hemisphere, Cape Horn, coming within a mile of the landing point and monument. At the top you can see the steel sculpture of the outline of an albatross set in a stone plinth.
A cropped version of the above image, the albatross outline is easier to see. Also visible, at the cliff base, the landing, stairs, a platform painted as a Chilean flag, the railings leading up to the Albatross Monument.
All of this to emphasize the unique position and reason for being of Valparaiso of the eastern South Pacific, made evident by the recurring motif of an albatross soaring among the waves. This retired anchor, close to the albatross sculpture, on our way to Argentina Avenue and the weekend street fair (to be continued).
Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved