Today I decided to explore a nearby artisan village called Pueblito Los Dominicos, or Centro Artesanal Los Dominicos. I came ready with a check-list of souvenirs that I’m on a mission to obtain before coming home, but more on that later.
Los Dominicos is the last stop on the red line of the metro, so it’s pretty easy to find this place, but let me warn you, it’s very touristy.
A note to fellow travelers who plan on coming to Chile: If the shopkeepers greet you in English, the restaurant menus are printed in English and most of the people in the area are speaking English (or French or German) be prepared for some marked up prices, because you my friend, are in a tourist trap.
That being said, this was one of the most interesting places I’ve been to in Santiago. It might not be the best place to shop, but I highly recommend making a trip here if you are in the area.
This place is just a feast for the senses. The smell of freshly baked empanadas and pastels de choclos fill the air, you can hear the woodcarvers and blacksmiths at work (Have you ever seen someone actually blacksmithing? I didn’t even know people still did this outside of Skyrim), and there are beautiful and exotic paintings, carvings, jewelry and flower arrangements at every turn.
Back to the souvenirs!
After spending some time in Chile, I’ve learned that there are a few famous items that are really unique to this area and should be on every traveler’s souvenir list.
1. Lapis Lazuli
This semi-precious stone can only be found in two places; Chile and Afghanistan (I don’t know about you, but I’m not planning on taking any trips to Afghanistan any time soon). It’s sort of a marbled blue stone and is often set in Chilean jewelry, often with copper, which is also one of Chiles biggest exports. I was really hopping to find a simple pendant or ring with this stone, but everything in this market was way out of my price range, so I might try some other, less touristy places later.
2. Indio Pícaro
I did manage to find one of these guys for only a luca (a luca is 1000 pesos or $2). The Indio Pícaro are wooden figurines carved in the Mapuche tradition (the Mapuche are the most important native american group in Chile). They are characterized by two things; the first is a big toothy grin, and the second…well you’ll have to pick one up to find out (or google it), but let’s just say it’s the reason why they are grinning. Just so you know Indio Pícaro means “Teaser Indian”. Can’t wait to bring this guy home to Mom!
3. Anything made with Alpaca
Technically Alpaca wool is a peruvian thing, but they sell a lot of it in Chile as well. I found some really beautiful scarves, shalls, hats, and jackets, but I just couldn’t bring myself to drop 40 luca for a scarf that I could probably get for 10 in Cusco.
4. Greda de Pomaire
Greda is the typical Chilean clay bakeware, and apparently it all comes from this little village, about an hour outside of Santiago, called Pomaire. Nearly every quintessential chilean dish I’ve had has been served to me in some sort of Greda de Pomaire, to the point where I question whether or not I could even recreate these recipes without it. While there was a plethora of Greda in Los Dominicos, I resisted the temptation to buy here, because I’m planning on making a trip to Pomaire with my host family, and the Greda there is dirt cheep (I’m talking pesos/pennies for a handmade pot), but I had to at least take a picture of these cute little piggy bowls.
After only a month of living here, I have already become addicted to Manjar (dulce de leche). It’s almost like caramel, but sort of thicker and creamier and Chileans put it on everything! They eat it like peanut butter (true story: the first time my host sister tried peanut butter, she thought it was gross because it looks like, yet tastes nothing like manjar). Every cake I’ve had here has been manjar flavored with manjar filling between the layers and manjar or merengue on top.
Since developing this addiction, my host family has informed me that they do not make this stuff in the states. They had to make their own from scratch when they were living there, because obviously going without it was not an option!
So I will be loading up my suitcase with as much of this stuff as I can, and friends and family, be prepared to become equally addicted when I bake you some manjar-filled chilean treats!
- Dieciocho & Alfajores (thebroccoliforest.wordpress.com)
- A quick word about Pomaire (gingergringadechile.wordpress.com)
- Santiago (Chile) (travellingtp.wordpress.com)
- Handmade from Chile (bloesem.blogs.com)
- Fascinating Features of Chile (geography.answers.com)