Our trip to the Mercado Central and the Museum of Bellas Artes was one of the more interesting cultural experiences that I have had in my time in Chile. We started by waking up early on a Saturday morning in order to visit the Mercado Central, which means “Central Market” in Spanish. This market is a special tourist site in the city of Santiago because of its international recognition. In fact, in June 2012, it was named the fifth-best central market in the entire world by National Geographic.
Inside of the Mercado Central are hundreds of small shops owned by local producers. They sell everything from fresh produce and vegetables, different species of fish and other seafood, fresh meat, and candy. The authenticity of this market, in which you can see before your eyes the quality of the products, makes it a very special experience. Furthermore, there are dozens of unique Chilean restaurants that are happily serving the best food in the city to tourists and locals alike. My roommate and I decided to sit down in the market to get a meal. Despite the claustrophobic feeling of eating in such a crowded area and the slightly overpowering smell of raw fish, it may have been the best seafood meal I have ever had in my life!
Outside of the Mercado Central is the famous tower of Monitor Huascar, where one can capture the beautiful view of the Virgin Mary on Cerro San Cristobal from afar. Being able to see this marvelous statue so clearly from a distance just speaks to its immense size and the incredible presence that it has in Santiago.
Finally, we traveled to el Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes or the Chilean National Museum of Fine Artes. This incredible building is famous throughout Chile and in the larger region of South America. It is the oldest museum in all of South America, being founded in 1880, and it is located next to the beautiful Park Forestal of Santiago and is known for its provocative paintings, modern Beaux-arts style architecture, and amazing statues, it was a place I had been dying to visit.
My favorite part of the museum was the amazing art of Andres Gana. Especially in his collection of portraits named Lugares Comun, Gana is known for his preference of depicting through his works the life of the common Chilean. From the looks of his paintings, this essentially entails a lot of portraits that are quite provocative! These include Chilean men fawning over scantily dressed (if dressed at all) Chilean women, old men staring at extremely young ladies, and erotic behavior being performed in movie theaters, restaurants, and all kinds of places! Although taking pictures was not allowed in this portion of the museum, I can tell you that many good laughs were shared within our group during this portion of the trip.
Overall, it was an amazing day of experiencing the true Chilean artistic and culinary culture. Another amazing experience in what has so far been one of the best trips of my life.