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Chileans in Need Are Amigos Indeed

March 3, 2010

When the earth shakes anywhere around the globe, we feel it here in Los Angeles. Especially when the earthquake is a gargantuan 8.8 rumbler, such as the one which hit off the coast of Chile near the nation’s second largest city, Concepción. The death toll has thankfully remained lower than the tens of thousands seen in Haiti, so far hovering at around 800. But thousands are having difficulty finding food and water, and the army has been brought in to combat looters in the devastated city of Concepción – a move met with uneasy welcome in a nation which still remembers the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Though there are plenty of Spanish speakers in Los Angeles, few of them are Chileans – mostly because they have had little reason to leave their relatively stable and prosperous country since the end of the Pinochet regime 20 years ago. Nevertheless, Chileans here are mobilizing to help their countrymen and women back home. As was the case with Haitians after January’s earthquake, nationalist restaurants are proving to be a focal point for homeland relief movements; Rincon Chileno in Rosemead is holding benefits for battered Chileans. So far, nothing similar to the LA-based Haiti relief organizations have emerged, but we’ll see. Maybe this could be an opportunity for Hatians and Chileans in LA to forge an unlikely alliance to help their respective countries.

Among the cities hit by the earthquake was none other than Los Angeles, Chile, perhaps the second best known Los Angeles in the world. This relatively small town lies 50 miles southeast of Concepción, but appears to be recuperating from earthquake damage. The Los Angeles (Chile) Diario La Tribuna reports that despite frequent patrols of carabineros, life is slowly returning to normal. An extra bonus for schoolchildren: no class till April! For a city that gets as much snow as Los Angeles, CA, this is way better than a snow day.

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