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Note on the First World Status of Chile

Is Chile a First World country? During the Cold War Era, the term “First World” referred to the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Western Europe, which were industrialized and had a large and growing middle class. The “Second World” referred to communist countries, especially in Eastern Europe, but by extension also in Asia, and even Cuba, perhaps. The “Third World” was basically everywhere else, mostly poor and/or oppressive countries run by a few wealthy families in Africa, southern Asia, Latin America and most Pacific and Caribbean island nations.

Note that in the compounds where the rich live within the Third World, the environment may look like the First World for a few blocks or even several square kilometers. Such is the case in cities within countries like India, Brazil, South Africa, Bolivia, Peru, Panama, Malasia and Thailand. Nevertheless, the limited existence of a high standard of living for those fortunate 1% or 2% of the population does not elevate the country out of its Third World status.

Since the end of the Cold War, the world’s political landscape has changed, and such terminology has fallen out of favor. But I still like using it. Hence, in my writings, I have chosen to hijack the term Second World and redefine it as something in between First World and Third World. The concept was accordingly morphed to refer to those countries that have a lot of urban blight and old or ugly buildings and infrastructure, but also have a significant and growing middle class with some disposable income. As a result, in countries meeting those criteria, there is very little hunger, nearly everyone has shoes, as well as access to technology (e.g., cell phone), education and basic medical services.

An online search for the term First World reveals that the word technically means, “the highly developed industrialized nations often considered the westernized countries of the world.” Beyond this definition, however, Wikipedia actually has a pretty good, embellished meaning that better relates to the modern-day scenario: “the definition has instead largely shifted to any country with little political risk and a well functioning democracy, rule of law, capitalist economy, economic stability and high standard of living. Various ways in which modern First World countries are often determined include GDP, GNP, literacy rates and the Human Development Index.” Obviously, this definition precludes the inclusion of countries like Cuba, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Belarus, etc. However, it also allows for the inclusion of countries like Chile, Israel, South Korea, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, all of which have large and growing middle classes, and possibly even opens the door to soon let in places like New Caledonia, Mauritius, Bahamas, Namibia, Turkey, Mexico and South Africa.

Building on that paradigm, in my book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, I argue that Chile is (by many standards) a First World country, especially in its central part, which includes Santiago and Viña del Mar-Concón. That rationale does not mean that Chile offers the same standard of living as Japan, Hong Kong, Western Europe, Canada, Australia or the United States. However, Chile does share some common features with them, a fact that is reflected by Chile being the only Latin American country to have qualified for the USA’s “visa-waiver program” and that it is no longer eligible for World Bank or IMF aid (like its neighbors). Chile’s standard of living and quality of life continues to rise, too, along with its amenities and infrastructure quality. Indeed, Chile has great, private inter-urban highways and the strongest, most earthquake-resistant, buildings in the world. Both things are hearty pluses for the country.

The case for Chile’s “first-worldliness” is underscored by its inclusion among the ranks of the formidable 35 OECD countries of the world. The OECD website states,

Today, our 35 Member countries span the globe, from North and South America to Europe and Asia-Pacific. They include many of the world’s most advanced countries but also emerging countries like Mexico, Chile and Turkey.

Excluding small island countries and minor, rich, enclave countries in Europe (e.g., Monaco, San Marino, Andorra), the OECD list basically includes the wealthiest 20% of all countries in the world, in terms of economic, political, social and legal development. Not surprisingly, Chile is ranked 30th in terms of GDP, and enjoys the company of Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Portugal, Greece and Estonia just ahead of it, and Poland, Hungary, Turkey and Mexico just behind it. All of those countries, excepting perhaps the last two, are widely considered to be First World countries. Why then should Chile not be?

Chile is certainly not the Third World but, admittedly, most of it would certainly fall into the Second World category if it were carved up. Nevertheless, judging from my travels to OECD and other countries, Northeastern Santiago, Viña del Mar-Concón, Pucón, Zapallar and Puerto Varas would all qualify as First World areas of Chile, with parts of the Concepción and La Serena metro areas making a run for it. That means that the majority of Chileans live in or next to First World environs. By extension, I think it is not unreasonable to place Chile marginally into the First World category.

Stating this fact does not mean that Chile’s standard of living is like that found in countries with much higher GDPs, like the United States, France, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, etc. All First World countries are not equal. One need only to compare most of Italy, Greece and Portugal with the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Austria to see that reality born out. The same is true with the United States, Australia and Canada, which have vast internal, socio-economic differences: bustling and beautiful major city centers surrounded by pockets of degraded neighborhoods or slums, and many shanties, mobile home parks or rural areas that can only honestly qualify as Second World sectors within First World boundaries.

Not all Americans, for instance, live in Manhattan, Michigan Avenue (Chicago), Boca Raton, Santa Barbara or Beverly Hills and make six- or seven-figure incomes. The great majority of Americans live in small towns, rust-belt, run-down inner-city slums (e.g., Watts, south Chicago, Detroit) and rural areas, mostly in the South or Southwest, where many earn less than a couple thousand dollars per month. American poverty is common and often abysmal in the aforementioned places. Over 20% of Americans receive welfare, not counting Social Security recipients.

The same thing happens in Italy, where large earners live in Turin, Milan and Rome, but myriad small towns and rural areas are chock full of families squeaking by on under 1,500 Euros per month. Such widespread income disparities or pockets of poverty do not disqualify America or Italy from being considered First World countries. The average or per capita measure is used to rank them. The same logic applies to Chile.

Chile is First World, but situated in a lower rung of the group. That fact is not in dispute. Accordingly, newcomers will have to make some adjustments. One newcomer recently remarked to me, “Bottom line–we will have to adjust to the lower standard of living or leave. That’s all there is to it.” Actually, he will learn over time that the upper middle class in Chile actually lives at a higher standard of living in Chile than in the USA or Europe. Here people from that class can afford household servants, private schools for their kids, better-quality vehicles, beach/lakeside second homes, country club memberships and specialized medical care that can only be afforded by the upper class up yonder.

Newcomers simply need to be patient and learn to break into this rung. They cannot see soon after arrival what the benefits will be, but they should ask themselves: “Why is it that the upper classes here do not try to live in North America or Western Europe, even when a great number of them hold American, Canadian and especially EU passports from Italy, Germany, Sweden or Spain, as well as their Chilean ones? It is at least in part because their standard of living and quality of life is higher in Chile than it would otherwise be up yonder. They have goods and services here that they could not dream of up there. That is why so many expats that come to Chile under contract with mining or agricultural firms try to stay on in country after their contract ends.

Anyone who claims that comunas like Las Condes, Vitacura and Reñaca-Concon are not First World has obviously not traveled much, even to non-glamorous parts of the USA or Europe. As an OECD country, Chile is classified among the world’s wealthiest nations, and noticeably more so every year. I see it more now compared to when I first arrived in 1996. If Chile continues to grow the same for the next two decades, it will surpass many other countries on the OECD list. Still, the USA is presently a richer country than Chile; no one is denying that fact. But how many wars, central bank disasters, EMPs, nukes, plagues, etc. is the USA away from facing more widespread poverty? Chile is mercifully free from those threats.

Indeed, Chile has already exceeded most other OECD countries in some things. It has far better internet connection infrastructure than any other country I have been to, including the USA, Spain, Germany, New Zealand and Italy. After ousting the communists in 1973, Chile installed fiber optics everywhere. Other countries are still catching up. Chile also has, hands down, the best and strongest buildings in the world. Indeed, building quality (excluding the finish work) is much better in Chile than in the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Western Europe. Neither of those credentials are unimportant. In addition, Chile has some of the most modern mining and port facilities in the world. The only place in the Western Hemisphere with superior medical care to the top Santiago “clinics” are the top places in the USA and maybe the Einstein system in Sao Paulo. The same may be said of some spots in the UK and Germany, and perhaps France and Japan, too. That fact is huge. One never knows when he will need good medical care.

Cell phone service in Chile is as good as in Europe and better than in the USA. It is top-notch in Chile. The intercity highways are on par with the richest OECD countries, too. People rightly complain about the poor quality of city streets in Viña del Mar, and rightly so, but their condition does not make Chile less than First World. Bigger First World cities like Naples, Italy have roads that are at least as bad. Supermarkets and super centers or malls are at least as modern in Santiago and Viña del Mar as I have seen in the USA and Western Europe. Santiago has a modern, fast and convenient international airport. These are just a few important indicators. If I were to spend a few hours pondering, I could come up with other things. Chile also copies some of the best things found in other OECD countries, such as magnetic, inclined moving walkways that grab onto the shopping cart’s wheels, and a system of red/green lights over parking lot stalls in larger garages that let drivers know if there are open stalls available in any given row.

Some newcomers complain about air conditioning and heating systems. While air conditioning is largely unnecessary in almost any part of Chile, with the possible exception of west-facing apartments in Santiago, heating is needed in most places. Most modern buildings have central heating but some do not, since locals prefer to use cheaper floor heater units instead. Nonetheless, even in this preference, Chile is not different than many other OECD countries.I have lived in Chile the better part of 22 years and have never needed or wanted air conditioning in either northeastern Santiago or Viña del Mar. Ditto for ceiling fans. If either were needed, Chileans could easily import them.

The Santiago summer heat is possible to beat by just opening the windows in the morning and closing them in the afternoon. (The maids are used to coordinating this effort.) The only apartments that one will see with air conditioning units are directly west-facing ones, which always sell for less on account of this feature. Some apartments are designed without central heating since it is expensive and many people prefer to save the additional cost for central heating and simply bring their own US$250 Toyotomi (Japanese, kerosene) or other portable heater. However, that fact does not mean that apartments in Santiago are without heat. doing without heat is a choice people make. Indeed, I have central heat where I live in Viña del Mar. So, one can get it.

A newcomer once complained, “Outside of Northeast Santiago  there are shanty towns everywhere. Toilets don’t work right (don’t flush the paper). There is no toilet paper in public bathrooms, every house has to have its own dungeon-like security setup. There are homeless dogs everywhere. That’s my definition of Second World.” While some of these aspects admittedly discredit claims to Chile’s first-worldliness, they generally do not. Remember that relatively few OECD countries a perfect in every category of modernity, anti-theft measures, infrastructure, wealth and overall prosperity. Protective gates and fences, for instance, are also commonplace in First World Europe.

He also complained about oppressive relative costs for tolls, energy and other items, generated by taxes or monopolies in Chile. That idea is certainly true when it comes to gasoline and certain regulated monopolies, including notaries, real property recorders, along with electricity, water and natural gas providers. However, any observable relatively higher cost of certain goods and services, whether due to being taxed by government or corporate “tyranny” (even if such a thing did exist in a market economy), has nothing to do with whether a country is First World. Spend a little time in Western Europe, Japan, Singapore or Hong Kong and you will see very relative high prices for things and yet still those places are still very First World. Newcomers that state that high relative prices are part-and-parcel of the Second World are  non-economists using economics jargon in a nonsensical way.

Let me comment further on some of the claims of this newcomer. First, there are shanty towns in Chile, but they are no worse than those found in the rat/drug-infested Bronx, inner-city Detroit, Oil City, Pennsylvania, the miles of slums along the West Virginia/Kentucky border, “rust belt” slums, shanties in many parts along the Mississippi River or in many Arizona/New Mexico Indian villages. Ditto for many places in Europe, especially Portugal, Greece and Italy. Being “First World” does not mean the near absence of shanties, but it does imply far fewer of them over time. What Chile bears is nothing compared to what countries do in the Third World, like Bolivia and Brazil and, other than external appearance, generate not much worse living conditions than the non-seismic-safe, centuries-old edifices in poorer areas of Italy, Portugal and Greece.

Second, homeless dogs are definitely a point against Chilean first-worldliness, although Chileans think that euthanizing them in the other First World counties shows then to be in fact brutal regimes; ditto for abortion other than “in a few exceptional cases.” Third, people steal the toilet paper and that frequent situation is why one must “carry his own” unless he uses a pay restroom (better). Doing so is a total hassle but the absence of toilet paper has nothing to do with whether a country is First World. All public restrooms in pubic places in Europe are paid, too. Note that not being able to flush toilet paper due to inadequate sewer infrastructure (not the toilets themselves) does certainly indicate something less than First World, but it is the only thing on his list that is clearly so. Let’s hope the situation in Chile improves. Until then, we must grin and bear it.

I have done what I can to help my reader understand what to expect in terms of standard of living in Chile. What I said about costs and infrastructure is accurate. I pull no punches with regard to Chile and I have the relevant university degrees and extensive travel experience to back up what I am saying. When Chile needs to be slammed I do so, but I am not going to level untrue or unfounded claims at it based on incorrect definitions of things like “First World” or judgments about the features of the OECD group of countries. Chile has its problems but so does every country.

For newcomers reading this article, I suggest that you just be glad you are in a safe place in the Southern Hemisphere and learn to make the best of it instead of complaining a lot or throwing out sweeping, unsubstantiated claims. You did, after all, choose to come to Chile because you felt considerable uneasiness about living in the old country. As bad as Chile might be, it is probably still much better than a FEMA camp or a false-flag zone, no?

Prewar Germany, England and France were jewels, too. A lot of it soon became rubble, with all the associated carnage among their previously-thriving populations. Do you really think that the same thing cannot happen again in Western Europe or in North America? If you think that the risks of staying in the old country are too high, and have come to Chile to “escape,” then I suggest that you learn to be an optimist and adopt a positive outlook. No one likes to be making a go at something new and difficult, and to be frequently bombarded by whining and nagging people, reminiscing about how things were better in the old country. Chile is going to be what we make it.

I do not worry about being in my Chilean building if and when there is an 8+ Richter Scale earthquake. However, I would be very worried if I were in California or Italy by the prospect of such a large earthquake (and yet they are still First World places, too, no?). My food quality in Chile is better than in other First World places (and yet they are still First World, too, no?).

There are other things that I enjoy in Chile. I get to have an ocean view and can grow organic blueberries in my backyard. I have lots of avocados coming on the tree now, too. I have a gardener that tends to things. My view makes me smile every day. My internet almost always flies (over 170mpbs download and 8mbps upload). I have far more here than I ever had in the land of the free or Italy. I am content with what God has provided and hope to make more improvements. Can you say the same where you live?

Friendly last word to newcomers: Try not to focus on negative things. It does not help to do so. We know they are here in Chile. But there are a lot of positive things, too, right? Do you fear jack-booted thugs breaking down your door by accident one night and shooting you? How about a “terrorist” bombing/shooting/stabbing/vehicular homicide? Or a family court stealing all your assets and filching your children? Is there any concern that the feds might steal your retirement savings? Will the EPA or FCC use you like a guinea pig? Is there a chance that you will be fired for not being politically correct enough at work? How about chem-trails, GMO foods, possible radiation? While, I am not sure about the true extent of any of those threats, I am confident that I do not face them here. It seems to me that all of us in Chile have a lot more to be thankful for than many are willing to admit. I hope you will agree and put on a positive attitude moving forward in our adopted First World country.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country. Non-wealthy immigrants to Chile should also create a portable income by signing up to be a 51Talk online English teacher. Read more details about the job in my previous post on the subject.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2017 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, Fourth Edition, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $129.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged 2015 book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights (somewhat outdated) found in the larger book. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Construction Quality in Chilean Cities

By now, most thinking people know that Chileans build the safest buildings in the world, at least in terms of earthquake protection. In the last seven years, populated areas of Chile have been struck by three large earthquakes (Richter Scale 8.2 Iquique, 8.3 Illapel and 8.8 Cauquenes). The damage done to postwar structures and highways was remarkably insignificant. And the damage that did occur was quickly repaired. Most people went to work or carried on with life as normal the next day.

Why is Chile so much more resilient to earthquakes than New Zealand or Italy, or even California or Japan? The answer lies in the fact that during the “framing” stage, the base of Chilean homes (if not the home entirely) and all office and apartment towers is made of 10-inch thick (or more) poured, reinforced concrete. Welded beams or metal framing studs are used on higher floors in homes sometimes, but the base is always sturdy. And many upscale homes feature poured, reinforced concrete on all floors.

In my project in Viña del Mar, like others in hilly coastal Chile, I carved out the hillside and embedded the building into it, making the structure even sturdier. Partially completed, it was unaffected during the 2015 8.3 Richter Scale earthquake.

People used to criticize Chile’s “wasteful” building procedures at the framing stage, which features so many costly restraining walls, deep-base concrete forms and poured reinforced walls. However, after the last decade’s earthquake experience here (and around the world), no one is hurling criticisms any longer. Chileans have done the rough-in stage right, ever since as many as 30,000 people died in the January 24, 1939 Chillan earthquake (7.8 Richter Scale), inland from Concepcion, wherein 47% of all Chillan’s structures were destroyed. That event made Chileans very safety-conscious. Consequently, one can feel quite safe during earthquakes in Chile, especially in modern urban areas.

Finish work is another story, however. I am not just referring to the overall high-level of defects permitted in the finish-out (at least by North American or European standards), which seems to predominate all Latin American buildings. Part of that imperfection is due to not having proper tools, laziness or workers just not having a culture of quality, given that workers tend to live in squalor and do not see the need for (or desire to have) nice-looking, perfect finish work.

Instead, I would like to emphasize that Chileans (especially in the middle classes) value image over true quality. They will buy kitchens that look nice for a few years but end up deteriorating rapidly as the particle board gives way. Cabinets, doors, “wood” floors and furniture are built with cheap wood products and then laminated with hardwood veneers. Laminated doors tend to be hollow. Floors are vinyl or wood veneer laminated. Imitation marble or granite are used if something other than Formica is used at all. Bathroom fixtures and accessories are almost always on the low-end of the scale. Stucco is preferred over brick or more elegant siding. Roofing is often cheap, local tile that frequently leaks. Windows tend to be the cheapest aluminum variety one can find in home building supercenters. Yards and gardens in houses and smaller buildings tend to be pathetic as if Chileans do not care or simply ran out of money to fix them up.

All is made to look good for a little while but is not built to last. Just about the only exceptions are building/home facades and apartment building foyers and lawns, which are elegant all the way around in upscale neighborhoods. They grant an air of affluence to those that stop by to visit, making them think more highly of the residents. That vanity is highly sought after in Chile.

One might think about buying a home or apartment with mediocre finish work, then gut it and put in high-quality stuff. Doing so is fine for those that plan to live there a long time and enjoy the amenities. However, being the best in the building or on the block will not necessarily translate into obtaining a greater resale value. One will not likely get his money out of the remodeled home. However, those that do remodel will enjoy both living with elegance and safety during fires or earthquakes.

Most people that I speak to that have lived outside of Chile, in Europe or North America especially, are simply appalled by mediocre finish work in supposedly upscale homes and apartments. However, my readers should not be surprised. Chileans like to buy cheap and they almost universally buy for image rather than quality. After the barrio quality, Chileans buy for proximity to private schools and being adjacent to neighbors in their social class. Ocean or mountain views come afterward in order of importance.

If you want something different than what is offered to the masses in the middle class, you will have to buy through one of the few quality builders around (like me!) or have a custom-built home done for you with the support of a good, expensive architect.

Quality materials are available here and, other than bathroom and kitchen fixtures, they are not terribly expensive relative to other countries. Custom cabinet and door makers exist, too, but the quality is not quite the same (even though it is very good). In sum, you can get what you want, but it will hardly be the norm by upper middle-class standards. Homes for the wealthy are another story, although even their mansions pale by comparison to the fabulous structures in the Northern Hemisphere.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Chilean Architects

Some Chilean professionals have a lot of power – too much power in fact. Architects fall into that group.

You might ask, “In what sense does an architect have power?” Well, he has a lot if you hire him to build a home for you or for your construction company. He gets to make calls that affect your business and life, whether you like it or not. And it is almost impossible, or at least very time- and cost-prohibitive to do so.

Architects in Chile are more like applied artists with a tinge of desk jockey mentality. They do very little math—indeed math and engineering are hardly required in their university studies—compared to the calculistas (civil engineers) that Chilean architects hire to do certain jobs at your site. Those specialists usually do a good job, as do most architects. Chile has the most earthquake-proof buildings in the world, after all.

They also manage the proyectistas de especialidades, people that specialize in water, sewer, gas, and electrical hookups. They do end up having to manage their own in-house draftsmen, secretaries and errand runners, along with the many subcontractors they hire out for services at jobsites. They also should keep up on new materials and products.

Americans in Chile will detect a lot more general contractor in the job than architect, and that is about right. Remember, cultures are different, and so are their practices. In the United States, architects are highly-trained civil engineers with an art flair; In Chile, they are art and public administration double majors with a wannabe squirt of physics and math added for good measure.

The reason that Architects are so powerful is that they control the entire building process, including the almighty government approvals. The local municipality will not allow just anyone to submit plans and deal with bureaucratic regulation. Architects must do it. And at times architects can turn into outright extortionists.

In the beginning, meetings with your new architect will be pleasant, cordial, professional and sane. Contracts will be signed and everyone will be happy. But time might erode those good feelings as everyone goes through the ups and downs of the building process, which can often take eighteen to thirty months in Chile.

Just before you finish the project and you are ready for your architect to ask for inspection and the recepción municipal, the final bureaucratic hurdle, the architect can demand more money. If you do not pay him then you will not get your building or home approved and your beautiful new property will remain considered as a vacant lot under Chilean legislation. Of course, his actions will not look like a total shaft or shakedown. He will make up some reason why you still owe him for legitimate expenses, costs or professional fees that were not in the contract or were ambiguous.

Of course, you will be mad about these doleful circumstances, wrought because the Chilean government grants too much power to professionals in general, and architects in particular. You will scour the contract you signed two years ago, and find that you have paid your architect in full—or at least all that you are required to pay at that point. You will find that the architect might have even left some contractually promised services undone, and has no intention of doing them. Hence, you will call a lawyer and have a serious chat with him. The lawyer will review the contract and payments made and tell you that you are probably right and would even win most points in a lawsuit. But he advises you to pay up anyway, just like you would pay off a crooked bureaucrat as a matter of “just being part of the way business is done.”

Why would you succumb to the extortion? Because the architect knows that up to certain amounts, say US$5,000 or US$10,000, it is not worth fighting him in court. The architect will go to court “all day” since he has already received 90% of his pay. He will lose some reputation points by being sued, and you will never hire him again, but so what? That course is the way that the majority of Chileans act, playing what economists term a “one shot game” (like the auto mechanic does that rips off tourists he will never see again when their car breaks down).

You on the other hand, stand to lose your entire investment if you cannot sell it given that, legally, all you have is a vacant lot. It will take years in the courts to win a judgment and might cost just as much as the “bribe.” Plus, you will lose sales revenue and tie up your capital by sticking with your unsaleable property. You can still live in the place you build—even if it is not “received” by the municipality. But you cannot sell it. So, your lawyer advises you to just pay. You call it extortion. The architect calls it good business. The lawyer calls it sad, but logical and efficient given the “rules of the game” set up by the government.

Not all Chilean architects are extortionists (i.e., those that practice chantaje). However, you cannot know for certain from the outset that your architect will be honest and honorable. The best strategy you can take is (1) use a lawyer to draw up the contract with the architect (worth the cost) and (2) set aside US$10,000 (in a savings account) and plan on having to pay it out to the architect–above and beyond the US$15,000 to US$30,000 or more that you will have to pay him. That way, by planning to pay it out some day, losing it will be a lesser shock and not hurt or irritate you as much.

One strategy you can try in order to avoid being extorted is to contractually hold back 25% or 30% of his fee until after he delivers the municipal approval to you. Since doing so will cut his extortionist feet out from under him, he will not likely agree to it. I also recommend that you hire an architect that has money, even if he costs more. If you go with the cheaper professional, there will be nothing to get from him in terms of damages should you end up suing him.

Another possible strategy is to hire two architects and pay the second one to piggyback on the first one, so that he can step in if the first one fails or starts extorting you. However, the cost of the piggyback architect’s services might be as much as the payoff required, so you might gain little other than the pleasure of smashing the extortionist.

Think about it. You are “not in Kansas anymore.” Beware of local practices and how to deal with them.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Planned and Actual Improvements to Chile’s Southern Highway

One of the biggest infrastructure problems in Chile has been reaching isolated towns in the deep south. Now that Douglass Tompkins is dead and his lands are passing to the Chilean government, it will be more feasible to put a highway through from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales.

There are already stretches of paved road along the trajectory, but there are far more stretches that still have gravel and far more that are not built at all. There are so many islands and impediments due to the massive ice and glacial presence along the way that construction will be formidable. Many bridges will be needed and it looks as if, at least under the current proposal, ferries will not be eliminated. Some places along the long route, Ruta 7, will still need to have them.

 El Mercurio pagina C7 14 feb 2016 Careterra Austral

According to an article in El Mercurio, Sunday, February 14, 2016 (page C7), the total route length will be 1,170 kilometers and will feature 269 bridges, connecting 120,000 Chileans in the southern 10th Region and 11th Region to the rest of the country. These people often live without dentists and regular medical care, not to mention most of the comforts of life commonplace in Santiago and Viña del Mar, as well as Concepción and La Serena.

Electricity is not a given, nor is a variety of food and shelter. I consider many of them to be true pioneers living on the frontier, with many self-sufficiency skills. Other than tourism and some fishing or forestry, there are few industry, farming or employment possibilities in much of this vast stretch of land.

Life is cheap, and simple, other than when one has to buy shipped-in goods. For some self-sufficient newcomers that do not mind cold and rain, and that love natural beauty, it might be a good possible spot for relocation. This fact is especially true now that the government will be working on finishing the road, giving access to medical care, pharmacies, trucks to bring goods, etc.

It will also be a wonderful and spectacular drive once finished. Chileans driving south at present have to drive most of the route through to Puerto Natales via Argentina. The road will be expensive but I think it will be a long term boon to Chile and provide many more opportunities to exploit and develop natural resources and make Chile more prosperous.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.

Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.

Dr. Cobin’s next sequel, Living in Chile: Key Details of History, Culture, Politics and Places for the Serious Immigrant, goes into detail that mainly those people living in Chile already or serious immigrants will be interested in. It is also of special importance to libertarians that want to know something about the political and ideological undercurrents, past highlights (like having a free port much like Hong Kong or free banking), and people that want practical information and where they can retire on their budget. The travel section compliments the other books in the series so that those that read all three books can be sure to have covered the key places of the country from top to bottom.

This book is chock full of savory details that only a true immigrant and former American with many years of experience would know. Some things are only learned over long periods of time and observation. Take advantage of tapping into Dr. Cobin’s deep knowledge of the country and insights of importance to serious immigrants.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

8.4 Earthquake in Central Chile (September 16, 2015)

Anyone who was not a true believer in Chilean construction quality before, sure must be now.

On September 16, 2015, just before 8 p.m. (the sun had recently set), central Chile was struck by a powerful 8.4 Richter Scale earthquake, followed shortly thereafter by major aftershocks on that scale of 7.6, 7.2 and 6.7. The epicenter was about 95 miles north of where I live in Viña del Mar and close to the same distance south of La Serena. It was strongly felt in Santiago, too.

The shaking lasted between two and three minutes–quite a long time. Tsunamis of one to four meters hit the Chilean central coast within two hours, causing considerable damage in some places, including Concón just north of Viña del Mar, Tongoy and other parts of the Coquimbo Region.

Several people died from heart attacks, and a few people died in older towns when adobe structures caved-in on them. Still, the total death toll stands at a surprisingly low 11 people. Earthquakes of much smaller magnitudes in other countries have killed hundreds and thousands of people.

A couple hundred older structures in smaller cities like Illapel were damaged or destroyed, and structures in villages along the coast were damaged or destroyed by the tsunami waves. Some villages had power outages. In the country’s main urban centers of Santiago, Viña del Mar and Valparaíso and in La Serena there was no significant damage and no loss of power. The Internet never stopped working. Cell phones stayed online as well, and the government sent out tsunami evacuation warnings via cell phone service.

Now, 72 hours after the earthquake, there have been a total of 340 aftershocks. It shakes about once every ten minutes on average. Most of these aftershocks have been between 3 and 5,5 on the Richter Scale. However, some have been larger. Ten have been between 5.5 and 5.9 on that scale, ten more between 6.0 and 6.9, and two have been over 7.

To say that Central Chile has been rocking and rolling is an understatement. But the country is well prepared for seismic activity and life has continued on normally since the shaking started.

What other country in the world has a completely normal business day following an 8.4 quake and two aftershocks over 7? That’s a rhetorical question obviously. The number is zero.

The interesting thing is that the international press says that since the big quake in 2010, Chilean quake standards or building quality has gone up a lot. They have risen but were already high enough. Things are obviously solid in Chile. Indeed, there has been no significant damage to places that I know of whatsoever. One friend of mine in Santiago commented: “It is amazing isn’t it? I honestly felt no fear last night. Just slept through the aftershocks. Chileans do some things VERY well.” I could not agree more. My business day after the earthquake was 100% normal, as if there were no catastrophic earthquake the previous night.

My friend continued: “I watched from my terrace window as things shook. Transformers were blowing up all over the city of Santiago. Huge balls of fire and a cascade of sparks. Yet there were no blackouts. So, obviously, there is a lot of redundancy built into the grid.  It can take a lot of punishment and not go down. Amazing…” He continued, “I think it is really hard for people outside of Chile to understand how violent these quakes are. Yet, it is equally difficult for the same people to understand that a country can be prepared and fend off the worst of it. I think one has to experience it firsthand to really get it.”

Funny how many Americans just assume that their building quality standards are as high or higher than Chile’s. But they are not. Earthquake danger is much higher in North America, New Zealand or Europe than in it is in Chile. When it comes to earthquakes, Chileans do not mess around, and they are trained from an early age to be prepared.

In recent years, much smaller earthquakes in New Zealand, Haiti, Italy and California have had a devastating impact on lives lost and property damaged. In fact, these earthquakes were smaller than several of the aftershocks we have experienced in the last few days.

I watched with dismay as the Fox News reporter started talking about the assumed horrible impact of this quake in Chile, just judging by the scale score and not considering that Chile is prepared to withstand such quakes. He must have been really let down to find out that not much transpired as a result of the earthquake. Chile is simply not a sensational story when it comes to seismic activity.

The tallest building in South America, Costanera Center, swayed back and forth, creating a horrifying experience for people up high (see the You Tube videos of the experience). But in the end the building withstood the earthquake. It all makes for interesting conversation the next day but not much more.

By the way, right now would be a good time to buy apartments or condos on higher floors, since they always sell for less immediately after a big earthquake. At any rate, newcomers have little need to worry about surviving earthquakes in Chile. The country is prepared for them. Several newcomers in Viña del Mar were of course startled by the massive earthquake, but I am sure have by now been quite impressed with how their new country has handled the situation.

Postscript: I am updating this post 56 hours later for those that are interested in the statistics. Since the time of the original post we have had another 223 aftershocks, one every 15 minutes. Seven of them (3%) have been 5.5 Richter Scale or over: 5.5, 6.2, 6.0, 6.7, 5.8. 6.0, 6.2. Some of them have been quite jolting, enough to make one start or wake a person up. The total number of aftershocks through 5 a.m. Chile time on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 (128 hours after the earthquake), has been 563, of which 29 (5%) have been between 5.5 and 7.6 on the Richter Scale. On average, we have been having a large aftershock once every 4.4 hours and aftershocks of at least 3 Richter Scale have come every 13.6 minutes on average. For the last week, one has really experienced the earth moving under his feet!

In terms of damage to older buildings, mainly in poorer, coastal villages in the 4th and 5th Regions, 814 were completely destroyed and 1,005 we severely damaged according to this report, with 13,427 people claiming to have been damaged by the earthquakes and tsunami. Just 13 hours shy of one week from the time of the earthquake (6.5 days), another 71 smaller aftershocks above 2.5 Richter Scale had been registered, bringing the total to 634. One week from the time of the earthquake, another 146 smaller aftershocks above 2.5 Richter Scale (almost all above 3.5) had been registered, bringing the total to 699, one every 14.4 minutes on average, although most cannot be felt.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they
would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.

Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.

Dr. Cobin’s next sequel, Living in Chile: Key Details of History, Culture, Politics and Places for the Serious Immigrant, goes into detail that mainly those people living in Chile already or serious immigrants will be interested in. It is also of special importance to libertarians that want to know something about the political and ideological undercurrents, past highlights (like having a free port much like Hong Kong or free banking), and people that want practical information and where they can retire on their budget. The travel section compliments the other books in the series so that those that read all three books can be sure to have covered the key places of the country from top to bottom.

This book is chock full of savory details that only a true immigrant and former American with many years of experience would know. Some things are only learned over long periods of time and observation. Take advantage of tapping into Dr. Cobin’s deep knowledge of the country and insights of importance to serious immigrants.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)
Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)
A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Forestal (Poor Section of Viña del Mar)

With the exception of Vitacura (Santiago), every nice comuna in Chile has a nasty or poor section. Even Las Condes has a not-so-nice part of town near Colón and Padre Hurtado. Lo Barnechea (Santiago), with its posh La Dehesa district, also has some of the poorest places of Santiago along the Río Mapocho.

However, Viña del Mar has probably the starkest contrast and largest percentage of lower-class living of all the major otherwise First World comunas. Perhaps the best example of one of these sections is the spiraling hillside/hilltop section called Forestal (200+ meters above sea level). This neighborhood is comprised of both legally-titled land and homes as well as tomas (which I wrote about five years ago regarding coastal settlements in the 3rd Region)–what are effectively squatters communities without utilities formed by people taking land that does not belong to them and setting up a household with inexpensive building materials. These sorts of structures were what went up in smoke in the great Valparaíso fire of April 2014.

The blighted Forestal toma can be seen as one comes into Viña del Mar off the Las Palmas freeway. Take a look at the images below.

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The trash-strewn roadside is blight enough, but really just the tip of the iceberg when one considers the shanty style construction that is commonplace. (Believe it or not there are actually homes in here with fairly decent interiors, often owned by carpenters or handymen, but do not count them as the norm.) To live in this porquería (pigpen) is anything but paradise.

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There is often a spectacular view from these home sites, both of the distant Pacific and the towering Andes–which seem closer even though many miles further away. Life is “boring” and even quaint, with nosy neighbors and pots boiling over open fires in people’s patios. The next images are from the part of Forestal with property rights, showing a wide range of vistas, including looking across the valley to the Miraflores section. Viña del Mar has such a wonderful, cool climate and frequently blue skies that yield precious sunsets.

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How much would you pay to rent one of these places? The going rate is around 40,000 to 60,000 pesos per month, with some “chalets” fetching up to 70,000 pesos (that range is about US$64 to US$112 per month). If a husband and wife can take in $1,000 per month together, it is no surprise that many families can afford a used car and a new plasma television in their home with the significant disposable income left over after paying rent.

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The toma section, as noted earlier, has great freeway access. The roads are paved in the part that is not a toma and along them are found little markets that have inexpensive prices for most goods. The roads of the toma are dirt, and often feature men demanding coins, which are accumulated to pay for road maintenance. Corner markets and bakeries are seen but forget about finding an ATM, bank or pharmacy. There are significant dog populations and lots of children around, and in the “legal” part of the barrio people are quite friendly. I was also surprised to hear one man talk about how left-wing President Bachelet had to go. Things are not going well for poorer people on account of socialists (no surprise).

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In the tomas, especially the crime-ridden and “dangerous” section called Puerto Aysén,” there are dirt roads, and people often have dirt floors, too. The shanties up there make the legal homes down below appear relatively splendid. And certainly the rental price of a toma home must be less than 40,000 pesos per month.

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Not to worry, however, the government has stepped up with an adjacent project designed to relocate all the toma shanty dwellers. Most of the occupants do not like being forced to move into these new, white homes since they will have less space. Apparently, many plan to fight and stay put. They don’t need interventionists messing up their lives!

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Some of the shacks are in pretty bad shape in the tomas, as the images below show. The stores are run-down and the playgrounds are sad, even though the children in them seem quite happy!

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At any rate, I often talk up the virtues of Chile and leave out some of the negative aspects, like local pockets of poverty in the midst of First World communities. I have seen many Forestals in Chile, and anyone that chooses to live in Chile will eventually see many of them, too. Class D people (official designation) need to live somewhere.

On the bright side, we can say that at least the poor have a fighting chance to make a better life, largely because there is little housing regulation in Chile to force them into projects or less affordable, unsavory housing circumstances. It also is interesting to know just how cheaply one can live in Chile if he has to do so, and that even poorer people can live in a wonderful climate and have a great view from their home!

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info.
Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country and what’s going on with Freedom Orchard.
Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service – Chile Consulting – where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.
Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.
Dr. Cobin’s next sequel, Living in Chile: Key Details of History, Culture, Politics and Places for the Serious Immigrant, goes into detail that mainly those people living in Chile already or serious immigrants will be interested in. It is also of special importance to libertarians that want to know something about the political and ideological undercurrents, past highlights (like having a free port much like Hong Kong or free banking), and people that want practical information and where they can retire on their budget. The travel section compliments the other books in the series so that those that read all three books can be sure to have covered the key places of the country from top to bottom. This book is chock full of savory details that only a true immigrant and former American with many years of experience would know. Some things are only learned over long periods of time and observation. Take advantage of tapping into Dr. Cobin’s deep knowledge of the country and insights of importance to serious immigrants.
For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

Plight of Construction Workers in Chile

Governments usually foul things up worse than they already are, especially when its intervention is propelled by Marxist and socialist doctrines. Such has been the case in Chile, although public outrage has stymied the worst of leftist policies from being implemented in 2014.

Moreover, the future is bright in Chile. It seems less likely that the left will be able to maintain itself in power after President Michelle Bachelet’s term ends in three years.

Nevertheless, enough leftist venom reached certain sectors of the Chilean economy to cause lasting damage. One of the more important casualties of leftist public policies has been in new construction, where media reports put national unemployment for the industry at 12%.

In Viña del Mar, a construction firm posted four internet ads in order to recruit a total of three day laborers, offering to pay 350,000 pesos (US $577) per month. The sites selected were www.yapo.cl, www.vivastreet.cl, www.elrastro.cl and www.locanto.cl. A print ad was also ordered for the local daily El Mercurio de Valparaíso, but the ad was canceled before it ever ran since the internet sites alone yielded over 25 calls from prospective workers.

Hiring good construction workers is easy these days in the Valparaíso metropolitan area. The cost of construction is also quite low on account of lower labor costs. Bad business conditions led big box store Construmart (a chain like Home Depot) to close its Concón branch, adjacent to Viña del Mar.

The situation is worse in Iquique, where government policy has stifled the opening of a new copper mine and a planned salt mine by a German firm. Some genius in the leftist government decided that these minerals will have to be mined by state-owned companies, or at least not by foreigners.

What is the result of such folly? Fewer jobs and layoffs. One mining support firm recently laid off 600 people in town.

None of this activity has helped the construction industry, which has slowed considerably. Iquique was booming but now there are only 6 or 7 apartment tower projects left going, and government policy has made little land available for anything but tower projects, stifling single family home and town-home construction. Workers in Iquique used to be making as much as three times the salaries of their counterparts in Viña del Mar, but now their futures are bleak. They face a state-imposed slowdown and little help from tourism (nothing like what is available in Viña del Mar) to impel progress.

The story of leftist failure is repeated time and again. It is “obvious” to libertarian-minded people that the state fails. And Chile in 2014 has added yet more evidence against interventionism.

Chile also provides a good present opportunity to buy real estate on account of the huge and growing immigration numbers, up 21% since March, 50% over the las 5 years and over 80% during the last decade. Most immigration stems from Perú but there are plenty of professionals coming from Brazil, Argentina and Spain, as well as Germany and the United States.

Despite the bad local news, foreigners are coming to Chile in order to escape the failed interventionist paradises where they reside. These people demand homes, just as tourists from Brazil and Argentina continue to demand summer beach homes near Viña del Mar.

Those are some of the reasons why housing demand is not just a function of a bubble bolstered by artificially low interest rates (which is also the case in Chile 2014). It is a sheer function of demand and good value relative to other countries.

Even with the rise in selling prices over the last few years, compare home prices in Santiago and Viña del Mar (or Iquique) with prices with Auckland (50% to 80% more than comparable Viña del Mar) most European or “developed” Asian cities. Chile remains a bargain.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info.
Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country and what’s going on with Freedom Orchard.
Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service – Chile Consulting – where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.
Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.
Dr. Cobin’s next sequel, Living in Chile: Key Details of History, Culture, Politics and Places for the Serious Immigrant, goes into detail that mainly those people living in Chile already or serious immigrants will be interested in. It is also of special importance to libertarians that want to know something about the political and ideological undercurrents, past highlights (like having a free port much like Hong Kong or free banking), and people that want practical information and where they can retire on their budget. The travel section compliments the other books in the series so that those that read all three books can be sure to have covered the key places of the country from top to bottom. This book is chock full of savory details that only a true immigrant and former American with many years of experience would know. Some things are only learned over long periods of time and observation. Take advantage of tapping into Dr. Cobin’s deep knowledge of the country and insights of importance to serious immigrants.
For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

A Tale of Two (or Four) Earthquakes

On August 23, 2014, central Chile was hit by a 6.4 earthquake, affecting the Viña del Mar, Valparaíso and Santiago metropolitan areas. The epicenter was in the coastal, industrial town of Ventanas, about thirty kilometers north of Viña del Mar. Probably over 10 million people felt a strong quake. According to newspaper reports, the shaking lasted up to forty seconds, causing damage and a tall building fire. While the tsunami warning was discarded, suffice it to say coastal residents of Chile immediately think about tsunamis after any sizable earthquake. Read the news reports from Valparaíso, San Antonio, Santiago (El Mercurio and Las Últimas Noticias), Valdivia and Iquique.

My wife considered it far stronger than the usual tremor and was surprised that the Richter magnitude was so low. The length of time of the shaking also bears an important role in both perception and actual damage, and this earthquake lasted a relatively long time. The photos in the newspapers the next day show goods thrown off store shelves and other minor damage. There was a fire in a tall apartment building and at least one home moved down the hillside nearly two meters. In addition, there were isolated gas leaks and some temporary power and phone service outages.

Two days later, on August 25, 2014, Napa and the San Francisco area of California (an equally populous area) were hit by a 6.0 quake that shook for 18 seconds. The damage in California was far greater than in Chile, not only stuff falling off store shelves but also gas lines breaking and facades of buildings collapsing. People in Chile considered the quake to be a large tremor. In California, the news services called it a “massive quake”—even though four times less powerful than the one in Chile and only shaking for half the time. Things in California would be out of commission for “days” according to reporters. The government in California declared a “state of emergency” in the aftermath for the “largest quake to hit California since 1989.”

According to CNN (with live video footage during the quake), CBS and Fox News, there were 172 people injured and extensive damage to buildings, cracked roadways, “fires sparked by burst gas lines,” broken pane glass, and crumbled walls with bricks landing on parked cars.

Ruptured water mains were reported to be, “hampering firefighters’ efforts to extinguish the blazes.” In Napa itself, wineries and historic buildings were damaged, “sending dozens of people to hospitals.” CBS News added, “Dozens of homes and buildings across the Napa Valley were left unsafe to occupy, including an old county courthouse, where a 10-foot wide hole opened a view of the offices inside.”

In Chile, the next day all was back to normal. (Did the Chilean quake even make the U.S. or European news?) Note that the level of destruction in California did not happen in Chile. There were no serious injuries or massive devastation like in California. The only effects in common were a building fire and the emptying of store shelves.

 

Other First World countries have not fared well in similar magnitude quakes in recent years. In late May 2012, two “major earthquakes” (5.9 and 5.8 Richter scale) and two strong aftershocks (5.2 Richter scale) hit the Modena area of northern Italy, toppling buildings and killing 26 people. On February 22, 2011, Christchurch, New Zealand was hit by a 6.3 Richter scale earthquake that did extensive damage and killed 185 people, half of which died when a six-story TV news building collapsed. The city’s buildings had been weakened by the Canterbury (7.1 Richter scale) earthquake in 2010. The image above (source) shows a cracked roadway in New Zealand after the 2011 earthquake. These earthquakes were horrible tragedies.

However, central Chile’s buildings are frequently “weakened” by tremors and even big quakes as well (including very big ones in 1985 and 2010), but they do not fall as those did in New Zealand. So which country is better earthquake prepared: the United States, Italy, New Zealand or Chile? I think the evidence is clear. In Chile, I feel safe. In other “First World” countries, I worry.

 
Chile has a new sustainable community starting called Freedom Orchard. Check it out. Invest in it, and diversify out of the decaying assets in “First World” nations.
Also, be sure to tune in to Dr. Cobin’s radio program: “Red Hot Chile” at noon (ET) on Fridays on the Overseas Radio Network (ORN). You can also join the thousands of other people who download the shows each month via the archive link on our Red Hot Chile page (recorded show updated every Monday morning).
Be sure, too, to visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country and what’s going on with Freedom Orchard.
Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service – Chile Consulting – where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.
Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.
For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

 

Cerro Concepción, Cerro Alegre and Sector Almendral in Valparaíso, Chile

Many people mistakenly believe that the best highlights of history are the stories of great conquest, when in reality the best moments in history are those times when men are freest and liberty from state intervention is greatest. Valparaíso is probably the most historic city in Chile. In 1544, the Spanish conquistadors declared it to be “the port of Santiago,” and in 1820 (just after Chilean independence) it was designated an “open international harbor,” backed by the newly relocated customs service–under the law of free commerce of 1811, that also freed ports of Coquimbo, Talcahuano and Valdivia.

“Many people mistakenly believe that the best highlights of history are the stories of great conquest, when in reality the best moments in history are those times when men are freest and liberty from state intervention is greatest.” 

Yes, the free market works wonders! Subsequently, it became the most important Pacific port in the world during the 19th and early 20th centuries (until the Panamá Canal was built), and has a rich history of vibrant trade.

By 1870, the city was known as “The Pearl of the Pacific,” right in the middle of Chile’s successful free banking episode (1862-1879), when Chile had no central bank. If you had thought that the history of liberty was confined to the British and American traditions you were mistaken. Chile was the champion of liberty and classical liberal ideas in Latin America, and Valparaíso was the Hong Kong of its era. Chile’s first stock exchange opened here in 1850, and the national newspaper El Mercurio’s (followed by its elaborate building) opened in 1827, the oldest ongoing Spanish language newspaper in the world.

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Valparaíso also received important American, Italian (mainly Ligurian or Genoan), British and Scottish, German, French, Swiss and Spanish immigrations, and thus the city grew in national significance. The French opened what were considered the finest shops in South America (on modern-day Calle Condell, then called Calle San Juan de Dios, which runs from Plaza Victoria to the port downtown).

Plaza (de la) Victoria, incidentally, which was so-named after Chile’s victory in the War of the Pacific (1883), was the first place in Valparaíso to receive electric illumination in 1904, although there was already an electric tramway running since 1900. There were also minor immigrations of Danish, Croatian and other ethnic groups to the city, adding to its colorful history.

Indeed, for the first one-half of Chile’s history, there was no more important city than Valparaíso. Even important historic smaller cities like Iquique and Punta Arenas cannot compare with it. And its importance still remains today, even though greatly diminished, as Santiago has clearly been Chile’s most important city for the last century. As part of the modern Viña del Mar/Valpo metro area of over 930,000 people, Valparaíso lies within Chile’s second most important urban center, and is still home to the Chilean navy (although the naval shipyard is located on the better harbor in Talcahuano, near Concepción).

     Valaparíso is a “killed” city in my estimation. Panamá simply did it in (1914) and the city has not been the same for the last 100 years. The saltpeter (salitre) crisis in 1918 and the 1906 earthquake (8.3 Richter) and the ensuing gas leak and fire that leveled most of the city, did not help matters either. Why did saltpeter end up being synthesized and thus further collapse the Chilean economy in 1918? On March 14, 1915, there was a naval battle between British and German forces a little over seven months after World War I broke out–also seven months after the Panamá Canal opened. The German ship Dresden was scuttled in Cumberland Bay (Isla Juan Fernández) by its crew, sunk under fire by the British warships Kent and Glasgow. The naval battling had begun between Britain and Germany on November 1, 1914 in the Battle of Coronel (just south of Concepción), which the British lost. The British responded by sending larger ships with reinforcements and pounded the Germans to the point that the Germans gave up trying to control the Chilean coast. The Dresden was the last ship to escape and, with the help of Chilean Germans in Valparaíso, it was kept hidden in Chilean islands, fueled with coal and supplied with food. 

Note that both of the warring countries’ ethnic groups were thriving on Cerro Concepción in Valparaíso, as the pictures of churches below show, and were often sending merchant ships plus warships to the port of Valparaíso until 1914. Both British and German settlers living in Cerro Concepción sent troops to fight on their respective sides. One can imagine that Valparaíso was a very tense place in the 1914-1918 period on account of the war, saltpeter and the economic downturn caused by the Panamá Canal. The Germans needed the saltpeter for munitions for their war effort and the British beat them in a naval battle off the coast of Talcahuano and subsequently successfully blockaded all Chilean ports. Thus the Germans started studying how to synthesize saltpeter and did so in 1918. That was bad luck for Chile. Saltpeter was its most important economic resource, even more important than copper in relative terms. Once that happened, the Chilean natural resource had much less value and the mining industry and the economy in general took a hit. Therefore, a byproduct of World War I also helped finish off Valparaíso. Remember that the 1906 earthquake leveled much of the city. So it was already reeling. Then came 1914 and 1918. The city was left in shambles.

The structural deterioration that begin a century ago has hardly stopped and the level of poverty has only slowly been diminishing over the last three decades. Yet there are still remnants of the city’s rich past, even though some imagination is often required to experience it. Valparaíso has a significant amount of European architecture, although it has been smudged by graffiti. My wife and I saw some people scrubbing it off one building yesterday and inquired how often they have to do this task. They responded: “About every three months.” The nasty painting never stops. The city is, frankly, ugly on account of the graffiti. Also, most of the buildings are dilapidated and run down. Especially ugly are the ones with rusty tin siding.

Nevertheless, Valparaíso (the name might be derived from the words va al paraíso, or “go to paradise”), has been (deservedly) declared a World Heritage Site, but the shame is that the cadaver’s decay (naturally) has not stopped since the point of death. The Chilean government has been trying to boost its historic image on the web, but the internet visit will be, by and large, much better than the disappointing real life one.

The city sits upon 42 hills (interactive map) above a narrow, flat central area, and is divided into sectors, many of which had an ethnic beginning. The Italian immigrants were mainly poorer people from the region in and around Genova that worked menial jobs, but the American, English, Scottish, Swiss, French, German and most of the Spanish merchants and profesionals were quite wealthy. Perhaps that disparity is one reason why only the Italians chose to stay en masse after the city was killed, while most of the others left.

The Italians mainly moved into the Almendral sector, but also settled on adjacent hill sectors (cerros) El Litre and Las Cañas. Obviously, there are still remnants of the other ethnic groups as well, but the trend was to leave. There is still an Anglican church in neighboring Viña del Mar, providing English language services that cater to aging offspring of the British remnant. The British left a lasting impact on the city in other ares too: in its sports (soccer, horse track racing and rugby), its trains, its funicular elevators and its modern escalators that often run on the “wrong side.”

Old English Firestation Valparaiso 2014-07-11 13.01.01 2014-07-11 13.00.46

Each ethnic group had its own fire department, too, and the language of the station (and its written records) was English, German, French, Italian or Spanish (from Spain) up until 1973. Only those who could prove their ethnicity could join one of these companies but, other than the Italians, no one retains this stringent standard in modern times.

Note that Plaza Italia (not to be confused with its more famous Santiago counterpart) has buildings on it that look like they could have been transplanted from Genova, and the neighborhood school (with instruction in the Italian language), Scuola Italiana (1942), is located just down the road. British and American efforts were realized through the Mackay School (1905), presently located in the Reñaca sector of Viña del Mar, which had roots going back to the Valparaíso Artizan School (1857) started by Scottish profesor Peter Mackay from Glasgow.

Similarly, the Germans opened their school, La Corporación Colegio Alemán de Valparaíso (1857), which is now the Deutsch Schule in Viña del Mar. The locals were hardly left in the dust in this flurry of activity, with a number of now famous Chilean universities being founded, such as the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (1926). There were also Chilean fire companies as well, some starting in the early 1850s. In Latin America, only the Guayaquil, Ecuador fire department is older than Valparaíso’s. Nowadays, all Valparaíso fire departments fall under a single commander, but the rivalry and competition of yesteryear still lingers on.

Perhaps the best parts of Valparaíso, and the only places really worthy of tourism, are parts of sector Almendral, Sotomayor Plaza (pictured below, looking from above next to the naval building) and the decks or terraces of homes, walkways, churches and shops above it in Cerro Concepción and Cerro Alegre.

These areas can be reached by the funicular elevators called El Peral (built in 1901), which goes up to Cerro Alegre–featuring Paseo Yugoslavo and Baburizza Palace (now a museum, pictured below at dusk), and La Concepción (built in 1883) which goes up to Cerro Concepción. Both of these funicular elevators are close to Sotomayor Plaza and in the midst of some interesting European architecture. Even though they have apparently not been upgraded much since the time they were built, they are cheap to ride (under one Dollar) and are used by locals regularly to climb the steep hillsides. Below are a few images from Cerro Alegre and the El Peral funicular elevator entrance at rush hour. The mansion up top and the other houses in the area were owed by Croatian immigrants and thus the charming walkway is called Paseo Yugoslavo.

There are a couple of lovely, inexpensive cafés on the walkway with great views and atmosphere. Perfect for a romantic lunch or dessert.

The walkway itself is great to do at sunset and take in the harbor views, imagining what life there must have been like in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

Each ethnic group had their own church, where Protestant services by law had to be conducted in their own language. It was easy for Roman Catholic Italians and Spaniards to meld into already-Catholic Chilean religious culture. The same was evidently true for French Catholics, which opened their religious order in sector Almendral (1840) on Calle Independencia. However, the immigration of clasical liberal Evangelicals to Valparaíso is quite interesting (Anglicans, Lutherans and Presbyterians in the mid 1800s). The La Santa Cruz German Lutheran church on Cerro Concepción (1897, reconstructed in 2011) is pictured below.

The clock even works! The neighborhood near the church has also been cleaned up.

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St. Paul’s Anglican church (1858) is located just a few blocks away, and also dons an intriguing neighborhood that stirs the imagination.

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The decks above the business district all have great views, pleasant walkways and, along with the wonderful weather, must have been very attractive for settlers in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is no surprise that so many immigrants stayed. The nearby Gervasoni walk freatures similar views and the El Mercurio regular cartoonist’s Lukas museum and café.

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Lukas was the pen name for Italian immigrant to Valparaíso Renzo Pecchenino that became one of the most important Chilean cartoonists of the 20th Century. Lukas was noted for his pungent political wittiness and telling the history of Chile through his art. He had a special love for Valparaíso, too. Some of his work is captured int he images below.

Here are a few shots taken of and from the La Concepción funicular elevator:
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And the business district down below where much European architecture can be seen (the customs building, Turri clock tower and other important buildings are in the area), including samples of graffiti and those hired to remove it.

    

The Avenida Argentina open air market (open on Wednesdays and Saturdays), located on the border of the Almendral sector (closer to where the Italian, Spanish and French colonies settled), offers probably the lowest priced seafood, fruits and vegetables in the country.

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Cops (carabineros) in the area of the open air market enjoy making sure all people parked at the market have their vehicle papers up-to-date and in order.

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The Chilean Congress is seen across the street from the maret in sector Almendral.

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The first Presbyterian church pictured below, called Union Church (1869), is also located in sector Almendral on the formerly wealthy French shopping lane (now called Avenida Condell).

Union+Church+Valpo

I do not recommend that newcomers live in Valparaíso. It is dingy and depressing in many ways. However, it is a great town to visit once one reads its colorful history and knows where to go to see the museums, churches, walkways, plazas and funicular elevators. Indeed, a long day trip is in order for anyone serious about living in Chile.

Valparaíso is about as important to Chileans as Paris is to Frenchmen or Boston is to Americans. So be sure to visit and be ready to see beyond the dilapidation and graffiti. Also plan to do a little open air market shopping while in the city, and pick up some history books at the Lukas museum.

Chile has a new sustainable community starting called Freedom Orchard. Check it out. Invest in it, and diversify out of the decaying assets in “First World” nations.
Also, be sure to tune in to Dr. Cobin’s radio program: “Red Hot Chile” at noon (ET) on Fridays on the Overseas Radio Network (ORN). You can also join the thousands of other people who download the shows each month via the archive link on our Red Hot Chile page (recorded show updated every Monday morning).
Be sure, too, to visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country and what’s going on with Freedom Orchard.
Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service – Chile Consulting – where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.
Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.
For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

Short video of Arica, Chile from the harbor

Population is around 180,000

Never rains (ever): Atacama Desert

Two fertile valleys via well water and other irrigation from Andes runoff.

Right on Peruvian border and not far from Bolivian border (5 hours) with flamingo lake Chungara.

Airport with daily flights to Iquique and Santiago

Near Tacnca, Peru airport (30 mins by taxi plus time needed at the border crossing) with a daily flight to Lima, Peru.

Some of the nicest people in Chile

“2nd world” living

Little or no English spoken

VERY inexpensive place to live. A couple can do it without too much trouble on $1,000 per month.

Very low real tax rate if you shop in the free zone (ZOFRI) in Iquique and in the mall in Tacna.

View photos of Arica at this link via Google
Images of Arica