Category Archives: Saints & Saviors * Santos y Salvadores

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.


Farkas mania

Farkas presidential candidate

Farkas presidential candidate

Never heard of “Leonardo Farkas”? Then you certainly haven’t been in Chile over the past few months. Rarely a day goes by that he doesn’t make the news. Go ahead, google him; you’ll find 242,000 entries on Farkas for President; Saint Farkas; Farkas the savior of the Teleton, Farkas, man of the people… and most of all, what you’ll find is Chile’s latest personality of the moment.

Para español, usa la herramienta de traducción o lee el resumen de abajo…

Chile seems to go through major personality obsessions about once a year or so. Some are harmless enough, such as Bombalet, the flamboyant sportscaster, or Gonzalo Cáceres, the rather gender-ambiguous showbiz “opinologist.” Others are criminals, such as the aged German cult leader Paul Schaeffer who managed to avoid authorities for years after being accused of sexually abusing children, or pedophile businessman Claudio Spiniak, whose arrest and trial occupied headlines for months. Others are just plain silly, such as the mysteriously elusive “Chupacabra” that had rural folks scratching their heads over animal massacres a few years back.

Farkas Party MST2008

Farkas Party MST2008

Today, the King of the Headlines is Leonardo Farkas, the golden-tressed Chilean who made a name for himself in the Vegas music scene and then came back to take over the family’s mining interests. What’s the big deal? In a country where those who truly have money tend to be reserved about displays of wealth, the man is ostentation personified. He rides around town in a new Rolls Royce. Where others leave a $1 tip, he leaves $100. He offered a poll worker his diamond-studded gold watch when he went to vote. He’s in line to be Chile’s first space tourist. He has (very publicly) donated millions to charity (most recently to the Teleton, Chile’s version of the Jerry Lewis Telethon), and now he apparently has 150,000 people signing a petition asking him to run for president!

Of course his curly golden locks make him very prone to caricature, and his rising popularity among the masses calling for his presidency can make one wonder if democracy is really such a good idea… But the flip side is that all of his very public spending has shamed some of the more traditional pocketbooks into opening more widely, and a more just redistribution of wealth in a country with a pronounced difference between the very wealthy and the very poor is ample can’t be such a bad thing… can it?

What do YOU think?


Si no han oído hablar nunca de Leonardo Farkas, significa que no han estado en Chile en los últimos meses. Se trata de un personaje muy particular que en estos momentos se está convirtiendo en unas de las personalidades más populares del país. Tras mucho tiempo haciendo un trabajo de posicionamiento de su imagen en los medios (con sus peculiares rizos dorados, que lo hacen muy caricaturesco), ahora está consiguiendo 150.000 firmas para presentarse como candidato a la Presidencia de la República. Tiene muchos fans que se lo piden en la calle, que lo consideran como el ídolo salvador de la triste realidad política chilena. Yél no es un político, es un empresario enigmático que se pasea con su Rolls Royce por las calles de Santiago, regalando plata a la gente, ganándose la popularidad en base a sus actos de solidaridad (donó recientemente mil millones de pesos a la Teletón, la versión chilena de Jerry Lewis Telethon: En las elecciones municipales pasadas le ofreció a uno de los vocales de mesa cambiarle el reloj por el suyo, de oro y diamantes. El caballero vocal de mesa no llevaba reloj. Pero estas anécdotas las hace siempre frente a las cámaras y sabe manejar bien su presencia en los medios.

¿Qué les parece el personaje?

farkas-pinera-clinic-200w farkas-farkazo-insulza-clinic-200w

Animitas: Chile’s popular saints

Animitas have fascinated me since the day I first arrived in Santiago…

Para español, usa la herramienta de traducción o ver el resumen abajo…

As I left the Santiago airport on my very first visit back in 1991, I was intrigued by a small structure I saw along the side of the road. It was house-shaped and made of cement, painted light blue and had candles burning inside. By the time I reached downtown Santiago, I had seen several.

It turns out that I had seen my first of many–perhaps thousands–of small shrines called “animitas” that are found throughout Chile. They mark the place where someone has died tragically and so are commonly found along highways, railroad lines, and cliffs overlooking the ocean, etc., although they can also mark the place of a murder. The popular belief is that a part of the person’s soul remains at the site and is bound to do favors for the living. People ask for help with difficult situations,  such as curing an illness, finding a job, or passing exams–and in return, they make a “manda” or promise to do something such as returning to light candles on specific days of the week, leave flowers, tend the site, hang a plaque expressing thanks, and even leave tokens of their appreciation.

Some animitas become quite famous for their miraculous powers. They are known by the name of the person they honor, although the stories behind them tend to become blurred and often take on rather legendary characteristics.

MST 2008

Animita Romualdito, Estación Central, MST 2008


Romualdito, on San Borja around the corner from the Estación Central is a long wall blackened from generations of candle soot. Shrine after shrine have been erected by its many devotees. The story holds that this animita honors a young man named Romualdo Ibánez who was attacked and left to die on the spot long ago. Candles began to appear, favors began to be granted, and today the long wall is covered with plaques of gratitude, rosaries, stuffed animals, crutches no longer needed, and all sorts of tributes to the powers of faith.

Marianita, at one edge of  a playground in Parque O’Higgins, is a gruesome reminder of human cruelty. The little girl was killed by her jealous stepfather beneath a tree in 1945. Today the enormous tree is surrounded by an elaborate shrine where people go to ask for favors, especially for children. The tree is now draped with toys, dresses, dolls, and all sorts of offerings that would appeal to a little girl. A small shack stands beside the shrine where a voluntary caretaker sits when he comes to clean up and change the flowers each week. He says that his family is very devoted to Marianita and that he inherited the responsibility from his mother.

For a great gallery of animita shots by Patricio Valenzuela Hohmann, see SouthCone Photographers “Death by the Road.”

Do you have a story about or experience with animitas? Please let us know!



Animitas existen a lo largo de todo Chile. Son unas ermitas en miniatura que los familiares colocan en el lugar donde ha muerto un ser querido. Es muy frecuente verlas en las carreteras y autopistas, así como en quebradas frente al mar. Dice la tradición que el alma del desaparecido permanece en el lugar para hacerle favores a los vivos. Por eso suelen tener velas y flores en su interior y en algunos casos, carteles de agradecimiento al difunto por las “mandas”. Las mandas se ofrecen para pedir ayuda y consisten en el compromiso de hacer algo en agradecimiento por el favor concedido.

Algunas animitas se han ido haciendo famosas por sus milagros, generando devoción entre la gente. Hoy en día se las pueden ver llenas de placas y ofrendas de agradecimiento,

¿Conoces alguna historia o alguna experiencia sobre las animitas? ¡Cuéntanosla!