By now you must think we spent 5 weeks in Santiago rather than 5 days!
Last thing on the 4th day was a visit to the Museo Historico Nacional which is housed in the Palacio de la Real Audiencia – a Neoclassical style palace built 1804-07, former colonial government headquarters and first Government Palace.
Off the courtyard are galleries covering Chile’s first inhabitants (33,000 years ago in Monte Verde) and showed the diverse native cultures living in the country before the Spaniards arrived as well as then covering the arrival of the Spaniards, the conquest of Chile and the Colonial period 17-18th centuries.
Upstairs you’re greeted by a giant painting by Pedro Lira – The Foundation of Santiago (1888) – before entering a maze of rooms taking you through the 18th Century society, the collapse of the Empire, Independence, and consolidation of the Republic. Displays also cover Chile’s steady economic development like the railways from 1850’s and the nitrates industry from 1860’s and State-promoted Education.
The 20th century galleries cover 1937 – 1973 and begin with the presidency of Arturo Allessandri, go through the consequences of the 1939 earthquake (8.3 magnitude killing 28,000), display an embalmed dog from 1941 and cover Allende’s period in power. The museum ends with the remaining half of Allende’s glasses which were discovered in the rubble of La Moneda after the 1973 coup!!
The Chilean flag – this is the flag that was used to swear the Declaration of Independence 12 February 1818. The flag was protected by various hereditary institutions until it was stolen by the Revolutionary Left Movement in 1980 and only returned in late 2003. We were talking about this when a guide suddenly appeared to tell us the history…. …. the flag is known in Spanish as La Estrella Solitaria (the Lone Star). I don’t remember what he told us about the circle in the middle, which does not appear on the Chilean flag of today, but the star represents progress and honor. The blue square represents the sky & Pacific Ocean, the white strip represents the snow-covered Andes and the red symbolizes the blood spilt fighting for independence.
The guide then escorted us through the rest of the museum. His English was excellent and he did a great job as docent – and was happy to pose after we’d tipped him… This museum had *the* best brochure! Full descriptions of each room with a bit of history as well as photos – especially helpful as we were not supposed to be taking photos ourselves.