January 17 Puerto Varas to Punta Arenas
January 18 Punta Arenas
Punta Arenas sits on the shore of the Strait of Magellan, and from the mirador (viewpoint) at the top of the downtown area there is a great view across the strait to Isla Grande (Big Island) de Tierra del Fuego on the other side of it.
Naturally Ferdinand Magellan is one of the heroes of Punta Arenas, although he simply passed by the place in 1520 and the city itself wasn’t founded until the nineteenth century. We had quite a bit of free time in Punta Arenas while waiting to board the cruise, so we came back to the Plaza de Armas, where his statue is located, quite often.
One of the more interesting places to spend some time in Punta Arenas is the cemetery. The rich and important families of the town have been burying their dead here for over a century, and some of their mausoleums are quite impressive.
The less affluent families bury their dead here too; their burial plots are smaller but just as well cared for.
There are treed walkways that lead you to various sections of the cemetery. If you look hard enough you come to the statue of the Unknown Indian. The Indian is so far down the social scale that he isn’t even buried in the cemetery. However his statue is widely believed to have miraculous powers; if you rub his right hand, it brings you good luck.
In the centre of the city, across the street from the Plaza de Armas, is the Palacio Sara Braun. This was the mansion of one of the ranching barons who became extremely rich when the Chilean government opened up the south for sheep and cattle ranching.
Also under the heading of “architecture” we have the Spanish colonial firehall...
...and the definitely non-colonial shoe store with a strange name.