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Pablo Neruda

Caldillo de Congrio

Cultural Perspectives

By Tim Hazell

“The Picasso of poetry”

−René de Costa in The Poetry of Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda (Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto) was born in Parral, a small town in central Chile, in 1904. After the death of his mother Rosa, his father moved his sons to Temuco and remarried. Neruda began to write verse at age 10, encouraged by the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral.

Some Beasts

It was the nightfall of the iguana. From his rainbow-colored crest his tongue like a dart sank into the greenery, the monastic ant colony stepped with musical feet through the jungle, the wild llama, as delicate as oxygen in the wide brown high country went walking in his golden boots, while the tame llama opened his candid eyes onto the daintiness of a world filled with dew. The monkeys braided an endless erotic thread…

Neruda published Twenty Love Songs and a Song of Despair in 1924, bringing him acclaim. He held diplomatic posts throughout his life while writing for several literary magazines and editing his own journal, Caballo Verde para la Poesía.


The Old Women of the Ocean

To the solemn sea the old women come

With their shawls knotted around their necks

With their fragile feet cracking.

They sit down alone on the shore

Without moving their eyes or their hands

Without changing the clouds or the silence.


Pablo Neruda was elected to the Chilean Senate in 1945. He lived abroad as an exile after his government was taken by right-wing extremists. In Heights of Machu Picchu, Neruda gives voice to the Inca mountain citadel.


Kiss these secret stones with me.

The torrential silver of the Urubamba

makes the pollen fly to its golden cup.

The petrified plant, the inflexible garland,

Soar above the silence of these mountain coffers.


Neruda was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Immortalized in his “Oda al Caldillo de Congrio,” this classic fish soup of the Chilean coast is simple and delicious. Serves four with a good Chilean wine!


2 tbsp. olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

2 large onions, peeled and chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

15 oz. canned tomatoes, juice reserved

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 pound firm fish fillet pieces

1 pound potatoes, diced and cooked

1 cup seafood or vegetable stock

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish: finely chopped parsley or scallions


Heat oil in a large pot. Stir in garlic, onions, and jalapeno pepper. Sauté until soft. Add tomatoes and cook down over medium heat, about eight minutes. Toss in fish and shrimp, covering and steaming for about two minutes. Remove cover and let stew gently for five more minutes, until fish is just done. Pour in the reserved tomato juice and stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the cooked potatoes. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with parsley or scallions.


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