A Close Barrio: The Neighborhood Feel in Santiago

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Lola and I just went for a walk to pick up sushi, and once again I found myself thinking how much I love my barrio.

Barrio means neighborhood, and just like in English, the word doesn’t simply refer to a physical location. It evokes the vibe of a place, the neighbors and local businesses, everything that comes together to make a simple collection of streets feel like a cohesive area.

Santiago’s got plenty of great barrios. When we were looking at apartments, we loved the Parque Forestal/Lastarria neighborhood, and although for me it’s been a more recent discovery, Barrio Yungay was appealing enough that I didn’t even mind getting lost there — if you look at these pictures, it’s not hard to see why.

That said, although I’m sure there are plenty of places in the city where we could live, we were lucky enough to buy an apartment in the exact area that I’d dreamed of calling home. For me, much as I enjoy other areas, the sector of Providencia that I currently live in is the perfect balance of quiet and residential but also well-connected and full of things to do.

It’s not just about the tree-lined streets or the nearby good restaurants, however. We’re talking about the neighborhood feeling, and after two years here, I still love running into examples of it.

I like that the guy who sells newspapers on the corner knows me, as does the taxi driver who is often parked there. Having a dog is a great way to meet neighbors, and it’s fun to run into fellow dog owners and chat about how the pups are doing. The owner of the aforementioned sushi restaurant recognizes us, as do the doormen of neighboring buildings.

Perhaps my latest and greatest barrio-esque moment happened this weekend.

I tweetedAdvantage of buying at the neighborhood minimarket: when you’re $700 short, they let you take your food and promise to pay later.” I had gone to buy an empanada for lunch and once there decided I really wanted two empanadas.

I was on my way to the park with Lola, and rather than having to go home to get the equivalent of US$1.50 right that second, the guy behind the register — who again, knows Lola and me — told me just to pay him sometime before he closed at 11pm.

He knew I was good for it and that in the absolute worst case scenario I have to walk by the minimarket every day and could be apprehended, and it made my afternoon so much more enjoyable. I really appreciated it, and that’s not something that happens at your local faceless supermarket or in a place where you don’t have those neighborly connections.

I’ve been thinking about this feeling of barrio a lot lately, probably because Rodolfo is gone. Even without him to make my apartment feel like a home, I find myself starting to smile as I get closer to my building.

Of course it helps that I have an adorable pup waiting for me and that my apartment is looking good these days, but it’s more than that. I’m in a good mood as I take Lola on her walk and run into people I know or just see the neighborhood characters. I feel like I’m a part of the daily routine of this little section of the city I call home, and that feeling of belonging, especially of belonging to an area I love so much, is pretty special.

PS. Sorry for the lack of photos… Rodolfo currently has the camera with him in Sweden and is probably using it to take pictures of snow and boys playing practical jokes on each other.

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