‘Santiago en 100 Palabras’ draws in thousands of entries

Medical student triumphs as over 45,000 Chileans put pen to paper to describe Santiago in no more than 100 words for annual literary competition.

Hundreds of entries for “Santiago en 100 Palabras” have been displayed within the city’s subway stations. Image from Santiago en 100 Palabras Facebook page.
Hundreds of entries for “Santiago en 100 Palabras” have been displayed within the city’s subway stations. Image from Santiago en 100 Palabras Facebook page.

A Chilean medical student came out on top over 45,000 competitors to win “Santiago en 100 Palabras,” or “Santiago in 100 words” — a competition launched in celebration of World Book Day. Each year since 2001 entrants have been asked to submit a story about the city in no more than 100 words in a bid to link citizenship with literature and to promote creative writing and reading. Hundreds of entries are displayed all over the city.
Laura Soto Sánchez’s story “Escafandra (Aqualung)” caught the eye of the judging panel, which was comprised of Chilean authors Álvaro Bisama, Diego Zúñiga, and Carmen García, the Director of Plagio, the company behind the initiative Santiago en 100 Palabras.

Sánchez, 22, who attends the Universidad de Chile describes the title word “escafandra” in her entry, writing, “Do you know what it means? If you sought it in a encyclopaedia you would find a picture of a fantastic animal, perhaps similar to a dragonfly (because a word such as this must have wings).” Sánchez scooped US$1800 in prize money for her short story focusing on Moreno, a man who hears the word “escafandra” by chance on the subway, prompting him to imagine the term in a physical, metaphorical form.

Luis Eduardo Calhueque came in second with his entry “Portal Fernández Concha” referring to a building in Santiago and detailing his emotions about witnessing wasted alcohol.

“When I see half empty glasses of beer on the tables in Portal Fernández Concha, I always think how cowardly to let this happen. How horrible,” writes engineer Calhueque, who was awarded US$900.

33-year-old Alejandra Sepúlveda came in third with her story “El Salmon”, winning a total of US$450. Her story revolves around a man with a skin condition — pink and flaky like a salmon — who creepily sits and watches children.

The competition took off 13 years ago when Plagio invited people to write 100 words best describing Santiago, then presenting the entries in subway stations around the capital, hoping to inject literature into the lives of the public going about their everyday business. However, the organizers were taken aback when more 2,691 stories were submitted. What’s more, as each year passes the contest grows and grows. Now there are a number of sub-categories branching off the main competition including the Children’s Talent Award as well as free writing workshops.

Santiago en 100 Palabras is run in association with World Book Day which took place April 23, to celebrate authors, illustrators, and reading as a whole. As the largest celebration of its kind, the event is supported by UNESCO and takes place in 100 countries worldwide.

Winning entries are available to view on the Santiago en 100 Palabras website.