Fifty years ago the Queen em­barked on an ad­ven­ture in Chile ... here’s what hap­pened

Com­mem­o­rat­ing the Queen and Prince Philip’s 1968 visit to South Amer­ica, a new ex­hi­bi­tion re­counts her un­usual ex­pe­ri­ences in south­ern town Pu­con.

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - FEATURE - By Sarah Mar­shall

As a head of state, Queen El­iz­a­beth has vis­ited coun­tries all over the world — but few of her over­seas en­gage­ments can have been as ad­ven­tur­ous as a two-day visit to Pu­con. The Queen and Prince Philip ex­plored the small town in south­ern Chile as part of a week-long trip to the south Amer­i­can coun­try in No­vem­ber 1968, 50 years ago. Dur­ing her time in Pu­con, the roy­als stayed at Ho­tel An­tu­malal, a fam­ily-run busi­ness still in op­er­a­tion to­day.

For­mer Pu­con res­i­dent Ibe­ria Tor­res Abe­laira was so in­trigued by the visit, she spent five years amass­ing im­ages and anec­dotes for her book, Pu­con, Asi Era Mi Pue­blo, 1883-1969. Now some of those ex­tracts are on dis­play at an ex­hi­bi­tion in San­ti­ago, Chile. Here, she shares some of her more ex­tra­or­di­nary dis­cov­er­ies.

How did the Queen end up in Pu­con?

“When the owner of Ho­tel An­tu­malal, Guillermo Pol­lak, learned the Queen was com­ing to Chile, he wrote a let­ter to the for­eign min­is­ter invit­ing the Queen, the prince and the pro­to­col peo­ple to stay at the ho­tel free of charge. The ex­cuse was for the Queen and the prince to see the beau­ties of south­ern Chile. I think it was clever mar­ket­ing be­cause they spent two nights there.”

What spe­cial ar­range­ments did they make?

“Pu­con is a small place in the mid­dle of the moun­tains. In those days it had only 4,000 in­hab­i­tants. Even the ac­cess was dif­fi­cult. They didn’t want the roy­als to sleep on a se­cond-hand mat­tress, so they or­dered new ones. But the de­liv­ery truck didn’t have a roof and it rained, so they had to put them on an open fire un­til they dried out.”

What hap­pened when the roy­als ar­rived?

“When they ar­rived in San­ti­ago, it was very, very for­mal. But Pu­con was chaotic. It was an air­field, not a proper air­port, and they built a tower just for the oc­ca­sion. When the plane ap­proached the air­field, they re­alised there were pigs run­ning around. Some peo­ple told me the pi­lot took the Queen closer to the vol­cano. “Tito, who was man­ag­ing the ho­tel at the time, told me she was a very sim­ple per­son. Just like any other ‘gringa’ that came to the ho­tel. Ev­ery­one who saw her re­mem­bered her as a beau­ti­ful per­son and very slim.”

What ac­tiv­i­ties did they do?

“The first day, the prince went fish­ing with some rep­re­sen­ta­tives, but they didn’t catch any­thing, so they went to have some pisco sours. “By the time they ar­rived at the ho­tel, the Queen was hav­ing dessert, so they had to pre­pare a small ta­ble in the cor­ner of the din­ing room. They were be­hav­ing like naughty boys. The Queen was very cross. “An­other day, they pre­pared a bar­be­cue. They wanted to do some­thing ru­ral Chilean. When I saw the pic­tures I was flab­ber­gasted — how could they bring the Queen to this? It was very ba­sic.”

Did the Queen en­joy her stay?

“She sent a ca­ble when she was fly­ing back and there is one para­graph where she men­tioned An­tu­malal. Now there is a leg­end about this visit.” For more in­for­ma­tion on Ho­tel An­tu­malal, visit www.an­tu­malal.com

ROYAL VISIT: The Queen and Prince Philip on their tour of Chile. Be­low, at Ho­tel An­tu­malal and their caval­cade in San­ti­ago

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