Plaza de Armas and Mercado Central

Santiago, Chile

Submitted by: Gene Threndyle

Central Plaza and a Central Market

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Why It Works

Plaza de Armas is about the size of a small city block with maybe 100 trees and various shrubs, fountains benches but no lawn. The native Chilean palm with it's organic, swoollen trunk rings the perimeter. You can eat there at two or three restaurants with outdoor tables and there is constant entertainment from late morning til early morning. One night their were 12 year old girls dancing in unison, guitar players, stand up comics and you could rent a telescope for about 30 cents American which was pointed at Jupiter and which allowed you to see 4 of it's moons. Another day a seniors brass band was playing while whistle blowing protesters paraded through the centre of the square. They both seemed oblivious to each other. The Mercado Central was designed by Gustave Eiffel and you can count on good coffee there. One Sunday morning I had a strawberry smoothie while almost everyone else was having their last drink of the night with pil pil, hot fried shrimp. The sun poked through small dirty window insisting that everyone end their revellery. But even the dust motes and flies which it caught in it's rays seemed to dance to the guitar player serenading us for 1000 peso notes.

What Makes Plaza de Armas and Mercado Central a Great Place?

Both these places have subway and bus stops near them. Plaza de Armas has several non traffic streets around it which give some peace and quiet from the maddening traffic.

I felt completely safe in both places. There is lot's of seating and lots of activity

The users of both places are both young and old, male and female. Their is lot of choice in both places.

All sorts of people come to both these places. They are not only smiling, but performing, eating. drawing, making money anyway they can but all in a very civil way.

History & Background

Although sprawl, malls and big box stores are part of the new Santiago, the old part of town retains this remarkable heart. Unfortunately they are building a new roadway into the middle of town UNDER the Mapocho River. This city is choking in car and bus traffic. They're following the flawed logic that more roads will ease traffic when all it does is encourage more. Why are we digging out from under our cities to find room for more cars?

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