Sunday, March 04, 2012

The discordy´s mall

(Published in the printed version of ILC NEws Weekly, April 2012)

The mall of the city of Castro, on Chiloe Island, generated an ongoing controversy in the social networks. This bring me back to the my years living in Ancud and Castro, in the seventies, where I spent four amazing years of growth, in my teens.

The photograph that circulated on the Internet is misleading; it seems to be a beautiful town full of nice traditional houses, crushed under a huge mass of concrete that has no relation with the surrounding landscape. Many have cried out in indignation, Twitter has fuelled the fire, as usually happens, with ad-hoc experts in architecture, chilote heritage advocates and arbiters of good taste.

Well, turns out to Castro, I see no local opposition to the mall, and most of those who criticize or have never set foot in the city or just keep memories of a vacation spent in one of the few sunny days that occur in that area.

Chiloe is famous for myths and legends, not just traditional mythology as el trauco, la Pincoya and other fantastic creatures, but chilotes has continued developing an urban mythology, contemporary, much wider and accepted that the traditional mythology.

This mythology has successfully sold the idea of my beloved island as a typical place, with two picturesque towns and hundreds of beautiful villages amid beautiful landscapes where friendliest people in the world live in complete happiness and harmony with nature.

Pure myth: Ancud and Castro are small cities, not beauty nor picturesque, which were destroyed during the big earthquake of the sixties and from time to time there are great fires that burn whole blocks of these tepa-wooden houses. The people reconstruct them as best they can, which result into cityscape that is poor and a bit quirky.

There is a picturesque town that is Chonchi, the people of the three floors. All others are quite poor tiny villages where everyone has done their home as good as they can, as in Ancud and Castro, with the result that there are places that could hardly be described as quaint.

They're beautiful landscapes? Yes, there are many, like a sunset on the bay located on the south of the city of Castro, there is a hostel where you can see wonderful landscape. Or the sight from Fuerte San Antonio in Ancud. Or the sunset in front of the volcanoes in the Bay Quellón: Tronador, Puntiagudo, Corcovado, Melimollo, when the sun sets at about 10 pm in summer.

But the beautiful landscape has its B side, hundreds of acres logged or burned, in one of the few places where it is native forest. and especially the rain 9 or 10 months in a mouse-colored ceiling that throws buckets of water over your head, thunder and lightning, with a howling wind which prevent to keeps your nose out into the street. The smell of wet dog from Ancud still haunts to me.

People are there as elsewhere, good, normal or bad, but they are usually hard as rocks and almost as violent as the nature in which they live. I met amazing people there who where tremendously generous, but I hardly remember one kind or polite. Above all Chilotes are storytellers, fed by legends from their great-grandparents themselves have created the modern legends about the idyllic island customs.

Well, now fell into their own story. When at last a mall is build in Castro, then appeared the defenders of the environment and heritage of humanity, forgetting that the churches are –not the cities- the famous heritage. The city has no unit or urban beauty, in the place where they are building the mall, it probably will be the greatest architectural contribution of the neighbourhood.

I lived in that neighbourhood and we always laughed with my mom for the extravagant design of the houses "do it yourself," I see in the pictures is opposite to the feria, which is a ugly set of sheds.

A mall in Castro will be a great contribution to Chilotes, at least nine of the twelve months of the year it rains and you can not poke your nose or on the street without getting soaked, I have no doubt that the mall will improve the quality of life of people, especially young people who have nothing to do for much of the year. In my day we went to the bar and get drunk every day. Whish they build one one mall in Quellón and Ancud also.

The mall concept was invented to make a kind of square indoor, where one can spend hours without leaving not only shopping but eating, drinking or watching a movie. The idea is specially suited for cities of Chiloé, where most of the year can not do anything outdoors.

The myth of the tourism potential in Chiloé is not consistent with reality, in which much of the year it rains heavy, the idea of the mall seems particularly good where people do not have damn thing to do all day. Planning gurus have said that they would have built on the outskirts of the city "not to destroy the unity of the environment", however most of the people there do not use car, a mall should be at downtown or somewhere where can be reached on foot.

I read today on the plane that crashed travelling from Melinka to Chiloe Island, resulting in death for the pilot Richard Heim and his passengers. I had friends in the seventies who were sailors and risked their life in every trip through the inner gulfs. I left the island some 40 years ago and Chilotes continue creating myths and captains are still die in the channels. People are hard in Chiloé because life is also too hard. Don´t mess with them, if they have no problem with the mall we have no right to interfere.

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