Chilean Chronicles, Part XXXVIII: Luis Dreams of a Home in Chillan

Luis at St. George's School.

Luis at St. George’s School.

Luis has dreamed of the house in Chillan for years.

It’s located in the country about four hours away from Santiago, where he grew up and has driven a cab nearly the past half-century.

He started driving at 19, just after he had legally become an adult and more than a dozen years after both of his parents had died.

Luis’ father passed away from cancer when he and his twin were just 4 years old.

His mother had a heart attack that same year.

The city has changed a lot since he first got behind the wheel, he told me during a traffic-filled ride to St. George’s school on the outskirts of Santiago on Wednesday.

He was wearing a blue-striped sweater, a neatly knotted tie, and a shirt with the top button undone.

His mustache and the hair on his head are both thick and have hefty portions of grey.

The day he drove us, he was wearing a blue-striped sweater, a neatly knotted tie, and a shirt with the top button undone.

The topic of the changes in the city since he’s been a taxi driver elicited animated hand gestures that evoked his Italian ancestors.

In the Allende days, Luis said, the streets were littered with trash.

People were drunk all the time.

The buildings were all grey.

Many people lacked a strong work ethic.

Pinochet changed all that, Luis told me.

People went to bed earlier.

They worked harder.

In short, Pinochet modernized the city and the country.

Luis has a far dimmer view of politicians these days.

They’re more concerned about serving their own and their parties’ interests.

They don’t think about what the people need.

As a result, Luis said he’s not going to vote in the upcoming presidential elections.

But one thing he is sure of, regardless of who wins: the people will have to work like slaves.

That includes him.

Which is why he’s so excited about his house.

It’s in the country, and, in his vision, has got a small goat, a chicken and a rooster.

While there, he’ll be able to relax and enjoy himself.

Luis doesn’t have much family.

His marriage with an Arab woman didn’t work out.

He has two sons in their 30s, neither of whom is married or has children. They’ve been to Italy, but he’s never made it there.

His brother’s wife died a few years ago.

Still, the image of the home gives him peace as he’s chauffeuring customers around the city as many as 80 hours per week.

The problem, though, is money.

Luis said he’s hardly saved any money in the pension accounts that were established under the leadership of Jose Pinera, older brother of current Chilean president Sebastian Pinera.

We were pulling up to the front gate at the school.

I waited in the car, gave Luis a tip and wished him luck in converting his vision into a reality.

I asked him for a business card, and he gave me one from the company.

For his sake I hope that, someday soon, Luis will be able to give his final ride to a customer, move south to Chillan and take up residence in the rustic home he’s wanted so desperately.

But, as his car rumbled away, I feared instead that Luis may spend the rest of his days and years driving around the city where he has lived his entire life, and from which he is likely never to leave.


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