Today, June 5, is an important day in Chilean history. What’s that? Not on the official list you say? No pu (as we say in buen chileno), it’s not. There are “official” important days—holidays and such—and then there are days that live long in the hearts of the people. Sure, not everyone can recite the exact date, but there are few who claim no memory of the event.
Let’s be more specific. June 5, 1991. Got it now? Still got nuthin? If you’re in Chile, ask a taxi driver, the person in the kiosko (newsstand), the guy on the street, heck, the guy sitting next to you wherever you are right now… watch them get almost teary-eyed with emotion and pride.
This. Is. Big.
Make that HUGE to any Chilean sports fan. And I can certainly tell you that a gringa who can trot out that date and fact at will certainly wins points with Chilean guys. Had a long conversation with a cab driver the other day who was clearly pleased that this gringa (who, by the way, admittedly knows nothing about sports in her own country, much less in her adopted one) gave him a chance to relive such a happy moment in his life.
I won’t even begin to try to explain all that’s behind this… just click on the links above so you can do your own sports history legwork, but I will tell you why in the world I remember such a thing.
See, 19 years ago tonight, I was on a plane (Ladeco Airlines, which was Chile’s international airline back in the days when LAN only flew nationally)… Ok, so I’m a budding anthropology graduate student, alone on an overnight flight that would lead me to a new life—although I could never have guessed what lay ahead. I was in that scary-jittery place between terrified and thoroughly jazzed about making my first trip to the field. The next morning I would set down on a land that would lead me to a new language, a new research direction, and I was about to get a cultural introduction that I would never forget.
Somewhere during the night, the pilot’s garbly voice crackled something like “crkgle-grble-cckle-coca cola-garbledy-garbledy” and the ROARS, CHEERS, and raucous APPLAUSE probably knocked the plane off course.
I was stumped. All this over something about Coca Cola? What? They’re giving away a 6-pack at the landing gate? Ohhh… how much I had to learn! Starting with “Colo Colo,” the famed Chilean team that was the last to win a tournament of importance. Ranks right up there pretty close to how Chile hosted the 1962 World Cup and came in third.
I’ve told the story before about how I began to grasp the importance of fútbol, of the pride in belonging, and its place in Chilean culture. See more at:
First Impressions of Chile, which also means that tomorrow, June 6, marks the 19th year of my arrival in Chile.
Want more hardcore info? Check out:
Colo Colo: “El sitio oficial del eterno campeón”
Copa Libertadores: “Todo sobre el torneo internacional de fútbol de clubes más importante de América“