On the last Sunday in May, Chileans celebrate their culture and history by taking the opportunity to visit government buildings, historical sites, museums, etc free of charge. There are so many things to see that it’s impossible to do it all, but I was able to get a small taste of it.
*Cueca: near Plaza de Armas, I saw people dancing the cueca, which is the Chilean national dance. It is very traditional, from the moves to the clothing they wear. It’s a dance that all Chileans know because they are required to learn the steps in grade school. I came in at the tail end of the performance, so sadly there are no photos or videos of it, but you can get an idea here.
*Cuerpo de Bomberos de Santiago: I went to the main fire station on Santo Domingo. There, the bomberos (firemen) were giving demonstrations about how to use the fire hose. Visitors were also able to explore the museum, which contained displays of equipment used throughout the years and a history of firefighting in Chile. Supposedly, Chile is the only country in the world where the firemen are not paid. That’s right; the bomberos are volunteers. They are proud of their work and they are respected by the community.
*Plaza Concho Y Toro: this little plaza is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood just blocks away from the main street in Santiago. It has a European vibe and the architecture is quite different from what you’ll find in most other parts of the city. It was charming, especially with the addition of the booths that had been set up by locals, who were selling various products.
*La Moneda: the whole point is to go inside and get a tour of the building, but I did not. They close the doors at 5:00 PM and I arrived at 4:54. Upon seeing a line of people that wrapped all the way around the building, I opted out of it. However, I took a stroll around the perimeter and saw the guards taking photos with visitors. My advice: if you want to see the inside of any of the major buildings in the city, get there early!
*Food Trucks: there were food trucks all over the city that were offering meals and hot beverages at a relatively decent price.
I really enjoyed wandering around that day and seeing some new places. It seems that this day is more popular for foreigners than it is for locals, but either way the streets and public transportation were packed with people who were just as eager as I was to learn a little more about this fascinating city. Next year (if I am here, of course), I hope to see even more.
If you’re in Santiago and want to know what’s going on when Dia del Patrimonio rolls around, you can find more info here: http://www.diadelpatrimonio.cl/