A roundup: Chilean food, wine, film and students

The Los Angeles Times has an admiring review of Chilenazo (www.chilenazo.net) , a Chilean restaurant in Canoga Park, with a mouth-watering description of pastel de choclo: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-find-20120202,0,3541039.story.

The Chicago Tribune has an article http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/food/sc-food-0127-wine-chile-20120201,0,2433912.story on Chilean wine by oenologist Bill St. John, who rhapsodizes about the country but chides Chilean winemakers to “tell a better story” about their product:

Whenever I come to you — this was the third time — I always feel as if I am sneaking into a special place, hidden behind a secret panel.

You are the longest and thinnest country on the globe, topped by the fire of the world’s driest desert, your feet in the ice of glaciers and Antarctica. The impenetrable Andes are your eastern spine and your west is wetter than wet, a nearly unbroken expanse across the vast Pacific. You veil yourself so from the rest of the world, tucked away, unique and quiet. You are extraordinary.

I came for your wines, of course, to discover more about them. I had not seen you in 10 years; much had changed — but also much had not.

I will be blunt. Chile, you need to begin to tell a better and fresher story about your wines.

Chilean filmmakers have won not one, but two prizes at the Sundance Film Festival, with “Violeta se fue a los cielos” (Violeta went to Heaven) http://filmguide.sundance.org/film/120056/violeta_went_to_heaven receiving the prize for the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize and “Young &Wild”  awarded with World Cinema Screenwriting Award for drama http://filmguide.sundance.org/film/120026/young_wild.

Finally, Gregory Elacqua, director of the Universidad Diego Portales’ Public Policy Institute  has a good background piece at the Americas Quarterly blog on student protest in Chile and the reasons for the unrest, noting that the government pours a great deal of its education budget into higher education without  demanding much accountability. http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/3261#3287

A Chilean news roundup

“Do Graves of Dictators Really Become Shrines?” is the title of a report in Foreign Policy http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/25/do_graves_of_controversial_leaders_really_become_shrines?page=0,9 surveying the funerals of over a dozen autocratic leaders, including General Augusto Pinochet.  The “tour of contentious burials from Qaddafi to Hitler” observes that Pinochet’s ashes were hidden away at a family estate, Los Boldos, located on the Chilean coast. Not only is there no public memorial to Pinochet anywhere in the country, but Los Boldos itself has fallen upon hard times and earlier this year police discovered a small marijuana plantation on the property, according to The Guardian newspaper. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/07/chile-pinochet

The Economist has yet another good article on Chile’s student protests and the stalled negotiations with the government: http://www.economist.com/node/21534785

The website Earthquake Report is posting updates on the Hudson volcano explosion in southern Chile, where at least 128 people have been evacuated: http://earthquake-report.com/2011/10/27/chilean-authorities-are-raising-hudson-volcano-cerro-hudson-to-red-alert-after-minor-eruption/

The Discovery Channel’s Spanish-language affiliate has produced a program on neo-Nazi groups in Chile as part of its “Mundos Extremos” series, which is scheduled to air December 7.  According to the channel’s web site, there are numerous youth groups in Santiago “which live under xenophobic and violent rules and chauvinistic dogmas” and find inspiration in Hitler’s national socialism. http://www.tudiscovery.com/web/mundos-extremos/episodios/

The Santiago Times published a report on emergency bioterrorism drills underway in Chile,  under the auspices of Organization of American States (OAS) http://www.santiagotimes.cl/chile/science-technology/22781-chile-hosts-oas-first-mock-bioterrorism-attack.  Chile was selected for the exercise in view of the amount of air traffic Santiago’s Arturo Merino Benitez airport receives, making the capital “highly susceptible to airborne contagions.”


Unequal schooling

It was five years ago that Chilean secondary students launched a protest movement that mobilized schools up and down the country and as far away as Easter Island.  The students wanted more equitable funding for elementary and secondary school education; the government of Michelle Bachelet made a few concessions but no deep reforms were made, even as the protest movement seemed to die out. (Bachelet did expand nursery school coverage, from 12 to 38 percent, during her four years in office).

This month the student protests returned with a vengeance, with additional demands for a more affordable higher education system. Over the past three decades private universities—of varying quality—have multiplied in Chile and the country now has an estimated 25 public and around 50 private universities. The number of university students has increased from 150,000 students in 1981 to 1.1 million today and two Chilean universities—the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile and the Universidad de Chile—rank among the top ten higher education institutions in Latin America.The Chilean educational picture might not look too bad when compared with that of other Latin American countries, but Chile now belongs to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and sets a far higher bar for itself.  It has the worst income inequality of any OECD member country and the organization also notes corresponding high levels of mistrust among Chileans. Only 13% of Chileans express high trust in their fellow citizens, much less than the OECD average of 59%. The education system is not providing much social mobility, it seems.

The OECD report notes improvements on Chilean students’ scores on standardized tests, but that outcomes “still need to catch up with OECD standards and equity problems should be addressed.”To read the full report: http://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments/displaydocumentpdf?cote=eco/wkp(2010)40&doclanguage=en

A good background piece on Chilean education was published a few months ago in the Chilean-American Chamber of Commerce magazine: http://www.businesschile.cl/en/news/education/back-reform-school