As I said before, Santiago has a wealth of downtown parks. One of these quickly became our favorite, and we revisited many times, simply for the quality of people watching. We saw everything there, and really, its hard to pick a favorite. So we’re going to do a top five moments in Plaza de Armas during our long afternoon sits.
5. High culture. I’ll start by admitting this one is not so much an event, and not so uncommon in urban parks (bear with us, it gets much, much better). But the park was full of chess players, at least twenty or so games going at one time, all at tables underneath the gazebo. When some musicians took over the gazebo for an evening concert, they simply moved their tables out into the square, and took up at least an eight of the territory. On the other side of the of the plaza were a dozen or so artist stands (which folded up nicely and stacked in the middle of the plaza when not in use) for creating and selling works.
4. The free food lineup. We were sitting in the park, minding our own business, in a busy park on a long bench next to many other people. All of a sudden, and quite to our surprise, everyone got up and formed a long line leading to the other end of our bench. Quite stymied as to what was going on, we looked around, and across the plaza observed a box of food slowly make its way across the park and land at the other end of our bench, followed by a jug of juice. When we noticed that the people in line looked a little disheveled, it all fell into place. How did everyone know this was the spot to line up? And for that matter, the sheer fact that the homeless were patient enough to form this line and wait for their dinner should not be discounted. Nevertheless, my brilliant idea to stand in line and get a free dinner was denied.
3. A fountain full of kids. The photo speaks for itself, the kids love the Simon Bolivar fountain.
2. The Western Union llama and the dogs. Imagine you’re a dog. And you’ve staked out your territory in the middle of Plaza de Armas, high quality territory indeed. Lots of people, lots of leftovers, lots of dog lovers. And then imagine a giant, bipedal llama emblazoned with the Western Union logo stumbles into your territory. Needless to say, you wouldn’t be too happy about that. Well the dogs we saw in the park were none too pleased either, forming a wall and barking incessantly on full alert, preventing the llama from proceeding into the park. The moment was priceless, and I can only imagine what was going through the head of the poor guy in the llama suit. He at least had the good sense not to advance into the face of danger. Theresa’s well documented aversion to dogs prevented us from getting closer to the action, but I did get this shot of the llama later (presumably after the dogs had been appeased).
1. Pigeon-catching. Is this a new Chilean sport? We watched a group of about 3-4 kids with a cardboard box and some pigeon-feed patiently sitting and waiting for pigeons to follow the trail of food under their box. Like a classic cartoon, they then removed the stick and trapped the pigeon, pulling it out of the top by hand and putting it in a picnic basket for safe keeping. After watching this process repeat itself three or four times, our inquisitiveness got the best of us and I had to walk up and ask what in the world they were doing. I understood that it was some sort of class project, but not much more than that. I still can’t fathom a reason for doing this though.