Tuesday, September 19, 2006

independence month

While September 18th might be the day Chile officially celebrates its independence day, the days of the month leading up to it are filled with anticipation and preparation: Cueca, the traditional national music and dance, is played in every store and colectivo (cars with specific routes where buses don't go), flags are sold at nearly every intersection, and empanadas become even more abundant. On the 18th itself the city center becomes a bundle of enclosed outdoor party areas with rather steep entrance fees-- inside you can purchase more traditional food and watch performers dancing Cueca. In the neighborhoods, or comunas, you can find bars and parties where, whether in costume or not, Cueca has taken over. Regardless of where you are, you will be haunted by the smell of asado, as Chileans barbecue enormous amounts of their favorite meats in their backyards and on the streets.

Above, at Domingo Savio community center, the children are showing off their best Cueca moves in a dance competition. Some of the kids tried to teach me the steps, explaining that its a dance about courtship. Unlike one step that is repeated or transformed at the dancer's will, Cueca seemed more like a narrative to me. Handkerchiefs are waved, and the dancers move in half moons around each other as the men try to capture the women's attention. After the dance competition, the kids rotated around a series of games set up in D.Savio's patio. Baked empanadas finished the evening, with of course, loads of candy...

Fortunately I was at Domingo Savio before the kids arrived, and I helped make the dozens of empanadas we would need for the party. I'm not sure how they make the dough, as it was already prepared, but inside you will find meat cooked with spices and onions, a quarter of a boiled egg, and one black olive. Tia Olga kept reminding us to press harder as we assembled them, as they have a tendency to open up as they bake. I wish I could tell you how they tasted (vegetarian...)-- I know that the kids really liked them!

No comments: