A house in Santiago de Chile
at Londres street No. 38, originally housing an office of the Socialist Party, but seized by the Pinochet
junta and used in 1973/74 as one of the clandestine detention and torture centres by the infamous DINA secret police (= Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional). From 2005 the site was turned into a memorial.
>More background info
>What there is to see
>Access and costs
>Combinations with other dark destinations
>Combinations with non-dark destinations
What there is to see: The place is still a work in progress as it were; some parts of the building still await renovation/preservation and are out of bounds to visitors. Most rooms that already are part of the "memorial space" inside have so far mostly been left bare. You can see only remnants of installations, like pipes protruding out of the wall; and there are broken tiles, burn marks on the parquet wood floors, and other traces that are vaguely suggestive, but hardly any furniture or so. In a way, though, this contributes to an uneasy, eerie atmosphere.
The black-and-white tiles in the hall beyond the entrance are of significance – as these were the only thing that the blindfolded victims could see when they arrived here. This helped identify the place later. At one time, the military institution still occupying the site after the restoration of democracy (in 1990) even changed the house number to 40 in a rather crude cover-up attempt – and you can still find it listed as "Londres 40" in some travel guide books!
Some of the rooms upstairs served as torture chambers – as a floor plan chart explains, but there is nothing graphic to illustrate this. In two of the other rooms on the second floor towards the front of the building, a small exhibition has been set up. This is mostly about the history of the place, in particular the protest movement that finally achieved the recognition of the site as a memorial; although there is apparently still some hostility towards it … don't forget that there are still quite a few Pinochet
supporters out there …
Current political movements, demonstrations and the conservative government's recent tightening up of "security", i.e. police forces suppressing such protests, are covered by the exhibition too.
All texts are in Spanish only, though, So if you don't speak the language at all, you'll need a bilingual guide to help you out – like I did, because the visit to Londres 38 was part of a longer guided tour (with La Bicicleta Verde; see this sponsored page
and also see Santiago
). I was told, though, that the caretaker, a former detainee, who looks after the place most of the time, also speaks some English.
Outside the entrance note the small memorial plaques for victims set into the cobbles of the street!
It may not feature the hi-tech commodification that Santiago's huge Memorial Museum
does, and may not be as comprehensive a memorial as Villa Grimaldi Parque por la Paz
, but through its authenticity as a place (and the controversy around it having been turned into a memorial) Londres 38 is still a significant stop on any dark tourism tour of Santiago
. Do go!
The name is the location: a house at Londres street No. 38, in the pretty little cobbled street barrio of Santiago called Paris-London, just south of O'Higgins avenue near the university, ca. 600m east of La Moneda in the centre of Santiago de Chile
Access and costs: quite easy to get to; free.
Details: to get to Londres 38 from the city centre walk south from Plaza de Armas and past the La Moneda palace to the boulevard Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins. Between the Universidad de Chile and the San Franciso church, Calle Londres branches off to the south, and intersects with Calle Paris – explaining why this little district is known as Paris-London.
Opening times: Tuesday to Friday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 – 6 p.m. – regular guided tours (in Spanish) at noon and 4 p.m.; visits/guided tours on weekends by appointment (see londres38.cl).
Admission free (at least as far as I can tell; I wasn't charged anything, and I couldn't see any signs to the contrary, but no 'free admission' statement either).
Time required: depends crucially on whether you can read Spanish or have a bilingual guide to translate for you or not. If neither, then you'll probably be out again within less than 20 minutes (if that). Otherwise, if you want to study everything that's available, you'd probably need about 45 minutes to an hour or so.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
in general see under Santiago de Chile
– the closest other site of dark significance is the former presidential palace La Moneda a short distance to the west where President Allende held out until his death in Pinochet's military coup of 1973..
- Londres 38 - 1 - front
- Londres 38 - 2 - entrance
- Londres 38 - 3 - ground floor
- Londres 38 - 4 - floor plan
- Londres 38 - 5 - bare rooms
- Londres 38 - 6 - chilling atmosphere
- Londres 38 - 7 - upstairs exhibition and meeting room
- Londres 38 - 8 - view outside
- Londres 38 - 9 - markers set into the cobbles outside
- Paris London streets