Latin American Road Trip

Stops 1 and 2, Santiago and Brasilia

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Four Destinations

  1. Starting in Santiago, Chile.

  2. Driving 2,485.7 miles in a car to Brasilia, Brazil.

  3. Flying 2,806.6 miles in a plane to Lima, Peru.

  4. Taking a cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean to Puerto Chiapas, Mexico, then taking a plane from there to Mexico City for a total of 2,680.7 miles.

Starting Point - Santiago, Chile: Location

Absolute Location: Santiago, Chile, 33° 25' S, 70° 33' W

Relative Location: Santiago is located in Chile’s central valley and anchors its northern and more prosperous section. The city rests on an inland plain between the Andes Mountains in the east and the Coastal Range in the west. It is 62 miles from the Pacific Ocean; 25 miles from the Andes range, and 361.6 miles from the Argentina border. It has an elevation of 1,706 ft. Santiago, Chile is in the western and southern hemispheres.

Area of the city: 247.6 sq. miles

Population: 5,428,590

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Physical Locations

  • San Cristóbal
  • Mapocho River

Human Features

  • Gran Torre Santiago, the tallest building in South America
  • Parque Forestal

Smog - a modification to the environment

Smog and air pollution are a major public health concern. The Santiago geographical location traps smog during the winter months from June to September. Officials have tried to adopt legislative measures for industries and vehicle restrictions on cars.
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Vineyards - an accommodation to the environment

Chile is renowned for its wines, and many are grown around Santiago. This area makes good wines because the proximity to the Andes creates a cool drop in temperature at night, vital in maintaining the grapes’ acidity levels.
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Dependence on the Government

Santiago is the capital of Chile. It accounts for almost ½ of Chile’s GDP and is home to 1/3 of Chile’s population. It has no metropolitan authority or structure, which resulted in problems. The government works to reduce poverty in Chile and lowered it 23.2% (2 million people) between 1987 and 1996.

Examples of Movement

The Santiago area was the southern basis for Inca expeditions southward along the Inca Trail, the most extensive and advanced transportation system in pre-Columbian South America. It was more than 20,000 miles long. The Inca had two main uses of transportation on the roads. They used the chasqui (runners) for relaying messages throughout the empire and llamas and alpacas for transporting goods. The Inca Trail was used for trade with other regions, going all the way to Ecuador. It was a quick route for movement.

Today, Santiago has a sophisticated transportation system, ranging from the Comodoro Arturo Merino International Airport to the Chilean national railway company that connects Santiago to several cities in the south-central part of the country to numerous bus terminals to toll highways that connect various parts of the city to the Santiago Metro and Metrotren, a commuter rail.


The official language of Chile is Spanish ( castellano ), which is spoken by 14 million Chileans as their first language.

"Chilean Spanish is quite characteristic and is immediately identified in other Latin American countries for its distinctive "melody." Chileans generally speak very fast and terminal consonants are often not even spoken. They also often add the suffix –"ito" or –"ita" (meaning "little") to the end of words. In addition, Chilean speech contains many words adopted from the Mapuche language as well as much chilenismos (Chilean slang). "


63% Roman Catholic

15% Protestant

0.9% Mormon, mostly non-practicing

3% Other religions including Bahai, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam

18% none

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Food and drink

Santiagoans like to share a cup of wine or a Pisco Sour (the national drink) while tasting the flavorful meat from a custom barbeque (asado). Asados are weekend barbeques held throughout spring, summer, and fall. Meat is centric and almost always grilled over charcoal.

Once is a small meal, similar to British tea, that takes place around five or six p.m. daily. About 80% of Chilean households observe it. Tea, coffee, wine and beer are served along with pastries, empanadas, fresh bread, and mashed avocado.

Creative Expression

The Plaza de Armas, or central square, houses many museums and fine art entertainment venues, including the Chilean National History Museum, Museum of Santiago, Municipal Theater of Santiago (home to the national theater and symphony), National Library, and Museum of pre-Columbian Art.
Il Trovatore.Teatro Municipal de Santiago.2013.Carrion.Chile.
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Second destination: Brasilia, Brazil - Location

Driving by car from Santiago, Chile to Brasilia, Brazil, 2,485.7 miles

Absolute Location: 15° 46' S, 47° 55' W

Relative Location: Brasilia is in the Brazilian Highlands in Brazil’s central-west region. It is almost 850 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. At an elevation of 3,500 feet, it lies between the headwaters of the Tocatins, Paraná, and São Francisco rivers.

Area of the city: 2,240.164 sq miles

Population: 2,789,761

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History of the Location of Brasilia

Brasilia was founded on April 21, 1960, to serve as the new national capital. Brasília, easily the fastest growing major city in the country, had an estimated population of 2,852,372 in 2014.

In 1823, José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, a counselor and minister to Dom Pedro I, presented a bill to the Brazilian assembly to build a new capital far away from the sea where it would be safe from invaders, and suggested the name "Brasília" for the new city. Later, the Italian saint Dom Bosco had a dream which was interpreted to mean the construction of a new city "Between parallels 15 and 20." Preliminary site selection of a 14,400 km2 area in the State of Goias and a symbolic marker, laid in 1922, paved the way but nothing more was done until 1955.

Part of the difficulty was the great distance of the new capital from the rest of Brazil. The chosen site, though able to accommodate a great city, near rivers, was over 360 miles (600km) from the nearest paved road, 75 miles (125km) from the nearest railroad, and some 115 miles (190km) from the nearest airport. When Juscelino Kubitschek was inaugurated as president of Brazil, he vowed to honor the constitution, and with the slogan "50 years in 5", he obtained Congressional authorization and building began in 1956. The new capital was inaugurated on April 21, 1960.

Brasilia was created by urban planner, Lucio Costa, and architect, Oscar Niemeyer, who intended that the layout of the residential and administrative districts would be completely symettrical and in harmony with the city’s overall design. Today, the city is considered a “monument to modern architecture,” but does not serve as a city for human activities. It is not considered “Brazilian,” and many people live there only during the week to conduct business or politics. They go to their actual homes in other parts of Brazil during the weekends.


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Physical Features of Brasilia

  • Chapada dos Veadeiros – Brasilia is located due south of this national park, which is renowned for its beautiful waterfalls.
  • Poço Azul ("Blue Pool") – this natural wonder has been formed out of a quartz rock. This pool is within the Cafuringa Environmental Protection Area.
  • Cerrados – vast tropical savannas on the flat plateaus around Brasilia

Human Features

Modification to the Environment

Peninsula Sul in the Parque Ecologico – a manmade beach for sunbathing, walking, or water sports.
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Accommodation to the Environment: Cerrado Development

The region around Brasilia has, for generations, been considered to be unsuitable for farming. However, this area of cerrados (“closed, inaccessible wastelands") are dry high plains that are now being developed using modern mechanical, chemical, and biological technologies to dominate the cerrados. The climate and soil characteristics favor uninterrupted field operations that are seldom delayed by weather. In the 1960s, commercial livestock operations were created. In the late 1970s, a tropical soybean was introduced to the region along with new techniques for managing cerrado soils. Today, dryland farms produce soybeans, corn, cotton, and some coffee.
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How the People Depend on the Government

The government plays a major role in Brasilia’s economy, and as the capital, it is the political center of Brazil. Brasília has the highest city gross domestic product (GDP) of 99.5 billion reais representing 3.76% of the total Brazilian GDP. The government’s primary functions are administrative and industrial planning. Brasilia is registered by UNESCO, so the government encourages non-polluting industries, such as software, film, video, and gemology among others, with emphasis on environmental preservation and maintaining ecological balance, preserving the city property.

Originally designed for 500,000 residents, the construction workers who built Brasilia stayed and the city is now crowded with almost 3 million residents. The government provides the fire department, military police, civil policy, emergency medical services, and human rights protection. The public sector is by far the largest employer, accounting for around 40% of the city jobs. Government jobs include all levels, from the federal police to diplomacy, from the transportation bureau to the armed forces.

Examples of Movement

9 Traits of Culture


Portuguese, spoken by more than 99% of the population. About 40,000 Brazilians spean one of 180 indigenous languages.


Roman Catholicism – 64.6%

Protestantism – 22.2%

Non-religious – 8%

Other religions – 5.2%

The Brasilia region has strong mystical leanings. The Italian saint, Dom Bosco, prophesized Brasilia. The Templo da Boa Vontado (Temple of Good Will) is shaped like a pyramid, and inside it hangs the largest crystal ever found in Brazil. This temple is the national headquarters for the Legião da Boa Vontade and attracts visitors from all religions.

In 1986, the Brasilia Government created a City of Peace Foundation that administers the International Holistic University of Brazil. Its goal is to awaken the new world consciousness by combining cience and the spiritual traditions of mankind.

The Vale do Amanhecer (Valley of Dawning) was discovered by a medium, Tia Neiva, and is located on the northern side of Brasilia. This valley is considered to be the most well-known location of religious syncretism (blending of many religions) in Brazil since it incorporates the beliefs and entities from: Africa-Brazilian, many indigenous people, Egyptian, gypsy, Incas, Aztecs, Mayas, and extraterrestrials. (Brasilia is said to be frequently visited by UFOs and several groups in the city study the phenomenon.)

Creative Expression – Sports

Brasilia was one of the sites for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The three most well-known teams of Brasilia are Brasiliense FC, SE Gama, and Brasilia Futebol Clue. Brasilia will also host soccer tournaments during the 2016 Summer Olympics.
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Public schools are free and considered inferior to private schools. School is compulsory for all children between 7 and 14 years old (elementary school). This is seldom enforced, as many children live in rural areas or have to work to bring in money for their families. Public schools often lack plumbing and heating, and the buildings are dilapidated and neglected. High school is available for students aged 15 to 17 years old.

English and Spanish are both taught in the schools. Brasilia has six private international schools, two universities, three university centers, and many private colleges.