Semana Santa and Día del Joven Combatiente

¡Hola a todos! I just finished up a delightful long weekend in which I was really busy doing pretty much nothing. Well, I hung out with my host brothers and played a ton of video games with them and put off my homework. Fun!

My long weekend actually started on Thursday. Classes were scheduled, but my program director and my professor recommended I stay home because of the Día del Joven Combatiente. This day, celebrated on the 29th of March, commemorates the murder of the Vergara Toledo brothers Rafael and Eduardo in 1985 during Pinochet´s regime. Whereas most commemorations of this kind are peaceful and involve candlelight vigils, el Día del Joven Combatiente is traditionally recognized with violent clashes between students and police, often resulting in destruction of private and public property, fires, power outages, and many arrests. This year at least two cars were incinerated with Molotov Cocktails and 8 arrests were made. These events occur at night and are concentrated around Estacion Central, which is luckily a long way off from me. Because the 29th fell on Good Friday this year, the ¨festivities¨happened on Thursday the 28th. To play it safe I stayed in the house all day Thursday, as I recommend any other foreign student to do.

Good Friday was also spent in the house, not for any external factors other than there being nothing much to do since everything was closed. I spent some time with my host grandma, a lovely woman affectionately called ¨La Cuka¨by the boys, no one knows why.

Saturday was pretty lazy too until the evening. I attended a Catholic mass at a little church with some friends, which was interesting because I am not Catholic but have attended some Catholic masses during my brief stint (incarceration?) in a private Catholic high school. Seeing the similarities and differences between the two experiences was very interesting. The church had this awesome statue of Jesus that seemed to be floating off the cross on the wall, I was fascinated by it

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After the mass, which ended earlier than advertised but still pretty late, we decided to get a bite to eat so we walked over to La Jardin, an awesome little restaurant that you would have to see to believe. It was absolutely gorgeous, not over-the-top expensive, but you did pay a little extra for the atmosphere. The food was fantastic, I split a shrimp salad and four cheese pizza with my friend and it was delicious. According to my friend´s host parents, the owner of this restaurant is a rich guy who travels the world starting restaurants and incorporating elements from all over the globe in them.

Click here to see pictures of the place, you really should it is GORGEOUS

That´s all the semi-interesting news I have for now, I will keep you updated as usual! Chao!

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Wine Festival in Curicó

I tried to post this yesterday but for some reason WordPress was hungry and ate it, so here´s my second attempt.

On Saturday we got up at the crack of 6am to catch a train that would take us from Santiago to Curicó, a small city about 120 miles south of the capital. It has about 120,000 inhabitants and was founded in 1743. desde santiago a curicó

We had breakfast in a cute little restaurant and then walked over to the Plaza de Armas of Curicó for the opening ceremonies of the Fiesta de la Vendimia, or Festival of the Grape Harvest. This annual event celebrates Curicó as one of the leading producers in Chile of fine wines. If I remember correctly, Curicó produces almost half of the nation´s wine.

First we checked out the market, where local artists were selling everything from jewelery to sculptures, leatherworks to paintings, artisan soaps to cacti, trees to homemade jams. Everything was locally produced but very reasonably priced. It definitely wasn´t a touristy thing, there were lots of local people there.

We went back to the stage to watch the opening ceremonies. After the mayor of the town talked for a while, the Queen of the Festival was introduced and weighed. Every year the Queen is selected in a beauty pageant to represent Curicó for a full year. At the festival, she sits on one end of a giant scale and bottles of wine are added to the other end to determine her weight in wine. Afterward she gets to keep all the wine. If I were the Queen I would wear lead underpants that day. She weighed in at about 43 bottles of wine.

After the weighing there were some performances by local musicians and then there was a grape stomping competition, which was hilarious! Each team consisted of a captain, two assistants who added grapes and carried the juice to a giant clear container, and two stompers. The stompers could only support themselves with each other, no outside help. The 8 teams had 5 minutes to mash the most juice out of the grapes. Within 30 seconds everyone was covered in grape juice and chunks of grapes were flying everywhere! In the end the time from the Las Torres vineyard won, having smushed 106 liters of grape juice! Naturally everyone wanted to buy samples of their wine.

We all bought keepsake wine glasses and each got a sample of a different kind of wine so we could pass them around and try them all. I can´t remember the name of mine since I don´t know much about wine but it was tasty! There were tons of food stands so I got myself an anticucho, a typical Chilean and Peruvian food that is basically a kebab with pork (or heart meat in Peru) and a chunk of bread at the end. Cucho means depressed in Spanish, and I was definitely anti depressed!

I was extremely happy with this decision: the meat was juicy, tender, and flavorful and eating anything on a stick is just fun! For dessert I got an ice cream cone, and for a while I walked around with a half empty glass of wine in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other and was the happiest person in the world.

Next we all piled into a bus to head to the San Miguel Vineyard. We had a lovely tour of the fields by bus so we got to rest our feet while being told by the guide about how wine is made in Chile. We got to see a giant refrigerated warehouse of kegs of wine, and the underground wine cellar where they age wine for up to two years. They have a room underground where they have bottles of every variety of wine from every harvest back to 2001, all coated in dust and stacked in shelves up to the ceiling. Back above ground, we were treated to a wine tasting. They taught us how to properly sample wine, what to look for in the color and smell and then taste. Everyone else was like “Mmm, yes, I do detect an aroma of chocolate with overtones of cherry” but I was like “Yum, this tastes like white wine!”

Everyone else with their wine

Me with my wine

Finally we got on a bus to head back to Santiago. All in all it was a fantastic day! Here are the pictures: