Saturday, October 30, 2010

El Palacio La Moneda

Last week I went to El Palacio de La Moneda.

You should know I didn't take this picture.
I just never took one of the whole building.

La Moneda is where the President of Chile works. So yeah, it's kind of a big deal. The palace takes up an entire block in downtown Santiago. You should know by now, before I tell you what I did there, I will first give you a little history. It's more fun that way.

In Spanish moneda means coin. So as it turns out, La Moneda was originally built to serve as a mint (not the breath freshener, the place where coins are made). Coins were produced in the palace from 1814 until 1929.

Somewhere along the way, a president decided La Moneda would be a pretty nice place to live. This was around 1845. I’m a little fuzzy on the details (read: Wikipedia is a little fuzzy on the details) but sometime around 1950, the presidents stopped living in La Moneda. Now they just work there.

I’m sure many people believe September 11th is only a catastrophic moment in American history. Unfortunately they’re wrong. Twenty-eight years before the planes crashed into the Twin Towers (and the Pentagon and the PA field) Chileans experienced their own 9/11. President Salvador Allende died in La Moneda (cause of death unknown) during a military coup d’état on September 11, 1973. Part of La Moneda was destroyed as bombs fell on the palace.

I don’t mean to get all anti-American here, because that’s definitely not my intention. But just so you all know, Allende was a freely elected Chilean President. And the CIA of the US supported the military coup d’état that resulted in the death of a president and Chile subsequently being under control of a military dictatorship until 1990.

Let’s take a breath, shall we?

Okay. Moving on.

In 1981 La Moneda had been restored. However, some scars from the attack were purposefully left behind.

Here's a memorial for Allende inside La Moneda.
You can see the new brick and the old brick.

The palace has several beautiful courtyards, salons, and patios all of which I got to see on a private, one-on-one, behind the scenes tour. Try doing that at the White House. I doubt you’ll get very far.

My aunt, Tia Patricia, just so happens to work at La Moneda. She even knows the President (who by the way, I am determined to meet, given my connections). So when she offered to show me around I obviously didn’t hesitate.

One of the first places we went was the Patio de los Cañones.

Here is where flags are on display, commemorating the Chilean (and one Bolivian) miners.

Notice the one Bolivian flag on the right.

The note written by Jose Ojeda alerting rescuers

that all 33 miners were safe is also on display.

Inside La Moneda we visited several different salons. I’m sure lots of really important things happen there, but my aunt doesn’t speak English so I’m not really sure what goes on there. While wandering around we went to the kitchen (I’m sure that’s not on the real tour) and the chef gave me a glass of soda. Then we went upstairs to the second floor. After my aunt kindly asked the security guard, we were give the okay to look around a little. You should know the second floor is restricted from the public. It’s good to know the people I know.

Galeria de Los Presidentes on the second floor.
I never said the second floor was exciting.

On our way to the Plaza de la Constitución we stopped in the Presidential Kitchen. We even got to sample meringues. Presidential meringues. (That is definitely not on the real tour.)

Exiting La Moneda I snapped a picture with some guards.

The guy on the left clearly didn't know we were taking a picture.

There was a line of people waiting to take their pictures in front of the capsule that rescued the miners. I’m not one to cut lines. But because I was with my super special aunt we were allowed to go to the front of the line. However, the lady who took my picture in front of the capsule managed to only take a picture of me....without the capsule. (That takes talent.) So here's a picture from the other side.

La Capsula FENIX II

And here's a close up of the capsule.
You can see the oxygen tanks still inside.

After seeing the capsule we made a quick trip to the Presidential Garage. I don’t know if that’s what it’s called. I just made it up. But we got to see the President’s car. I’m not a car person so this part was the least interesting.

Anyway, that about sums up my trip to La Moneda. I think I’m going to go back for the English tour to figure out the significance behind all my pictures.


  1. Wonderful post! The part about 9/11 gave me goosebumps.

  2. You shouldn't have to rush to meet the president- once you are brought to his attention he will stand in line to meet you!!!

    This is great! One stop shopping. I get a blog, a history lesson, and best of all ... pictures of a smiling you!