Dean Niels B. Schaumann led a delegation to South America in October to meet with Chilean legal officials and promote the work of California Western to develop the rule of law in Latin America. Programs like Proyecto ACCESO and the Chile Summer Program expand access to justice in the Americas while providing hands-on experience and new perspectives to students learning and working in those countries.
Our first day in Chile is winding down.
After a long flight, we rested a few hours and then connected with Professor James Cooper and Sebastian to visit Bellavista-a bohemian neighborhood in Santiago-where we ate at a Peruvian restaurant (lots of ceviche–raw fish in lemon juice and spices–delicious) and walked for a bit, then had coffee and dessert in a French cafe before taxiing home.
Learned a lot about Chile, from Jamie, and I am working on “some” Spanish, which means I recognize a few more words than last time.
Tomorrow is a big day–we sign our agreement of cooperation with the Attorney General of Chile just before noon. I am told the Embassy staff will be there.
Time to sleep.
Day two in Chile is done. Another day meeting absolutely wonderful people in this wonderful country!
After an informal breakfast, we traveled into Santiago to see the changing of the guard, which, we didn’t know, had been rescheduled for tomorrow. Oh well–there are many good coffee shops in Santiago. We stopped in one and had a quick cappuccino before going to the Fiscalia (AG’s office-the Attorney General of Chile) for a signing ceremony in which we agree to help each other do training, research, and programs in general.
In particular, we are excited about this because it formalized a relationship in which the AG’s office has taken our student interns. All of the students doing this have had great experiences! Very exciting.
After the Fiscalia, we had a meeting with the German director of the Heidelberg University Center for Latin America, here in Santiago. We cooperate with them currently on our Chile Summer Program, and are exploring additional possibilities for partnering with them.
We saw some amazing old buildings, including this 16th-century colonial house and the cathedral (pictured). Dinner was at Aqui Esta Coco, which I’ve visited before and which has some of the best seafood I’ve ever eaten.
Another good day!
At the end of day three in Chile, we have had a couple more meetings with law school officials and took a half-day sightseeing trip to Valparaiso. Our meetings are going very smoothly, and although the Chileans are new to distance education, they see the potential and are eager to talk with us about the possibilities of teaching that way.
Our trip to Valparaiso was magnificent. The road goes through Chilean wine country, which looks quite a lot like California wine country. Acres of well-tended vines, with the occasional discreet winery sign by the side of the road-nothing too ostentatious or flashy, just a subtle indication that wine is to be had. Valparaiso itself is completely unlike Santiago. Being a port and colonial city, it is built into the cliffs and is extensively served by funiculars-elevators that go nearly vertically to the streets of the upper part of town that would otherwise be a very long and steep walk. Picturesque and beautiful, it is also a city with character. It is not wealthy, nor is it excessively poor. It is full of unconventional people, bohemians, nonconformists, and rebels. It is to Chile what the old Greenwich Village was to New York.
I look forward to returning sometime soon-half a day is not long enough!
Well, our fourth day is over. This was the busiest day of the trip, and it was a bit long, but very productive and interesting. Pardon the lengthy post, but a lot happened today!
The day actually began late yesterday, when we caught a 10 p.m. flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. By the time all was done, it was 2 a.m. and we were checking into our hotel. We slept very well but not long enough, and this morning after a quick, groggy breakfast, we walked around the corner to the opening of the Red Inocente (Innocence Network) conference. By noon, we were traveling to the Supreme Court to meet with its Vice President, Elena Highton-Nolasco. Professor Cooper was already acquainted with her, and Carla and I wanted to meet her. She is an amazing woman, very accomplished, and when she enters a room, she is a real presence-a force of nature. She was in the middle of something but very graciously took some time to meet us and to talk about California Western’s presence in Latin America and ways in which we could be helpful in Argentina.
After meeting with the Vice President of the Supreme Court, we paid a visit to the U.S. Embassy. Here, we met with the cultural attache and one of her staff, who after listening to us suggested very helpfully that we get in touch with the Capital District Bar Association, as they are the most important provider of post-graduate professional training to lawyers in the region. This turned out to be an excellent suggestion.
Following our stop at the embassy, we did a couple of tourist things. We first visited the Plaza de Mayo, where the “Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” demonstrate regularly. During the military dictatorship, the Mothers demonstrated in the Plaza (which is directly across from the Casa Rosada, the Presidential residence) wearing scarves tied like masks over their faces. In their protest, they danced alone, holding photographs of their disappeared loved ones. The singer Sting wrote “They Dance Alone” as an acknowledgment of their courage and spirit in the face of brutal repression.
We also paid a visit to the Cafe Tortoni, a real coffee house of the kind once common in Europe. The architecture was beautiful, and the feel was very European, with excellent coffee and a literary vibe.
Finally, at 7 p.m., we met with an Argentine law professor and friend of Jamie’s. That turned into a fascinating conversation about the need for an Argentine evidence code (OK, it was interesting for me) and instruction in legal ethics. Apparently there is an ethics code but most lawyers don’t know much about it, because it is not taught in law schools.
By 9 p.m., we were ready to eat dinner. Argentines eat very late, and by arriving at the restaurant so “early,” we had beat the crowds. Of course, we had steak. Argentina is a beef country, and the steaks were excellent-thick and juicy. The meal was late but it was worth waiting for.
What a great day! We were very tired at the end of it, but it was worth it.
Days five and six have been a little less hectic, and have allowed us to explore a bit, giving us a better feel for Buenos Aires. On Friday, we started off at the Red Inocente conference, which was in its second day. After the first speakers, we traveled to the offices of the Capital District Bar Association on the recommendation of one of the staff at the U.S. Embassy. This turned out to be an excellent suggestion. The Bar Association coordinates most, if not all, of the postgraduate legal education in Buenos Aires. They have a full schedule of courses that are offered, resembling a bit the catalogs of local community colleges that are mailed to neighborhood residents in the U.S. Many of these courses lead to certificates, but there are LL.M.-related courses offered by the University of London through an Argentine school. Our contact was interested in the idea of a program in trial advocacy that could be offered online, and it seems clear that if we were to proceed in Argentina we would list our course in the Bar Association’s directory.
We spent most of the afternoon in the conference. It was in Spanish, but we were able to get a few things out of it, especially the story of Rafael Madrigal, who had been exonerated by the California Innocence Project. He spoke at the conference and made the important point that the innocent are imprisoned in every country of the world, and not just in South America.
That evening, Carla and I had our first dinner with just the two of us-a nice quiet evening at a good local restaurant. It was a great way to end the day.
The next day, Saturday, was our last day in South America. We attended the conference in the morning, and spent the afternoon in La Recoleta, which is both a neighborhood and the name of the cemetery where Eva Peron is buried. We saw her tomb and many others; it was a very interesting-yet not too macabre-place to visit. After the cemetery, we browsed through the local marketplace and saw a wide variety of handmade arts-and-crafts. On Saturday night, we attended the closing dinner for the presenters and some of the attendees at the conference. It was a wonderful evening, with lots of good food and company, and a combination of reminiscing and planning for the future going on all around the table. Next year’s conference looks like it will be in Bogota, Colombia, and the bar was set high by Buenos Aires.
Sunday we slept in, packed, and left for the airport. Our great visit to South America was at an end. Sad, but also happy to return, we boarded the plane in Buenos Aires for the long flight home.