It sits on the top of the Chilean archipelago, that region of the country where much of the mainland seems to crumble into islands. Charles Darwin visited during the summer of 1834, and wrote about it in his diaries. Chilean novelist Isabel Allende used it as the setting for her latest book, Maya’s Notebook. Before he became president, Sebastian Piñera acquired 118,000 thousand hectares of land on the island’s south side and turned it into a nature park ( Now it seems Chiloe Island is going to have a large modern shopping mall, much to the disgust of many architects, historical preservationists and environmental groups.

The island’s unique architectural style has earned many of its buildings a UNESCO designation as World Heritage Sites. The mall is going up near the Iglesia San Francisco, one of Chiloe’s churches which UNESCO says “represents a unique example in Latin America of an outstanding form of ecclesiastical architecture” dating from the time of the Jesuit missions in the 17th and 18th centuries

Here’s the Facebook page campaigning against the mall:

And here’s an article from the Santiago Times on Chiloe’s buildings, food and folklore:

Gringa in Chile

English-speakers won’t get to read it until next year, but Isabel Allende’s latest book, El Cuaderno de Maya, or Maya’s Notebook, was launched last month in Santiago, and this blogger has a signed copy next to her computer.  Maya is a troubled American teenager who seeks refuge from crime and drugs on Chiloe, the largest island in Chile’s southern archipelago.  An excerpt:

“Chiloe has its own voice. Before I never used to take off my headphones, the music was my oxygen, but now I stay alert in order to understand the Chilotes’ convoluted Spanish. Juanito Corrales left my iPod in the same pocket of my backpack where he took it out and we have never mentioned the matter, but the week when he delayed returning it to me I noticed I didn’t miss it as much as I believed I would. Without the iPod I can hear the island’s voice: birds, wind, rain, the crackle of wood, wagon wheels and at times the remote violins of the Caleuche, the ghostly boat that navigates in the mist and is recognized by the music and bone rattle of shipwreck victims who come aboard singing and dancing.”

The author’s bilingual web site: