Neruda’s Childhood in the Wild West of southern Chile
Near the home of Pablo Neruda neighborhood, which he described as a simile Far West American space, developing his childhood and adolescence.
Here you can experience the sociocultural context associated with the poet that still exists.
Milestones belonging to the Tour
Although it is not contemporary with Pablo Neruda’s childhood in Temuco, having been built in the 1930s, it is deeply significant for his poetry. The old engine sheds (“casa de máquinas”), now the Pablo Neruda National Railway Museum, bring us close to two of the experiences associated with Neruda’s poetry: the world of trains and the loneliness felt by the poet in the presence of the silent engines.
For Neruda, trains reflect the struggle between man and the harsh nature of southern Chile; the trains steams through the empty landscape in the rain, between ancient forests and planted crops, stopping at the wayside stations of the “Frontera” (the Frontier”) which are not stations but ports for this terrestrial ship.
At the same time, the young Neruda saw in the motionless trains and the nocturnal silence of the engine sheds the loneliness and sadness of the metal, blackened by the passage of time.The sheds at night provide a connection with the experience of solitude..
The Feria Pinto district was the first to adapt to the arrival of the railway and the train station. This was the quarter where Neruda passed his childhood, still named Neftalí Reyes. Although it has changed since that time, in the streets you can still see that same faces of men and women who have been coming here for over a hundred years to buy tools, seed and provisions, or to sell their freshly-harvested produce.
Now as then, they come to the city in horse-drawn carts, and among the noise and hooting of cars and buses we still hear the distinctive sounds of horses’ hooves.Feria Pinto is the heart of Neruda’s Far West, the quarter where he lived and where as a child the poet observed this world of pioneers, indians (as the native people were then called), trains and ironmongers.
Temuco station was opened in 1887, the biggest in the Araucanía Region and one of the most important in the country. His father, José del Carmen Reyes, worked on the railways as an engine-driver, driving the track-repair train the length and breadth of the region. As a child the poet often accompanied his father, and on these journeys he discovered the natural surroundings of southern Chile and the lives of the railway workers.
Neruda left Temuco in March 1921, and every time he returned it was via the railway station. The train from Santiago arrived very early in the morning and every time he returned to the city he would leave the station to see the familiar scene: the Marssano building, the horses and carts, the bustle of a neighborhood that never sleeps.
The quiet interior of the station, with its large dome and the noisy interruptions of trains and flying pigeons, invites us to silent reflection.
Neruda lived in this house from the beginning of 1906 to the summer of 1920-1. The land was granted in 1894 to Trinidad Candia Marverde, Neruda’s “Mamadre” (stepmother) as fiscal grant Nº 1 of block 19 on the official plan of the city.Like all early 20th century buildings in the Araucanía Region, the house was a simple, functional structure built of native wood. The architecture “complied fully with the rules of basic common sense, general among the people who with a mixture of fear and fury populated this territory with a practical, functional spirit for the needs of building or founding a city” (Reyes, 2004:20).
It had “a double front door, usual at that time, and the typical two windows overlooking the street, from which the poet observed and described what he saw, as he makes clear in some of his books” (Consejo Regional de la Cultura y las Artes, CRCA, 2008:6).In this house Neruda wrote his first poems; he read the avant-garde; produced his first publications; planned his first books. He grew and developed, adopting the pseudonym with which he signed his poems.
Opened in 1929, it is a landmark building for the heritage of the city of Temuco and a tourist attraction par excellence. Like the Feria Pinto, this market also retains an air of Neruda’s Far West, combining the sale of handicrafts with typical Chilean butchers’ shops and roast meats. It is a crucible of people, objects, aromas and colours – familiar to Neruda – systematising the past and present of the Araucanía Region.