Much to the delight of the national residents, Chilean culture is represented and expressed in many ways. Carnivals,concerts, and playsare just a few of the shows and events offered to the public, which is increasingly more receptive to this type of expression, which is confirmed by the success of the La Moneda Palace Cultural Center, in downtown Santiago, just steps from the seat of the Chilean government.
The Center was created during President Ricardo Lagos’s administration and opened its doors in 2006 with the goal of becoming a modern civic center for the residents of Santiago and Chileans in general. And in the four years since it opened, it has done just that.
The Center’s broad range of exhibitions reflects the national heritage and provides access to culture for all the people who come to discover and appreciate their roots and cultivate their minds every day.
It was not easy at first, but with time the large museum has earned its place among the population, and since mid-2008 it has received 1500 people per day. To make the space more comfortable for its visitors, the center has internal divisions that allow it to fulfill its mission in different ways that are related to culture.
The public can choose from among the Exhibition Area itself; the Educational Area, which explores the exhibitions at different educational levels; the National Film Archive, which collects, classifies, restores, and protects the country’s audiovisual heritage; and the Center for the Documentation of the Arts, a detailed archive with all types of printed and audiovisual documents related to the Visual Arts.
The center is also a space for foreign cultures. One of the center’s primary objectives is to provide a window on the cultures of the world, which is appreciated by both Chileans and international visitors alike, most of whom come from Brazil and Europe.
There are few places in the world that can compare with the characteristics of the La Moneda Palace Cultural Center. The closest thing in South America is the Malba Museum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which has imposing architecture, varied programming, and its own collection, but differs from the Chilean center in that the latter is focused on the citizens and the appreciation of the heritage, something that is difficult to find anywhere else on earth.
The quality of the exhibitions is of the highest level. Currently on display is an exhibit of Ancient Chinese Culture that includes information on the legacy of the Qin and Han Dynasties that once ruled the ancient Asian country. The most impressive aspect of the exposition, however, is the monumental sculptural representation of the powerful Terracotta Army ordered by the first emperor of China, Qin Shiguang, who had his craftsmen carve individual figures in honor of each of his soldiers.
The exhibition arrived in Chile on December 4 and was due to close on April 30, but it has been so successful that it has been extended until the end of May. The organizers estimate that 200,000 people have seen the exhibit to date, with an average of 2,000 visitors per day. The entrance fee is $1,000 Chilean pesos for the general public and half price for students and senior citizens.
The center’s past exhibitions include works such as Mexico: from the Body to the Cosmos, composed of 190 priceless pieces on loan from more than 40 Mexican museums and archaeological sites to represent the different cultures that lived in Mesoamerica. Other exhibitions have included Public Works by Nicanor Parra, with previously unseen works by the Chilean anti-poet; Frida & Diego, which included more than 300 pieces by the famous Latin American couple Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera; and Traditional Croatian Art, a selection of objects that reveal the traditional culture of this southeastern European culture.
Cultural Fridays: a great alternative
The center remains open until midnight on Fridays as a way to accommodate those who cannot come during the working week.
These cultural evenings provide the opportunity to visit all of the exhibitions, such as the Visual Works of Violeta Parra, the costumes from the opera Turandot in the Design Gallery, China Boulevard in the Lateral Gallery on level minus-3, and Ancient China and the Terracotta Army, on Friday nights until 12:00. As further encouragement, the center has special offers after 8:30 PM, such as two-for-one for visitors under 24, and those with valid student IDs can enter at 2 for $500 pesos—less than US$1. The Cultural Center’s crafts shops and restaurants, Cívico and Café Torres, also stay open later on Fridays.
The Center also has contacts with schools, which are registered in a data base. Those that visit often receive bonuses, such as reduced prices, etc., to support this alternative form of teaching in the country’s educational facilities.