This is one of the houses of the Chilean poet and Nobel Prize of Literature, Pablo Neruda. This is located very near Lastarria neighborhood, in the south slope of San Cristobal hill.
In 1953, Pablo Neruda started to build a house in Santiago, for Matilde Urrutia, his secret love in that time. He called the house “La Chascona” in her honor that was the nickname he gave her due to her abundant red hair.
The construction was encomended to the Catalan architect German Rodriguez Arias, who had to acknowledge the house ended up being more a creation of Neruda than his own.
Visits have not required reservation, entrance works like first-come, first-serve, and it is subject to availability of daily tickets. There is an audio guide tour available in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. For the school tours is necessary to make some previous reservation.
Matilde remember an afternoon in which they were walking by the neighbourhood, that today is called Bellavista, they found a property for sale, at the bottom of the San Cristobal hill. It seemed covered by blackberries and it had a sharp slope “we were bewitched for a water sound – Matilde wrote in her memories -, it was a real waterfall which came from the channel, at the top of the lot”. Both of them were filled with enthusiasm and decided to buy it. Later, in his poem “La Chascona”, from the book La Barcarola, Neruda evoked the “water that runs writing in its language”, and the blackberries “which guard the place with its bloody branches”.
The construction was encomended to the Catalan architect German Rodriguez Arias. When he saw such a steep terrain, he predict that the habitants of the house were condemned to live going up and down the stairs. He projected the building oriented toward the sun, it meant facing the city. But, Neruda wanted the view towards the cordillera, so he turned around the house in the plan. This was not the only intervention of the poet. He brought cypress tree logs for the living room from the south. He was occupied personally in the task of looking for woods and other materials, discussing and modifying details. German Rodriguez had to acknowledge the house ended up being more a creation of Neruda than his own.
Initially only the living room and a bedroom was built. At that time Matilde was living alone in the house. “I worked all day in my garden – she remember – there was not a single tree or plant I didn’t choose and planted with my own hands…” Meanwhile, the poet was still living with his wife, Delia del Carril, in Michoacan, as he named his house in Lynch street, in Ñuñoa neighbourhood.
Many of Neruda’s friends were participants of the guarded secret of “La Chascona”. Among them the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, who painted a portrait of Matilde with two heads. If you pay attention to her hair, you could see to appear the diffused profile of Neruda, the lover who was still remained hidden. This is one of the pieces shown in the house – museum today.
In February 1955, Neruda was separated from Delia del Carril and he moved in to “La Chascona”. The house had kept growing with the addition of a kitchen and a dining room. Afterwards a bar and a library were built. The architect Carlos Martner was in charge of the latest additions in 1958. For then Rodriguez Arias had returned to Europe.
“La Chascona” had its death and resurrection. On September 23rd, 1973, days after the military coup which overthrow President Salvador Allende, Neruda died at the Santa Maria Clinic of Santiago. “La Chascona had been object of vandalism acts. The ditch so loved by the poet was obstructed and the house was flooded, it had to be placed some wood slabs over the mud in order to make possible the entrance of his remains, since Matilde Urrutia insisted to have his funeral in there. She together with a few friends spent that night in the broken windows living room.
Matilde made a big effort to fix the damages of the house she had built with Neruda, and she continued living in it until her death in 1985. In this way “La Chascona” was reborn and in the actuality is a house–museum which destiny is to spread the life of the poet by making possible the access to the intimate ambient in which he lived and created.
Fernando Márquez de La Plata, 0192, Santiago.