Plaza de Armas was the original center of Santiago. Many Spanish colonial cities had a Plaza de Armas which was where people would gather for pretty much everything, back in the day. The Plaza de Armas of Central Santiago boasts an infinite amount of things to see and do. For starters, the Chess Club of Santiago (chess in Spanish= ajedrez) meets on the outdoor stage on the eastern side of the plaza every weekend, if not every afternoon. All you have to do is walk up and ask for a game and you can play against one of Chile’s finest. Try speed chess if you really want to lose. On Sundays (I took the photo here on a Sunday and I’ve seen them on a different Sunday, so I’m going to assume it’s every Sunday) a group of dancers of all ages dances Cueca (the traditional Chilean dance) which is quite different from any other Latin dance that I’ve seen. Cueca is unique in its waltz-like rhythm but it can be hard to follow until you get the sound in your head.
On the other side of the plaza, you might see huge circles of Spanish speakers laughing or being entertained. If there are a bunch of normal looking guys in the middle making jokes, I don’t recommend that you approach as a tourist, even if you speak Spanish, as a friend of mine was once dragged into the center and humorously ridiculed. But if you see a mime performing mostly slapstick-type comedy, it’s worth it to stick around a bit to see if he harasses people or vehicles passing by. Check out the art displays in the plaza and don’t miss the Cathedral of Santiago here. If you have some free time (which I recommend having at least a day of) in Santiago Centro, be sure to go for a stroll on Paseo Ahumada and Paseo Estado, both starting at the southern corners of the Plaza de Armas.
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