Bread and Circuses

Dariela Aquique

Santiago Nights dance.

“To the people, bread and circuses!” is a phrase attributed to Nero, the sadly celebrated Roman emperor.

They say that back in those days, when the social situation turned uneasy or the ruling classes feared backlash, they tried to relax tensions by keeping the plebian masses entertained.

It was a wise strategy in terms of politics; a little food and amusement would conceal the heated atmosphere and the image would always be presented of a happy people with no problems.

Here the same thing is occurring!

These days, more than ever, one hears people’s constant complaints about the socio-economic situation the country is experiencing.

Santiago Nights at a Street Restaurant

People protest among themselves over the chaotic state of public transportation, which is still insufficient though improved in comparison to a few years ago.  Likewise, they perennially gripe about poor public services; all of them are truly tortuous, from food service to the most elementary bureaucratic process. Plus the wages and the cost of living are completely out of whack.

However I believe it’s an attitude that functions almost as an involuntary reflex.  People, though unsatisfied and always questioning the quality of everything, don’t stop attending fairs, celebrations and festivals offered as palliatives to their terrible day-to-day routines.

A few months ago here in my city, every weekend the main streets started filling with tables,  and stands of people selling food, drinks and miscellaneous smacks.  On top of this, everything was accompanied by lots of music in what are now called “Santiago Nights.”

Santiago Nights

Masses of people leave their homes having these “fiestas” as their pretext, where they’ll spend what they don’t have and the pay from their work will be left squandered.  Later they return to their houses complaining about the prices, the treatment they received, the quality of what they ate and — to make things even more worse — if they weren’t lucky they had to walk back all the way home because there weren’t buses.

But people need to believe that their lives aren’t so dreadful.  The next week they again scrape together a few pesos and head out to disguise their tedium, like this they’ll halfway mend their discord.

It will suddenly seem like everything’s fine, just like the motto…“To the people, bread and circuses!”

Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.