October: Highs and Lows

October brought with it some of the highest of highs I have had in Chile along with the lowest of lows.

Low: The first week of October, I was recovering from a bad sinus infection. I was going to and from work and school to home and not doing anything else really. I had no energy. I also had no taste buds or a sense of smell, which was no fun. When I went to pay the bill for my appointment with the doctor, the cashier said to me “Hasta luego!” and in my head I was screaming “No! You will not see me later! I will not be coming back here! I will not get sick in my last few months in Chile!!! NO!”

High: In that time, I received a care package from friends back home and that really lifted my spirits. It meant the world to me that my friends were thinking about me and went out of their way to send me snacks and letters.

High: I did some trekking, even when I was sick. My friends and I hiked Alto del Naranjo, but we went on a very cloudy day, so we couldn’t see anything until thirty minutes into our descent.

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Low: I’m not going to go into detail on this public domain of what happened and I no longer want to dwell on it, but I was robbed. When it first happened, I thought it was only money, but the next day when I turned on my camera to put the pictures I had taken the day before on my computer, I realized my memory card-of all things that could be taken-was gone as well. When I realized the money was taken, I was angry, but I understood. I understood why the person who took the money from me did-because they were desperate and they were willing to do anything to get what they needed so they could get out of their present suffering, and I was an easy target. Money is material and as much of a drag it is to have had it stolen, it is only money. My memory card is a different story. I almost feel embarrassed to admit this, but I collapsed to the ground in my room, I felt like I had been personally attacked. My memories from the past four years were all gone. I was so devastated that someone would take that from me, because I couldn’t understand why in the world anyone would take that in particular. Thankfully, I have most of my pictures saved on my computer, though some are permanently gone forever since last semester my iPhoto deleted all of my photos.. The worst part about being robbed was not the event but rather the feelings afterward- I was so angry and filled with bitter. I didn’t feel safe. I wanted to go home.

High: Two days after I was robbed, I went with CAUC (Universidad de La Catolica’s foreigner organization) to Pichilemu, the world’s surf capital, to learn how to surf. My greatest regret is that I didn’t go to Pichilemu earlier during my time in Chile, because I absolutely loved it. The first day there, we put on wetsuits, grabbed boards, learned the basics of surfing and made our way into the water. The Pacific along Chile’s coast is pretty cold so I normally don’t swim in it, but being in the water in Pichilemu made me realize just how much I love spending time in the ocean and how much I missed it.

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After surfing, I went to an asado (barbeque) CAUC had set up, made new friends, hung out with old friends, ate choripan and drank escudo-Chile’s staple beer. A few of the girls wanted to go watch the sunset on the westernmost beach of Pichilemu, and despite the choripan and beer in my system, we all ran to watch the sun set. As mentioned in my last post, San Pedro de Atacama had the most beautiful sunsets, but Pichilemu is a very close second. Its giant waves crashing onto the beach and the reflection of the sunset in the tide as it made its way back out to sea were captivating.

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My friends and I returned to the asado for a bit, and then we all took some time to relax before going out dancing. I’ve never been to a discotheque in a beach town but it was so, so fun. The next day was chill as we went to Punta de Lobos, another beach and I took some time to watch the professional surfers. I am so thankful for my weekend trip to Pichilemu, because I was hurt, angry and full of fear but the sea took care of me.

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The day after I went to the beach, I received news that my close friend Jen had been hit by a car in Madrid where she has been studying abroad for the past few months. She suffered a cranial fracture and was put into a medically induced coma. When I first received the news, I didn’t want to be in Chile anymore. I wanted to be in the comfort of my mom and dad’s presence, I wanted to be with the Marquette community, the Intervarsity community, I wanted to be in Spain holding Jen’s hand cheering on her recovery. I felt stuck and I felt helpless. I knew that the only thing I could do in that moment was pray. I’ve been thinking about how God is mysteriously capable of intervening, how He does not abandon us and how He brings good out of evil by His power and His infinite creativity. I have great faith in the creativity of our God and that He is tenderly embracing my friend Jen. Though I am far, I love seeing how the Marquette community has come together to pray for Jen. It gives me great pride to be from a school where people really do care about others. I am so proud of how wonderfully Jen’s recovery is coming along. God is (always) at work.

High (of this semester in general): I have met incredible people from all over the world and made friends with whom I hope to keep in touch with for the rest of my life. They have been there for me through the highs and lows of October as well as September, August and even now in November.

Here are a few pictures from my incredibly short trip to Chiloe:

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San Pedro de Atacama

A while back, I promised an update. Oops. I’ll do another later this week, but I need to study for finals right now.

In September, I traveled to the world’s driest desert: San Pedro de Atacama. I loved the descent of our flight into Calama, because the mountains changed from rough and rigid to smooth and curvy. As my friends and I loaded into the van from the airport to head to San Pedro, the sun was beginning to set. Twenty minutes into our drive, I looked out the window to my right and the sky was blue, blue green and sea foam green-I have never seen the sky quite like it before! What was even crazier was that I looked out the back window and the sky was pink and purple. I have seen sunsets throughout the different parts of Chile I have visited and the sunset it San Pedro was by far the best (Pichilemu is a close second and Pucón takes third).

My friends and I went on a few different tours, but I would have to say my favorite activity was renting bikes and sand boards and biking through the desert canyons in search of sand dunes. Walking up the dunes was tough, but the view from above was incredible. Plus, sand boarding was wicked cool!

Here are some pictures from the tours that I went on:

Lagos Altiplanicos

Lagos Altiplanicos

We visited Lagos Altiplanicos early in the day and it snowed. I did not expect that to happen in the driest desert on earth.

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Laguna Cejar

Laguna de las Piedras – Like the Dead Sea

We visited the Salar de Atacama, the home to many chilean flamingos. We tried to fit in as best as any gringa can.

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Exploring caves and canyons at Valle de la Luna

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Valle de la Luna

Punta de Lobos

Piedra del Coyote – Valle de la Luna. We ran into pretty much every other person who was staying at our hostel here.

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Geysers del Tatio – Just being Daenerys Targaryen and calling to my dragons

Las Dunas

Las Dunas.

September 11 (1973, 2001 and 2014)

As much as I would love to be dramatic and say that this week has been weird or scary, that would be a lie. As you may or may not know, two days ago, a bomb exploded in Escuela Militar, the metro stop where I work. It is also the stop that is two stops away from my house. The bomb injured fourteen people and since then security around metros has increased dramatically. A few weeks ago, a bomb was found in a Metro in Los Dominicos, which is the metro stop I use when I ride my bike to the metro, which is almost daily. Although a bomb was found there, life continued without a second thought of the situation. Obviously, the circumstances of this second situation have changed the environment of the Metro-of Santiago really. People are scared, tense and bothered.

I have not had a situation in Santiago where I have felt unsafe-but I have to admit I was very uneasy riding the metro yesterday to and from school. Usually during Taco (or rush hour), the metro is hot and you’re squished against an average of three to six other individuals, but this time the Taco-hour Metro was full, but not as it normally is because many have opted to take the micros (Santiago’s bus system) as a precaution. Despite the fear, life continues. People take the Metro; people ride the micros- the busy worker bees continue to work. 

Last night, I was unable to switch metro lines because a suspected bomb had been found at Baquedano. This added a twenty minute walk to my already hour long commute home since I had to walk to a stop for the other line. When I boarded the train, I noticed that everyone in the car looked at me. As I snagged an open space to stand against the back window, I noticed that everyone would stare at anyone who boarded the metro. Although eye contact is common on the Metro, more so than in the United States, all eyes on you when you get on the metro was something I had not experienced. As much as I didn’t like this experience, I was equally comforted by everyone’s unanimous concern for the safety and well-being. 

Thirteen years ago, September 11th shaped the history of every United States citizen and left a print on the world that will not be forgotten. Every US citizen I know can recount where they were, whom they were with and their emotions and reactions when realizing maybe the world isn’t as safe as I thought it was; that day remains crystal clear in our minds.

Forty-one years ago, September 11th shaped the history of every Chilean citizen when in 1973 the military coup removed socialist President Salvador Allende from power. The events of the coup still intensely divide Chilean society, and the anniversary is habitually a time of protests that often turn violent. It’s hard to tell whether the bombs of this week are related, but it makes for a better explanation than… no explanation.

Leading up to September 11th, many Chileans as well as the Spaniards I work for have told me I need to be careful on September 11th. People are unnecessarily violent on this day and so it is best to take it easy and head home early. As I have said, I have never(okay maybe once or twice) felt afraid in Santiago, but this week I was afraid of what could happen. With that said, I have continued about my daily life, because if I were to live my life afraid of the bad things that could happen, it is likely I would miss out on all of the good things that do happen.

Luckily for me, I will only be going into the city once in the morning and then in the afternoon I head to San Pedro de Atacama, the driest desert in the world. It’s been a busy semester, I’m sorry I haven’t updated you all more, but I promise all is well and I promise to post an update soon since I have a lot to share!

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July 19th

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When I first saw Volcano Villarrica, I felt drawn to know it. I will remember standing a little over half way from the top and looking back to see valleys below trailed in snow. I imagine the center of the volcano an immense beating heart with each snow covered valley acting as a vein reaching out to the towns below, inviting villagers and travelers alike to experience and understand the natural wonder that it is.

As much as I would like to believe I made the decision myself to hike the volcano, I looked at those snowy valleys below and felt the volcano had equally been calling me, inviting me to explore. One of the guides, Uber, told the group ‘Dios hizo las montañas, así que podíamos subir y ver su creación’, meaning ‘God made the mountains so that we could climb them and see His creation’. Until you start climbing, your reasoning for doing so is simple: ‘the volcano is immense and I want to get to the top’, because from below you can only see two things: the summit and the unobtrusive rocks scattered on the mountain. Of course as you continue up, these details become bold and you realize the little rock you had called your checkpoint could very well be it’s own mountain.

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When the trek began, we were a group of six with our two guides. By the fourth hour, only my friend Jordan and I and our two guides were left. I have to give some credit to the Brazilian couple and the Australian who tried to climb the volcano because they had little to no experience walking on snow. It was a tough hike but it’s doable and by doable I mean if you can get through switchbacks in the fifth and sixth hour, then you can get through the switchbacks during the seventh hour, which will end at the top. For me, the end of the fourth hour through the fifth hour was the hardest part of the hike. It’s at the fifth hour when your walking on an ice sheet rather than snow. [I would like to pause and praise God for my crampons and my pickaxe because without them I would have been too afraid and unable to climb the volcano.] About half way through the sixth hour, the switchbacks continued and we climbed over a small part of the glacier to meet the strongest wind I have ever felt. Experiencing such strong winds made me feel so alive. In that moment, the summit seemed to be so close I could have run to the top, yet I had to maintain impeccable footing and balance or the wind would most likely have pushed me back down the mountain. I’m not sure why, but unlike the others I talked to, the wind really encouraged me to continue to the top.

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After forty-five more minutes of zigzagging through the ice, we made it to the summit. It smelled of sulfur and every few minutes the volcano would release volcanic gas. It was overwhelming thinking that beneath my feet the earth was alive and could erupt at any given moment. As amazing as exploring the actual crater was, what left me breathless was the 360-degree view surrounding the volcano that allowed my eyes to see out in a radius of 200 kilometers. From where I stood, I could see seven other volcanoes, multiple lakes, and the Andes, which have yet to leave my side in Chile. We took fifteen minutes to explore, take pictures and relax before we started descending the volcano.

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When we got down past the glacier and ice sheet, our guides told us to take our crampons off, and instructed us to put on the waterproof pants and this pant-bib thing. We then hooked a little plastic sled onto the pant bib thing and our guides told us to sled down the volcano. I was so confused and somewhat frightened by this, but then I thought to myself: when am I going to be able to extreme sled like this again? Truthfully, it was the best sledding I have ever done in my life, and it cut about four hours of walking off of our trek and again, it was awesome.

Viva Chile.

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Buenos Aires

For Semana Santa, I went to Buenos Aires with two of my closest friends. We flew out on Wednesday and had five days to get to know the autonomous city.

Our first day was spent exploring parts of the center close to our hostel. We walked down Florida Street while searching for an accessible atm and we were overwhelmed by the amount of people yelling “Cambio! Cambio!” The black market exchange between US dollars and pesos in Buenos Aires is massive and on one block of Florida Street my friends and I passed at least twenty people asking for exchanges. Later that night, we went out for pizza and Malbec at an Italian Restaurant. Afterwards we decided to get ice cream and go sit by the Obelisk since it was only three blocks from our hostel. Before coming to Buenos Aires, I had read about how it was a very dangerous city and how you have to be very careful wherever you are. I felt as though we had been very careful, but up until that point it seemed as though the danger of the city had been exaggerated. I guess I spoke too soon. While at the obelisk talking about life, love, and whatever else, we heard a woman screaming bloody murder. Immediately I turned around and noticed this woman on the ground with a man standing somewhat in front of her and he began to run away with her necklace in his hands. After that, my friends and I were very shaken up and decided to go back to the hostel to sleep. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and thinking, why the heck did I decide to come to a city as dangerous as this one? After that, we were very careful wherever we went and thankfully nothing else bad happened.

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Our second day was spent also exploring the center. We walked to Plaza de Mayo to explore the main square in the center. We went to Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral. The cathedral has a transept with three aisles and chapels on the sides that can be reached through corridors. There is also a mausoleum for General José de San Martín, an Argentine general and the prime leader for the southern part of South America’s struggle for independence from the Spanish. The mausoleum has soldiers guarding it all hours and when I saw them changing shifts, I thought about how much I would hate to have that job. Later we went down to Puerto Madero to see Puente de la Mujer and relax for a while in a park. I was amazed by how windy the city was. It’s almost as though I had forgotten what wind felt like, because rarely is it windy in Santiago.

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On the third day, we met up with one of my friends from high school to explore La Boca. Although it was very touristy, I really enjoyed visiting this neighborhood, walking along the colorful houses on Caminito and catching glimpses of tango artists dancing outside of restaurants. I also loved seeing all of the artwork along the streets. There was one man who was painting the most beautiful landscapes with his mouth! Later that night we went to a tango show at Café Tortoni. On our way to the show, I heard the most beautiful choir singing in Plaza de Mayo. Since it wasn’t so far away, my friends and I took a side route to go see what was happening. Since it was Good Friday, the Passion was being read aloud and acted out. There were hundreds of people on the street listening, watching and walking with Jesus and his cross. I loved seeing this because it reminded me that even in this broken city, there are people who have hope and trust in the Lord. As much as I wanted to stay there, we had reservations for the tango show in a few minutes. My friends and I were sitting at our table when a wonderful Brazilian woman asked if she could sit with us. Her name is Lourdes and she was so much fun. There was a young, attractive waiter waiting on the tables next to ours and she was blunt with him and asked if he could be our waiter because he was handsome. He said now and she started whining and then laughing, at that point our whole table was laughing. Throughout the entire show, she sang and danced to the music and she kept pointed out the most attractive male on stage saying how badly she wanted to dance with him. She even bought a very nice bottle of Malbec wine and shared it with us. It turns out she had been traveling to many different cities for the last month: New York, London, and now Buenos Aires, before heading home to Sao Paolo. It seemed like her adventure had been entertaining and here eyes were filling with tears as she was telling the waiter that she was heading home in three days. I don’t like the idea of being old, but Lourdes made me realize life is what you make of it no matter what your age is. The tango show itself was the most sensual thing I have ever seen, a part of a culture I had not known before, and I loved every minute of it. This night was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.

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On the fourth day, my friends and I walked to Recoleta and explored the cemetery and the fair outside of it. I’ve talked a lot about cemeteries already, but I cannot emphasize enough how diverse and beautiful they are in Latin America. So if you find yourself in a country in Latin America, be sure to visit a cemetery. After visiting Recoleta, we went on a bike tour of Palermo. The tour was very relaxed, and we rode around the subdivisions of Palermo for four hours. Side story: Sometimes I have weird flashbacks of places in the United States that I miss whether it be the familiar drive to get to Woodfield mall, the walk to my cousin’s house, or my daily walk Marquette’s campus. This last week, I had a flashback of the bike ride through Palermo, twice. Buenos Aires is such a great city and I highly recommend you visit it if you have the opportunity.

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On our Easter Sunday, I went to mass at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral with Lucy and then afterwards we went to the San Telmo Market and San Telmo in general to get to know the area better. It was here that I saw more gringos than I did throughout my entire trip in Buenos Aires. In comparison to the markets in Santiago, I felt that Buenos Aires had more authentic things to offer because what was sold was almost always hand crafted, each stand different from the next-with some occasional similarities of course. Later that day we relaxed, and then returned to San Telmo at night for our final dinner in Buenos Aires. We decided to go to La Brigada, because it is argued as the best steak in Buenos Aires. I don’t believe I am qualified to say whether it is indeed the best steak in Buenos Aires since I only had steak twice while I was there, but it was unquestionably the best steak I have ever had.

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Before my trip, I had no idea of how different Buenos Aires would be in comparison to Santiago. In Buenos Aires, I loved seeing the European-style architecture, listening to their distinct dialect of castellano, experiencing the tango culture, and the rich food. It was sad for me to think that Buenos Aires has seen better days. Regardless of that, I would highly recommend visiting this city. One could argue that visiting Europe would be just the same, but in Buenos Aires, I was better able to understand European and Latin American characters coexist and together they create this uniqueness that the one could only know through experience.

Cheers to Semana de Santa in Buenos Aires; an adventure of new friends, Malbec every night, tango dancers, travel companions who made me laugh until I cried, and eating too much dulce de leche. Image

Mafalda and I

Valparaíso

Durante mi exploración de lo racional y lo emocional en Valparaíso, me pregunté, “¿Son nuestras acciones emocional o racional?” En la ciudad, me esforcé por entender mejor las acciones de la gente, centrándome en cómo la lógica y las sensaciones afectan lo que hacemos. Yo tenía muchas preguntas sobre cómo la ciudad se convirtió en lo que ahora es. Por ejemplo, ¿Qué impulsa la gente a pintar sus edificios y casas en colores brillantes y llenar las calles con los trabajos de la pintada? En Valparaíso me di la cuenta que cada pieza de la infraestructura ha sido visto como un lienzo en blanco para llenar de vida y autenticidad que coincida con el de la ciudad. Creo que esta acción de pintar esos ‘lienzos en blancos’  es un resultado de la sensación y lo emocional de la gente. La gente de Valparaíso comprende la importancia de ser autentica y compartir sus sentimientos y lo demuestran en las obras de arte que han cubierto los cerros durante muchos años. Por eso, las obras de arte son huellas de los momentos en Valparaíso. Durante la salida, yo observé lugares abandonados con la evidencia de la vida que una vez estuvo allí. Creo que es muy difícil abandonar algo así porque hay muchos sentimientos entre una persona y su hogar, pero en casos como la destrucción de una casa que resulto de un terremoto, puede ser racional y necesario para abandonarlo.

Hay una conceptualización entre lo racional y lo emocional, y dice que ambos están en conflicto o tensión entre sí, pero este pensamiento es de una manera tradicional. La verdad es que hay una harmonía entre lo racional y lo emocional pero puede llevar toda una vida para entenderlo completamente.

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During my exploration of the rational and the emotional in Valparaíso, I asked myself, “Are our actions emotional or rational?” In the city I forced myself to better understand the actions of its people, focusing on how logic and feelings affect what they do. I also found myself wondering how the city came to be what it now is. For example, what drives the people to paint their homes and buildings in bright colors and fill their streets with artwork and graffiti? In Valparaíso, I realized every piece of infrastructure has been viewed as a blank canvas, eager to be filled with the kind of life and authenticity that reflects the city. The city of Valparaíso is authentic to the core and the people share this in the many different forms street art which cover the forty five hills of Valparaíso. During my time in Valparaiso, I observed many abandoned places. I’ve always been curious about how a home or building becomes abandoned, because I believe it is very difficult to abandon one’s home. A home is a place of memories, attachments and familiarity, and I couldn’t understand what emotional or rational action would prompt someone to leave. What I learned is in some cases it was necessary to leave. In this city many homes were abandoned in the past as the result of an earthquake, which seems like a very rational and reasonable reason to leave. 

In this project, I didn’t want to portray the rational and the emotional as terms of conflict. In my opinion, there is absolute harmony between the rational and the emotional, but it can take an entire lifetime to fully understand this kinship.

 

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Afterlife

One of my favorite things about Latin American culture is visiting the cemeteries. So far, I have been to two cemeteries: Cementerio Curepto and Cementerio General in Santiago. Both times I have been amazed by the amount of life I saw despite the fact that I was in a cemetery. Here, the character of death is colorful- I have seen tombstones in different blues, yellows, and pure whites. The graves are taken care of by tenants who work in the cemeteries and also by the relatives of the deceased. It was uncommon to see a grave without flowers, candles, toys, or notes around it and if that was the case, it usually meant that the family has moved farther away or they too, have passed. Image

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Taken in Cementerio Curepto

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Taken in Cementerio General

In the United States, I never would walk in the cemetery to pass the time. On a large scale, death in the United States is not something to be discussed. I would argue that Americans look at death on a myopic scale until it becomes relevant to the individual, whether that be losing a friend or family member or having a near death experience. In Chile, the cemetery is a communal place. A family could be visiting their deceased loved ones, a couple could be spending the afternoon together, or someone could be enjoying a long run or bike ride. It’s as if there is more faith in death here and in what comes next in the afterlife. Image Image

The Upper Class, Cementerio General

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The Popular Class, Cementerio General

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President Salvador Allende

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Querido Allende // Dear Allende

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Patio 29: 

Patio 29 is known as the burial place of the victims of the 1973 Chilean coup d-état and its military government under Augusto Pinochet. In the 70s, Patio 29 was used for unannounced, unmarked burials. The individuals buried here were victims of mutilation, torture and execution under the Pinochet military government. The graves on the field are lined with rusted iron cross headstones with a date and “NN” for “No Name”. Some of the iron crosses had printed photographs of loved ones who were assumed to have been buried in Patio 29. Los desaparecidos is a term used to describe the individuals who suddenly vanished. The United States doesn’t have a word as profound as los desaparecidos, but the best translation would be “the missing ones” or “the vanished ones”. I could write down my many thoughts about this haunting and peaceful place, but I would rather share the photographs I have taken:

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“Patio 29, recuperación de un espacio público, que nos invita a reflexionar sobre el profundo respeto que debemos tener por la vida y a llenar de sentido el nunca más que todos y todas anhelamos.”