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Concón, Chile: Lookin’ good after 468 years! (Part 1)

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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.

Comparsa Cerro Alegre San Antonio in Concón, August 2009

Comparsa Cerro Alegre San Antonio in Concón, August 2009

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.)

MST-0908_0144-Clowns2Inside 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.

Comparsa Cerro Alegre San Antonio in Concón, August 2009

Comparsa Cerro Alegre San Antonio in Concón, August 2009

Next up: the ever popular cumbia by the Nueva Invasión Tropical.

Concón: Nueva Invasión Tropical

Nueva Invasión Tropical in Concón, August 2009

Then local favorites Los Hermanos Morales (below), who do a rockin’ ranchera—and have you ever seen such a gorgeous accordion?

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Los Hermanos Morales, Concón, August 2009

Los Hermanos Morales, Concón, Chile, August 2009

Los Hermanos Morales, Concón, Chile, August 2009

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.

12 responses to “Concón, Chile: Lookin’ good after 468 years! (Part 1)

  1. Hey! That looks like fun. I once wandered into a decrepit bar in an even more decrepit neighborhood in Cartagena, Columbia and heard what had to be some of the purist most beautiful cumbia I have ever heard. The band, six or seven men fighting for space on a stage as big as a postage stamp, was muy boracho and they played extraordinary stuff. You couldn’t buy that kind of music. The place was hopping,sawdust floors, drunks, prostitutes, dope dealers and a toilette that can’t be described. I’ll never forget it. They played a classic, heart wrenching cumbia titled Misera Humana that made you want to cry. That accordion in your picture brought it all back.
    Arigato
    John

  2. Sounds like the stuff that fond memories and great stories are made of!

  3. nobody ever tells me about the fun events?!? i’ve been in Con con a couple times a week and somehow missed out on this!

    You got a nice picture of my boyfriend’s friend, “el pato mimo”, in new pants, i dont know him well though.

    Sometimes I think I must have my head in the clouds…

  4. Maybe it has to do with the section of town you’re in. Everything happens in Concón Viejo, near the church. I just happened upon this by complete accident! There’s something going on next weekend too, but I’m not sure what, exactly.

    The clowns and mimes and jugglers, etc. were great!

  5. Wow Peg, your getting good at making photos! Gonna get me out of a job soon!

  6. Wow! THANKS Matt! Coming from you I am honored and flattered! But no worries about your job–the apprentice will never catch up to the master!
    (Everyone else- click on Matt’s link and you’ll see what I mean!)

  7. I’m hoping the leaping photo makes an appearance in the second shots. I’m sure you know what I mean. I didn’t know that people used blackface to gain access to places. Still creeps me out, as you might imagine.

    I love it that you happened upon this. Think of how disappointed you’d have been if you found out afterwards! And I agree with Matt, even if my opinion doesn’t count as much as his in this area.

  8. Hey there… yes indeed, “el salto” is next up! I’ll post the 2nd half of this event either later today or tomorrow.
    I’m very happy I stumbled upon this event… but even happier that I had my camera with me–I very nearly left it HOME!
    And thanks for agreeing with Matt… although that puts you both in the category of “enablers”- by encouraging my addiction!

  9. Hey i just wanted to congratulate you for the blog that you have in here, it makes me appreciate my country even more! I’ve never get the chance to read it all because you know how life is, but as far as I’ve seen it i like it a lot! Keep it going! And i can’t wait for the next post! Xoxo

  10. Well thanks! And you’re in luck… part 2 is up and ready! Take a look!

  11. Pingback: Concón, Chile: Lookin’ good after 468 years! (Part 2) « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  12. Pingback: Cachando Chile: a Year in Review « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

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