Día de Colón (Columbus Day)…
Día de la Raza (Day of the Race, referring to the Hispanic Race)…
Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity)…
Día de las Americas (Day of the Americas)…
Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance)…
Día del Encuentro de Dos Mundos (The Day of the Meeting of Two Worlds)…
I doubt there are too many other public holidays that have as many different names and connotations as 12 October does in the Americas. The origin of the day is the commemoration of the day in 1492 when Cristobal Colón “discovered” the New World.
Wikipedia describes the date as “the birth of a new identity which is a product of the meeting and fusion of the indigenous cultures of the American continent and the Spanish colonisers“. It sounds quite poetic, yet says nothing about the hundreds of years that followed with the subjugation and elimination of many indigenous cultures, the wars of independence etc. So I suppose it is no surprise that still to this day, this holiday is marked with marches and protests by indigenous groups across Latin America. The name “Colombus Day” has even caused tension in the US.
This past Monday was the public holiday here in Chile since the holiday is always moved to the Monday nearest to 12 October. The bonus of living in the centre of Santiago, close to Plaza Italia is that you don`t have to make too much of an effort or go very far to be in the heart of whatever celebration is happening on a given day. So I hopped out of bed late on Monday, strolled over to Santa Lucia hill (around the corner from our apartment and which overlooks Alameda – the main street in the city centre) and waited for the march to pass by below.
The march consisted mostly of people from the Mapuche culture in the south of Chile who are constantly fighting the Chilean State on issues such as land rights. Right now tensions are high between the government and the Mapuche and four Mapuche prisoners are on a hunger strike. However, the point of this post is not to explore very sensitive political issues, but rather to show you some of the vivid colours, costumes and traditions that remain strong to this day across various indigenous groups in Chile (The Mapuche from the south and the Aymara (amongst others) from the northern Andes). I just wish I had videos to show you the music and dancing as well.
The march was led by a group of young children. Recently a group of Mapuche took over UNICEF`s office in Santiago in protest against the fact that some young children were caught in the crossfire between Mapuche and police forces in the south.
Two Mapuche girls. One playing a Cultrun (traditional drum) and the other waving a canela branch which is the Mapuche`s sacred tree.
A young man playing the trutruka (traditional trumpet)
Brightly coloured Aymara women from the Andes in the north of Chile
I think this group also represents the Aymara people, but I could definitely be wrong. There are many cultures in the northern Andes and I am afraid I know very little about them.
Some interesting costumes
A marching band that had so much energy
Sadly, the ugly face of the march appeared, even before the last group of dancers from the North had passed us by. A group of hooligans, all dressed in black, faced covered with scarves and carrying backpacks, no doubt filled with stones and paint bombs, started dismantling the metal barriers dividing the march from the other side of the road. It was impressive to watch how within literally ten seconds, the scene below us turned from dancing and singing to fighting, water cannons and special forces police clashing with a supposed Anarchist group. The poor Aymara had to scramble over a fence into a park with their musical instruments to get away from the chaos.
Hooligans clashing with an armoured police van
The water cannons trying to disperse the crowd, which in my opinion just causes more chaos.
While chaos reigned around them, this group of musicians continued to play. I really admired them for that.
It looks like this marcher is trying to talk to the policeman about calming things down, but who knows. It was so sad to see how quickly things disintegrated, how a peaceful march was hijacked by such a small group, how quickly the police responded with excessive force and how the planned musical event in the nearby park was ruined.
As I have said on many occasions in this blog, there is definitely never a dull moment in Chile!