Green Autumn

Since our arrival on Saturday, we have been adjusting to our new environment and preparing for the week ahead as visiting researchers. Today was our first venture out into the professional world in Santiago and we were greeted with warmth and enthusiasm along the way. We ended the day with a combined meeting – both Gonzalo’s team from the University of Massachusetts Boston and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile were in the same room, ready to learn from one another. I was eager to engage in a dialogue about the literature I’ve been exploring on Twitter usage during natural disaster first respondents- specifically, the credibility of hashtags used during disaster relief. I have so many ideas. But as the team’s resident amateur gardener, the greatest joy from the day came during our exploration of Cerro Santa Lucia, a hill positioned in the middle of Santiago that provides breathtaking views of the city while also housing some of the most spectacular species of plant life.

Although it is transitioning into otoño in Santiago and the leaves are beginning to turn to yellows and reds, the hill remains a lush green. Around each corner is a new texture I’ve never seen before- creating a variety of shapes and sizes reminiscent of Truffula Trees from Dr. Seuss combined with a bit of Jurassic Park. If you look closely within the plants, you can see dozens of lizards running about, waiting to scare you. And as you ascend the hill, winding cobblestone paths lead you through the living plant museum. If you keep climbing, you eventually make it to the top where an architectural turret awaits you. The hill has two castles- one on the North and one positioned on the South- each with their own cannons. During the Reconquista (1814-1817), the castles were built on the hill to provide military protection to the city. But the hill has an even deeper significance as Pedro de Valdivia originally founded Santiago from the top of Santa Lucia. It truly is the starting point for the city.

Downtown Santiago has grown around the hill, creating a juxtaposition of modern skyscrapers and historical remnants. The hill is populated with tourists, young lovers, and street performers. As you make it to the top, you’ll see finderscopes waiting for your pesos. The camera op is spectacular but because Santiago suffers from significant smog and air pollution, the view is best after a downpour of rain. During our hike today, the smog was rolling in but we still found the scene worth every step. Because the turret at the top of the castle provides a 360 view of the city, ascending the hill presents viewers with a chance to see the true depth of Santiago. With about 7,000,000 habitants, Santiago is one of the largest cities in Latin America, accompanied by Sao Paulo, Lima, Bogota, and Mexico City. The top of Cerro Santa Lucia reminds tourists and locals alike of the millions of people that contribute to the vibrant Chilean culture. And the surplus of botanical textures creates a perfect landscape for reflecting on the beauty of Santiago. I loved every leaf.