Published: 15:41, April 7, 2022 | Updated: 18:02, April 7, 2022
Pandemic fallout 'puts Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's legacy at risk'
By Reuters

View of the Pablo Neruda National Railway Museum in Temuco, Chile on June 18, 2015. (RODRIGO BUENDIA / AFP)

SANTIAGO - Chile's Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda's museum houses are at risk of shutting down for good after forced closures and a sharp drop in tourism caused by the coronavirus pandemic dried up funds, the foundation in charge of managing them said.

Before the pandemic the poet's three museum houses used to receive up to a total of 350,000 visitors each year

"The pandemic devastated all visitors. We are in a critical situation," said Fernando Saez, executive director of the Neruda Foundation, in a meeting with foreign correspondents at the poet's house in Santiago.

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The three museum houses, located in central Chile, were closed for 17 months due to the pandemic and reopened last September after health measures loosened around the Andean country, aided by a strong vaccination campaign.

Before the pandemic the poet's three museum houses used to receive up to a total of 350,000 visitors each year. Most visitors were foreign tourists and students, but the museums also hosted literary workshops and cultural activities.

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Together, the houses collected about 200 million pesos a month ($250,000), the foundation said. The foundation also received $150,000 from the author's copyright to preserve the museums, which are full of collectibles.

Students visit the Pablo Neruda National Railway Museum in Temuco, Chile on June 18, 2015. (RODRIGO BUENDIA / AFP)

Even after reopening, Saez says the museums are getting a fraction of the number of visitors they used to get. He added that the foundation has "knocked on doors" to build alliances with the government and private companies, but haven't been successful.

"One thing is to survive and another to overcome and improve," Saez said.

Tourists look at a painting at "La Chascona", house of Chilean poet and 1971 Nobel Literature Prize laureate Pablo Neruda, in Santiago on April 6, 2022. (MARTIN BERNETTI / AFP)

The foundation has a plan to set up an interactive museum in front of Neruda's museum house in Santiago, in the bohemian tourist neighborhood of Bellavista, with a budget of between $1.5 and $2 million.

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The goal is for the museum to be ready in 2023, the 50th anniversary of the poet's death, and have the museum tour the country and abroad.

"But right now we can't finance anything," Saez said.