‘He who does not know the Chilean forests, does not know the planet.’ – Pablo Neruda.
I captured the above poetic image while exploring the wilderness of Torres Del Paine – Chilean Patagonia. These beautiful animals are Guanacos. A Guanaco is a camelid native to South America. It roams its land freely. Guanacos are related to Ilamas but are considered wild species whereas Ilamas can be domesticated. It is very common to see Guanacos in scores and in togetherness.
These images are a few among many. The surreality of this memory makes me look forward to my next South American adventure!
See that cup I’m holding? Inside is what indigenous South Americans call the drink of gods! A few sips and you will experience the stimulus of coffee and the euphoria of chocolate (with tea health benefits!). I remember it had a strange bitter taste but for some reason I kept wanting more. Maybe it was the sacred tradition behind it. Maybe it was the way it was served, and the way it was shared between friends. I remember humility surrounding us. Or maybe it was that particular day in that particular photo when Patagonia’s trademark wind (the strongest you’ll every experience) was dancing around us, romanticising my very first tasting experience. AAnyway, I fell in love.
It’s a traditional drink in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil and it is quite common in parts of Chile and Bolivia. What I didn’t know but do now is that it can also be found in this part of the world – Lebanon and Syria! In abundance too! MATE.
Contents:Mateine (an analog of caffeine), made by an infusion of dried leaves of yerba mate.
Chile impressed me. For numerous reasons (you can Google them), and for very personal ones. Did you know that the Palestinian community in Chile is the largest outside of the Arab world? Up to half a million. How about this – did you know Chilean Palestinians have a professional football club in Santiago founded almost a 100 years ago? Some of you do: the ‘great’ Club Deportivo Palestino! I bet not many of you know this: go to Chile, speak to a Chilean, say you are a Palestinian / Emarati living in Dubai and just watch his or her expression, followed by a pleasant reaction and warm words. I felt incredibly welcomed.
Without exaggeration, almost every person I met there proudly told me he or she knew a Chilean whose parents/grandparents are from Palestine. And most of them continued with this theme: they’re are as Chilean as can be, but with a passion, a subdued nostalgia – that of a Palestinian in exile.
But I am not just writing about Chile and Palestinians. What prompted this introduction is my love for the devoted ‘son’ of Chile. You must all know him. He is an artist whose heart was always consumed by passion. He is a poet of love whose soul was always with the people. He was a lover of everything Chilean from its land, its people, its flora and fauna. He was born in 1904 and died at the age of 69, making him a witness of the most decisive events of his century. He shared the World Peace Prize with Paul Robeson and Pablo Picasso, 1950. He received a Nobel prize in literature, 1971. He wrote volumes and volumes of poetry (naturally leaving us with some not-so-good poetry) but also leaving us with 100s of unforgettable ones.
I visited his home in Santiago. And there I felt his aura and found him everywhere and in everything. He was in all his peculiar furniture (arranged cleverly to entertain many friends), in all his ornaments, his paintings, his books – and of course in his writing sanctuary. All testaments for his love of Chile. Read beyond ‘Tonight I can write’ and ‘I like for you to be still’. Get to know the man behind the poet. You will find a man whose abiding devotion to Chile is fathomless. Pablo Neruda.