Hidden beneath Santiago’s La Moneda Palace, the Chilean equivalent of the White House, is the airy, modernist lobby of the nation’s cultural center, Centro Cultural Palacio de La Moneda. Inside, visitors will find two main exhibition halls, several galleries and restaurants, a cafe, and the flagship storefront of the country’s finest souvenir shop: Fundación Artesanías de Chile.
Founded in 2002, the Fundación Artesanías de Chile is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and empowerment of traditional Chilean craftspeople through fair trade. “Crafts, as a reflection of culture, are very important for our peoples,” said Alberto Pizarro Chañilao, National Director of CONADI, the National Corporation for Indigenous Development, recently. “It is a way in which knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation and at the same time is a form of economic livelihood for many people and communities.”
With other locations in cities and airports across the country — including three in Santiago — the Fundación Artesanías de Chile storefronts make superb last-minute stops for one-of-a-kind gifts and trinkets, most of which are made by hand from natural materials: Mapuche-loomed wool blankets, cowhide horse whips used by Patagonian gauchos, ceramics made from native soils. Taken together, these crafts tell a rich story of a place, its people and their culture.
Clockwise from top right:
Origin: Región de Los Lagos, $8 USD
Origin: Región de Coquimbo, $17 USD
Rebenque Horse Whip
Origin: Región de Aysén, $108 USD
Rauli Wood Dish
Origin: Región de Los Ríos, $8 USD
Enameled Espresso Cup with Saucer
Origin: Región de la Araucanía, $5 USD
Mapuche Wool Blanket
Origin: Región de Los Lagos, $61 USD
Origin: Región de Magallanes, $7 USD