Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fiestas Patrias

Chilean recreation is a lot about "partying," which has always seemed a strange hobby to me, since I like my peace and quiet. (Yes, when I get home I'll be living with a half-time 6-year old, and it'll be a learning experience for both of us.) I don't like dancing, and I don't drink much, and I can't take large groups of people for long. Going out to nightclubs and bars is not a good fit for my temperament or interests.

Chileans, on the other hand, are highly social as a matter of course. In general, they love parties, and bigger parties are better. And so we get Fiestas Patrias.

Down on the south end of Valparaiso is the neighborhood of Playa Ancha, where the dirt parking lot of the soccer stadium becomes, essentially, the Chilean version of a county fair. One end has a midway with carnival games and rides, including a Ferris wheel. The other end is taken over by 3 rows of continuous temporary structure, about 100 yards long--the fondas and ramadas. A fonda is a little restaurant, and a ramada is a dance/performance hall, with a stage, dance floor, and drinks. Everything is covered in branches and slabs of tree bark: rama means "branch," so following Spanish's love of the past participle, something "tree-branched" is a ramada.

There were also several full-service liquor booths, where you could buy full-size bottles of liquor to bring into the pavilions, which have cover charges.

Steve and I went up there about 7:30 last night. It was nice, I guess; mind-bogglingly festive, and just starting to warm up and get really crowded when we left around 9:30. A few people had recommended the transvestites' pavilion, so we went there, and they weren't passable, but they were pretty funny.

(It's a pretty funny thing to hear the 76-year old house grandmother muttering, "Oh, yeah. The transvestites. They're so nice!".)

Reasonably interesting, reminded me of the Big E back east, and very Chilean...but not really my kind of thing.

Regardless: Happy Birthday, Chile!

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