The Virgin and the SlumsSantiago, Fall 2009
Santiago, surrounded by the Andes, is full of lesser hills that are popular for afternoon climbs. Cerro San Cristobal is quite crowded on Sundays. The base is full of young families browsing the artisan booths and buying treats like Mote con Huesillos. There are also llamas available to take a photo with for a small fee and mounted police officers patrol the area. The place is often filled with tourist groups as well.
The steep side of the cerro takes 30 minutes to climb and is a bit of a workout. The paved side for cars is a gradual incline that requires about 1 1/2 hours of walking to reach the top. This side of the cerro provides a view of the slums of Santiago and, curiously, the Virgin situated at the top is positioned so that she is turning her back on the slums, and looking out over Santiago proper with open arms.
The summit provides magnificent views of the city and the Andes from various angles, and of course, the layer of smog that is ever-present.
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