Cañete, Chile Holds Its First Ever Carnival (Photo Feature)

Preparing for the carnival.

To us, a Carnival is the best possible expression of joy, of talent, of strength, of commitment and of creativity.

Text by Francisca Vasquez Cerna

Photos: Ruber Osoria

HAVANA TIMES – Cañete, in central Chile’s Bio-Bio region, is known for not being known, for passing unnoticed between national weather reports.  However, those who dig deeper into such issues and places know that Cañete is a historic place, marked by the resistance of the Mapuche peoples, and all the repercussions of that struggle on our culture and identity, and also our conflicts. Throughout the history of humanity, conflicts due to differences have sparked disputes and wars. Now, the only thing left to us – once and for all – is to thank, embrace or simply respect that quality we call multiculturalism.

We live here; we don’t really know why we arrived here, but here we are. In this place, we try to dance, produce, achieve movement in music, theater, what some call “the scene”. In Cañete, a number of teachers, dancers and actresses have joined forces to give life to a project called “Circulo de danza Caudal” (Flow Dance Circle). The idea was born during the pandemic, when full-fledged “curfews” were imposed in Chile with all normality, although the fear and separation they generated recalled the raw times of the Pinochet dictatorship.

Dancing, singing, acting or any type of social activity was not only advised against, but also rigidly forbidden and punished. In one moment, getting together to dance became a crime. And with that as a starting point, we closed our curtains, and glanced all around us before going in and out of our lair, which was just a place where we could free ourselves, feel, and reach out to each other through movement.

And so we continued to give it a structure, consolidating our space. We united with some people and separated from others. Currently, we offer dance, theater, and martial arts, rehearsing and staging our creations. Still, something very important was missing. Dario and myself (Francisca) had fallen in love many years ago with a very particular dance, music and theater format: the Carnival.

To us, a Carnival is the best possible expression of joy, of talent, of strength, of commitment and of creativity. The Carnival with all its colors leads us to emotions and experiences with our own people and places, experiences that mark us and transcend time.

We all agreed that Cañete needed a carnival. In all the time we’d lived here, we’d never seen one, although we’d seen many parades – allegories based on arms, the military, the colonial, that are very rooted here and part of the region’s thousand contrasts. But within those contrasts, and multitude of cultures, there hadn’t been a carnival, not an annual one nor a passing event. We decided to make one a reality.

Experience and the years we’d spent in groups based in the Chilean city of Concepcion, gave us a foothold to ask for help from our old friends who had participated with us in other carnivals. Beginning there, we pushed for it to happen, we obtained the conditions, and we did it. At the same time, our “Flow Dance Circle” brought out all its groups to shine. It all seemed perfectly under control.

That week, the weather report for Saturday November 12 predicted: “periods of rain”. “Let’s ignore it,” we agreed, “it won’t rain.” The day arrived and clouds began to gather. Our Carnival was scheduled for 3 pm, but by 1pm it was raining. The full contingent then arrived from Concepcion: drums, tambourines, kids, ringers, pianos, pipes and cymbals, all walking around hopefully. Apparently, the rain didn’t scare anyone except me.

We got dressed, put on our make-up, combed our hair, all the while watching the water pouring down outside our windows. I admit I lost hope. What were we going to do?  And the water continued falling. Then, suddenly, the rain began to stop. The people who had already danced and played their instruments inside the school that sheltered us decided to go out. That was the impulsive decision of all of us: adults, children, mothers, and family members that accompanied them gathered the strength to believe it was possible.

A sunray emerged, and – “Everyone onto the streets!” We went out to play and dance, a roar of joy and motivation. The streets still wet, but we were outside. People began to come out of their houses, while others watched from their windows – many smiles, a lot of astonishment. When we’d gone a few streets further, the rain returned and drenched us all. Our dancing bodies received all the drops; what would have seemed a difficulty was transformed into an opportunity.  An invitation to feel our freedom, to let go of the things tying us to bitterness. The rain enveloped us, and we danced with it.

People came out of their hoses with umbrellas, with boots, but they came out. After a short time in the rain, as we were nearing the end of our trajectory, a beautiful rainbow covered us, lifting us to the summit of our happiness. It seemed to confirm that we were doing things well.

We got back to the school wet, sweaty, content, full of emotions and fatigue, with sore hands and feet, make-up running, banners muddy and our convictions on high. We were grateful to be able to serve as a channel for these manifestations of joy. We served food to the contingent from Concepcion, saw them off in the bus that had brought them, cleaned up and closed the school. Later, I arrived home, in the town that had hosted our Carnival, and gave a brief toast for the work accomplished.

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One thought on “Cañete, Chile Holds Its First Ever Carnival (Photo Feature)

  • December 10, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Is really a good new. The art, dancing, singing, unites people. I’m glad they were able to do it and having good time together. Lovely pictures, the joy is noted!

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