September has come and gone and the 199th Fiestas Patrias on the 18th are a happy memory, as is this year’s Parada Militar—the Military Parade—which happens every year on September 19th, the Día de las Glorias del Ejército (Armed Forces Day).
This was actually the first time I’d ever been to the Parade. I generally steer clear of all things military, but I decided that this was the year to make the trek to Parque O’Higgins and check it out.
Eileen from Bearshapedsphere went too, and you can check out her take on the day here: Chile’s Sept 18th/19th Parada Militar/Military Parade. In words and pictures.
The parade was set to start at 2:45, so we thought we were pretty clever getting there by 1:00, but right there we were showing our gringa naivete, because several thousand earlier birds already had a pretty tight choke hold on those tasty worms we were all after, which is to say that the place was packed and there was not a spot to be found that wasn’t already 3 deep in people lining the parade route. No matter. We were there to people watch anyway, and that we certainly did.
We entered the park and followed the crowd through the maze of vendors selling everything from cotton candy to kites to toilet seat covers (who buys toilet seat cover sets at a parade?), but mostly food. Lots of food:
Many people came equipped with picnics, but plenty were taking advantage of (from left to right) the (1) empanadas de pino (beef empanadas), (2) fresh fruit salad, (3) fresh squeezed orange juice, (4) candied apples and sweet popcorn, (5) more empanadas, (6) guatitas and longaniza (tripe and sausage, a combination I’ve never seen offered in public before), and (7) the ever-famous mote con huesillo (see Dieciocho for a discussion on this favorite dessert/drink).
We spent a lot of time wandering through the park and finally managed to wrangle a not-so-great spot where we watched the first part of the parade, which always includes huasos offering the president chicha in a cacho (partially fermented grape juice in a silver-rimmed cow horn). We were much too far away to see it, but both the huasos and the president herself were kind enough to head on down our way. She was clearly glad to see us. Probably pretty amazed to see how cleverly Eileen dangles from tall, spiky fences with one hand while taking pictures with the other.
We didn’t stay put very long. Not only did we not realize that to get a good position we would have had to arrive at the crack of dawn, but also that we were clearly not dressed properly either. It turns out that parade attire de rigueur includes small children as head and shoulder wear.
We did manage to catch glimpses of some pretty snazzy uniforms though.
So we moseyed along out through the very large park, making our way to the opposite side, taking in the sights, watching the people, enjoying the day. The soldiers weren’t the only ones in uniform, it turned out. Standard-issue for little girls was definitely flowered huasa/china dresses (again, see the comments on the Dieciocho post for a full explanation of what that is all about). There were a lot of them, and they sure were cute.
When we finally got to the other side, we discovered that we had quite cleverly outwitted the crowds, and by standing along Avenida Beauchef, far from the bandstand madness within, we had perfect access to the parade as the marching groups exited the park.
This year some 11,500 members of the armed forces and police (carabineros) marched–300 more than last year. There were also more women in uniform than ever, 892 this year: 218 Army, 199 Navy, 101 Air Force, 373 Carabinera-Police).
Anyone who has ever spent any time in Santiago knows that the dogs like to participate in civic life and show up everywhere. (See the post on “It’s a Dog’s World“).
Everyone wants to get in on the act, and it seems that soldiers just keep getting younger and younger all the time! This kid was just marching along, all on his own, pretty oblivious to all the attention he attracted. We never did find out who he belonged to!
My favorites–in any parade–are the bands. I love to get right out in the middle with my camera and let the bands pass me–the feeling of being surrounded by all the drumming and brass gets me going, and it’s by far the best way to get in close for some real action shots. In fact, I spent about 20 minutes in the middle of the street and chasing tuba players until some official finally kicked me out. (If you look closely enough at the tubas, you’ll see that they include a self portrait!)