28 December 2015
We've been walking around the city. On weekdays, the few we've been here, things are bustling and buzzing with activity. We're right in the middle of downtown, so there are tons of banks and offices full of workers. There are also buildings such as ours that are residential, so the streets are packed with people walking, shopping, going somewhere.
But on Christmas Day, and now on the weekend, things are quieter. Most of the stores have limited hours or are closed altogether. Cafés and restaurants are closed. Even many of the museums in the Plaza de Armas area are closed.
One block away from our apart-hotel, our street turns into a pedestrian street. Or a mostly-pedestrian street. There's the occasional car that braves the various stalls that seem to appear when the most people are on the street.
On our way to Plaza de Armas, or the river, there are other pedestrian streets, some with open-air market stalls all along the way. These streets seem to be constantly packed with people.
Since these streets are closed to traffic, there are street performers all over. One-man drum bands with drums in front and back, and cymbals on their heads. (I've seen three or four guys dressed like this.) Occasional singers with karoake machines. And of course someone playing the Andean pan pipes, which somehow makes even Beatles music into a haunting melody.
Well, we encountered two young men who were dancing. They were in these black and embroidered suits, with jingly cylinders on their boots, doing sort of a jumping and leaping and twirling and stomping dance. Looking something like a hybrid between caballeros (cowboys) and whirling dervishes, though probably more gaucho than dervish.
They were pretty amazing, waving their hats and dancing to their music, leaping and coming down in a kneeling position, count two three and then off they were leaping and stomping, with the boots a-jingling. Really impressive!
Plus it was a good 90-something degrees (30-ish C), so even the spectators in the shade were hot and sweaty. These two young men were dancing their little feet off, sweating away, putting on their performance and hoping to earn some cash.
It was quite a show! So I'll make the photos large enough for you to see what they looked like. (I really liked their outfits, too, with something like a phoenix on the back!)
So just in case that wasn't exciting enough, last night was the Neruda Viene Volando festival or parade or something.
Literally translated, it's something like "Neruda comes flying." We weren't exactly sure what the whole thing was about.
Pablo Neruda, poet and politican, Nobel Laureate, is a much beloved figure in Chile. This weekend festival celebrates his life, his poetry, his political beliefs, and his love for his long-time mistress and third wife.
There may have been other events going on over the weekend, but we couldn't read enough to know what was happening, or have much of an idea what the whole event was about.
But there were two evening parades, complete with performances at various stations along the route.
The Sunday evening parade was scheduled for the road parallel to where our place is located, due to
arrive about 8 - 8:30 PM. So we made sure we were out there to see what was going on.
Now, keep in mind we are almost fluent in Spanish menu. And we can ask where things are, understand directions fairly well, and locate where we want to go. We can also chat about weather, where we're from, what we've seen, where we've visited. But this parade started with what we can only suppose was some sort of political speech. There was a big truck with a band on the back, and someone talking on a microphone. We had absolutely NO idea what they were saying.
Eventually the music started and the parade came by, with hordes of people following along with the floats. First there was a ship's figurehead, complete with blue and green fabric to represent ocean waves, and people holding the "water" and waving it back and forth. Then people dragging what looked like a rattan dove, and flapping its wings. A peace dove? Love? Some reference to one of his wives? Again, no idea.
Then the floating, flying Neruda, bigger than life, bigger than 100 times life! Absolutely huge, being dragged and rolled along. I really liked the one woman whose job seemed to be holding onto one foot. (The bare foot. For some reason, the other foot had a shoe. Neither Richard nor I are familiar enough with his poetry to know if this relates to something particular, or is just something fanciful.)
The final troupe was a group of people carrying huge versions of various books by Neruda, different collections of his poems. And what we can only guess were objects relating to his poetry: birds, butterflies, and colorful fish. Again, we really didn't know what was going on. People seemed to be really involved in the event, either participating in the parade or walking along the side, heading to the Plaza de Armas for the culminating events. We didn't want to interrupt and ask questions.
So, yay to Neruda, and I probably should find some of his poetry in English and read it. There are also three of his homes which are museums that can be visited, and maybe we'll do that as well.
It was colorful. The HUGE Neruda was kind of
funny. It was interesting. And that was kind of it. We thought it might be something bigger, or longer, but that was it.
Maybe it will all make sense. Or maybe it won't. That's one of the fun things with travelling, it's okay to not have a clue what's going on!