Category Archives: Personajes chilenos

Language Play & Politics a la Chilensis

The Clinic, mina, puns, language**This post was “Freshly Pressed” on November 18, 2010.

Chile’s alternative  news weekly, The Clinic (firme al pueblo, por supuesto) is a master at attention-grabbing and deliciously irreverent headlines that require a very good understanding not only of Chilean Spanish, but of Chile’s current events. If you’re a foreigner here in Chile, make a point of regularly checking out the covers at your local newsstand—and give yourself a big pat on the back if you get the headlines—it’s a sure sign you’re making progress on your cultural and linguistic Chilensis.

English humor seems to be more language-based than Spanish is. A lot is based on puns, which aren’t very frequent in Spanish, but they do come up from time to time, and The Clinic is one of the best sources for finding them. I spotted this cover a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t resist a giggle. Continue reading


Fuente de Soda: Schop, Cortado, Completo, Cueca Brava & Buddy Richard…

Fuente de Soda La CascadaQuick: where was this picture taken?

It’s a pretty safe bet that there’s only one country on Earth that this picture could have been taken. Do you know? Continue reading

Valparaíso by Trolley

What’s summer without a bit of travel, exploration, fun, and tourism? “Valparaíso en un Trolley” dishes out a bit of all that and more. Theater troupe Teatro de la Historia fills the seats of a 1950s-era green and yellow “trolebus” and rolls out on a tour that takes delightful jabs at the city’s characters while simultaneously conveying pride in this one-of-a-kind city.

Trolebuses de Chile in Valparaíso date to 1952 Continue reading

San Lunes: Chile’s Stormy Monday

Manolo didn’t show up for work yesterday. He was honoring San Lunes, they said. It seems that Manolo is quite the pious man because he clearly takes San Lunes very seriously and spends many a Monday devoted to his patron saint…

In a country that regularly celebrates holidays in honor of Vatican-sanctioned saints and virgins, the yet-to-be canonized San Lunes (literally, Saint Monday) may be the most popular of all. There are other popular saints (see animitas), but this one in particular not only holds a special place in Chilean hearts, minds—and hangovers—he’s is also usually good for a chuckle (or cluck) depending on one’s position.

Blues singer T-Bone Walker may have said it best, They Call it Stormy Monday (take a listen!), and it’s never been anyone’s favorite day of the week. And whether your long-awaited, well-irrigated weekend begins when the eagle flies on Friday or it’s a case of “hoy canta Gardel,” sometimes it’s just too hard to roll out of bed on Monday.

Most references to San Lunes seem to date back to the beginning of the industrial revolution in Europe, when workers had just one day off per week and spent a good deal of it ‘bending the elbow and hoisting the jug,’ resulting in an abysmal outlook on life come Monday morning. A day spent in the forgiving arms of San Lunes is a surefire way of returning repentant revelers to the fold.

Time-honored ways of venerating the Patron Saint of the Hangover:

  • San Lunes insists that his devotees honor him from a prone position until well after noon.
  • San Lunes likes darkness. Keep the curtains closed and the blinds drawn.
  • Proper veneration of San Lunes requires silence. Demand that others be respectful.
  • San Lunes disdains singing, although woeful moaning is common practice among the most devout.
  • This will be a day of fasting: no greasy, aromatic, or highly seasoned food shall be consumed on this day. San Lunes insists on this point and will vehemently reject any attempted edible offerings other than the blandest of foodstuffs.
  • Leave a small candle burning at the end of the hall. Just the faintest light should illuminate your way as you embark upon repeated ritual journeys as you lift the lid and bow down before that most venerated white ceramic shrine.
  • Unlike other saints who appreciate offerings of flowers, San Lunes prefers aspirin… be sure to indulge him with at least 2 tablets every four hours. Purists insist they be washed down with a bit of wine (the hair of the dog, so to speak), although water may be acceptable in the case of novice San Lunes devotees.

Are you a follower of San Lunes? Feel free to proselytize and leave your testimony to his miracles here.

Choro el Piernal de Cueca Chora

La Cueca is cool.
Forget the whole
huaso bit and the women in the silly square dance type dresses, we’re talking la Cueca urbana, la Cueca brava… la Cueca CHORA!

Quilombo Ediciones 2009

Quilombo Ediciones 2009

After years of having gym class-style dancing shoved down their throats at any and every cultural event, there’s a quickly growing movement among Chileans to take back the “real” cueca. The cueca that always existed.
The cueca that the  “rotos chilenos” proudly danced in the chinganas, fondas, and ramadas where people from the city and the port went to let their hair down, swill some chicha, hoist a few pipeños, sing a bit, and dance a lot. And that dance was the cueca. A dance that can take flirting to the edge of social mores—without touching—and that when done well, eye-to-eye and with just the right whisk of the pañuelo, turn of the head, tilt of the hip, and stomp of the foot, can bring a flush to the cheeks and set the heart aflutter.

The problem is that until just recently, that spirit of the pueblo cuequero was all but lost, buried under a 1960s wave of imported rock and then appropriated (and toned down) by the military right in the 1970s-80s in an attempt to impose, instill, and imbue “true national values” with an official and state-sanctioned version that involves a manly poncho-wearing huaso patrón who flirts with and wins over a demure and oddly dressed woman called a “china”… Yeah… exactly… No wonder no one I know ever wanted anything to do with it!

La cueca chora. Illustration by Alberto Montt

La cueca chora, step by step. Illustration by Alberto Montt

But there’s been a movement of late to take back Chile. To take pride in the real Chile. To take a stand and raise the pañuelo.
¡Éjale compadre!, put those hands together chiquillos, clap-clap, clap-clap, and tiki tiki tiki
Get a guitar, a pandero (tambourine), and a voice and you’re good to go.
Find an accordion and there are definitely some hot times ahead. And there you are…. The cueca is hot and Chile is cool! ¡Chile es choro and la cueca es más chora aún !

Okay, so there’s a lot more to be said about how I feel about Chile in general and the cueca in particular… but all this has been a long-winded wind-up to the real topic of this post, a new book on how to dance the cueca chora.

Editor Camila Rojas (left), author Araucaria Rojas (right) © MSnook 2009

Editor Camila Rojas (left), author Araucaria Rojas (right) © MSnook 2009

Araucaria Rojas, daughter of the Gran Guaripola himself Dióscoro Rojas (drawing a blank? You’ve got homework: go study up at the Guachacas web site) and who is now finishing up a degree in history, just launched her book “Piernal de Cueca Chora” a guide to everything you need to hold your own amongst the choros, from the color of your pañuelo to just how high to hike your skirt.  ‘Piernal,’ in case you’re wondering, is one of those words invented by necessity because a ‘manual’ refers to something done with the hands, but in this case it’s the legs (piernas) following all the steps that are so explicitly described in words and images (illustrator Alberto Montt of “Dosis Diario” fame weighs in with his signature style). Cousin Camila Rojas edited the book for her newly-formed publishing company Quilombo Ediciones and came up with some pretty clever touches like resolving the twisted spine problem (English books write the title down one side of the spine and Spanish books, the other) by wrapping the book—along with a nifty stamped pañuelo—in a box that allowed her to print the spine in both directions! (¡Bien hecho Camila!).

MST_9556-Monica Perez

Chilean journalist /Guachaca Queen Mónica Pérez

The Santiago launch was held last night (Sept 1) at the 100% chileno bar Piojera (could there ever have been any other option?) with a dedication by the paternal Guaripola and the reigning royal Guachacas Queen Mónica Pérez and King Ricarte Soto, among others, followed by a few patitas de cueca, and a healthy round of terremotos and pichanga. Be sure to check out Eileen’s  bearshapedsphere version of the evening—she can even show you food & drink pictures because by that time I was much too busy sipping and munching to take pictures. An excellent way to kick of this month of fiestas a la chilena!

Araucaria and Dioscoro Rojas dancing cueca

Araucaria and Dióscoro Rojas dancing cueca

Araucaria and Dioscoro Rojas (© MSnook 2009)

Araucaria and Dióscoro Rojas (© MSnook 2009)