Esmeralda is the Chilean Navy’s training ship and she also acts as a goodwill ambassador for her country. But Esmeralda has a troubled past, during Augusto Pinochet’s regime she was used as a place to jail and torture political prisoners, and now her arrival is often met with protests.
I usually enjoy visiting ships, especially when it’s free, but I had mixed feelings about this one because of its dark history.
I eventually decided to go while she was docked in Victoria, BC, I wanted to see some cruiser ships as well, and three of them were arriving in port that evening.
There were no protests on this occasion, so I was able to see the ship without any trouble. I can say that Esmeralda is a nice ship, not that I know much about sailing ships in general.
However, I saw a coat of arms inside the ship carrying the words Por la razón o la fuerza. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have paid too much attention to this – just another one of those ‘macho mottos’ – but in this case it was somehow unsettling, and forced me to think harder about where I was.
Translated into English, the motto means By reason or force, or By might or right.
In concluding this post I should say that Chile has now been a democratic country for over two decades, and its coat of arms was adopted some 200 years ago; the people who work and train on the ship have nothing to do with the events of its past. You can read more about this coat of arms on Wikipedia.