Friday, July 4, 2014

Dia de San Pedro, at Caleta Membrillo

There are lots of pictures in this post, so get ready!

June 29th is St. Peter's day-he is the patron of fishermen, and his day is commemorated in grand style all up and down the coast of Chile. In Valpo festivals take place at Portals, where we went to buy fish, and at the smaller fishermen's dock, Caleta Membrillo (Quince Creek, presumably for a creek with quince that used to be there). I headed over to Caleta Membrillo, since I'd heard that was the place to go, rather than Portals. The Caleta is south of the main port area, so I took the Metro to the end of the line, and started walking-I did decide to get on a micro, since I wasn't completely sure where to go. The first thing the driver asked me was if I was Brazilian! (This was the day after Chile got knocked out of the World Cup competition by Brazil). When he found out I was from the US, he had me sit in the jump seat up in front and we had a nice chat on the short ride to the wharf.

The festival starts with a mass at the local church, then moves over to the dock area across the street. St. Peter's statue, along with another of the Virgin Mary are brought over. Later, Peter is loaded on a boat, and taken in procession across the harbor to Portals.

St. Peter, all decked out and waiting for the entertainment.
This is the memorial to local fishermen who have lost their lives at sea, (also a statue of St. Peter), that overlooks the wharf area. I saw a number of people stop to read the names, and pay their respect.
One of the highlights of the day are the different dance groups that perform. Here's a group getting gathering near the memorial, waiting their turn.
I watched 3 different groups, and my favorite was the first. A nice old man who got me a chair told me these dancers were doing a traditional dance from the north of Chile-he didn't know the name of the indigenous group, but he said they were both in Chile and Peru, in the mountains. I suspect the actual native women do/did not dress like these female dancers. The boots might be good in the Andes, but I think the super short skirt wouldn't work so well.
I'm not sure how authentic all this was, not only because of the costumes, but also because of the brass band that accompanied them. But these were a set of real condor wings on the bird dancer:
The masks were really cool too:
The man I was talking to said the guy in the white fuzzy suit with big googly eyes was a bear.
Near the end of an extremely energetic 20 minute performance, the dancers paid their respects to St. Peter and the Virgin.

Next up, another group:

Yet another group waiting in the wings. My informant told me these dances were performing Mapuche dances.
But the really big deal was the parade of the small, decorated fishermen's boats, which were to take St. Peter across the harbor. I left the dancers to watch them being launched, but I along with all the other members of the public who were in the way were told to get off the wharf. Probably a good idea, with all the boats being moved around.
I found a sunny spot out of the way on the second floor of the yellow building you can see in the background of this picture. It had a lot of small rooms on both levels, which looked like lockers for fishing gear for individual fishermen. There were families up there using the rooms, and picnicking on the balcony which overlooked the dock where the boats were being launched.

It was really interesting to watch people finishing their decorations and pushing the boats on trailers down to the winch that launched them. In fact, it was such a beautiful day, and there was so much to see, I sat there for nearly 2 hours.

Eventually, though, I got pretty hungry-especially when I saw people below me walking around with plates of fried fish. So I went back around to the dance area, to find it almost deserted, except for the fishermen's cooperative's fish fry. I got a nice merluza (hake) fillet with a roll and a cup of wine for 1,500 pesos (about 2.70). I asked if I could have a soda (they had them there), but was told no, the meal came as is, no substitutions. So wine it was.
I ate my fish sitting on the sea wall, and watched the boats pull around to pick up friends and family. I did not see anyone putting St. Peter on a boat, so at around 2:00 I decided to walk back to the port.
On my walk I saw Sunday anglers out in force, and lots of people out walking. This is something notable about life here-people walk all the time, everywhere. The way back was fairly industrial, but lots of families seemed to simply be out together walking along. This was a festival day, but in general strolling families and young and old couples take walks on the weekend, and most people walk much, much more then you see in the US.
I also passed the Esmeralda Battery, constructed right after the War of the Pacific, between 1879 and 1881. It was only used for 9 years, and then it became a storage area for the navy. In 1938, it was declared an national monument, and is the only one of its kind. It was damaged in the 2010 earthquake, an restored in 2012.
Right next door, is a naval installation. I saw some people showing their ids to the guards, so I figured I'd do the same. (Wow! I finally got to use my cédula, which took months to get). I'm not sure why people were going behind the barrier, because we couldn't go any further than a few feet, and no pictures were allowed. So I asked the guard if I could have a picture with him, and it turned out that was ok.
Back at the port, what do you know? The dancers were down there doing their thing all over again.

As I made my way back home again on the Metro, I saw a long line of small boats making their way from Caleta Membrillo to Portales, way out across the water.

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