Concón, one of Chile’s popular beach resorts, goes all out with murgas, comparsa, cueca, cumbia, ranchera, diablada, and bailes pascuenses to celebrate its 468 years of history.
I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a good parade. Chile, however, is not so big on them. Processions, yes—usually saint-inspired—and then there’s the occasional civic type with the fire department and uniformed school kids marching along all fresh-pressed and scrub-faced. They’re also usually small town affairs—most of the marching going on in Santiago tends to end up involving tear gas and water cannons.
But I discovered something new the other night. A murga, Chilean style. As I pulled in to Concón last Saturday night, I heard the drum—one of those really big ones—and then the horns (lots o’ brass). I did a mental run-down of the usual saint day celebrations—nothing I was aware of. I had to find out. I’m drawn to these things like, well, what can I say, I’m an anthropologist! I have a degree in stick-your-nose-in!
I could hear them moving—first up by the church, then beyond the plaza. C’mon! Let’s go!! I tell my husband, who is oddly not drawn to these things like I am, but he humors me and off we go.
We discover a large group of brightly dressed dancers stopped a block from the church and waiting for mass to end (there always seems to be a mass) so they can continue on their merry-raucousy way. They’re in black face. BLACK face? My inner anthropologist is leaking out all over the place. I have to ask.
They’re the Comparsa Cerro Alegre San Antonio, they tell me, and they usually march during carnival season. When I ask why the black face, they stare back blankly as if it were self-explanatory. It has something to do with Brazil. (I later look up Comparsa—which Wikipedia tells me is Krewe in English—and discover that its an old tradition, brought from Spain, and much more popular in Uruguay, where the black face tradition goes back to colonial times when white people painted their faces to be able to participate in black celebrations, which were apparently much better parties.)
Inside the church, the last amen is said, and before the priest can finish the may you go in pe…. the drums are pounding, the brass is blaring, the dancers are whirling, and the party is on!
It turns out that the hoopla is in honor of Concón’s 468th anniversary, and they’re doing it up big.
Next up: the ever popular cumbia by the Nueva Invasión Tropical.
Then local favorites Los Hermanos Morales (below), who do a rockin’ ranchera—and have you ever seen such a gorgeous accordion?
And although the much-hyped double of Marco Antonio Solis would keep the crowd hoppin’ til 2AM, I’m done for the night.
Be sure to take a look at: Concón Celebrates Part II: folklore day.