December 27, 2011: Valpo street marvels

The theme of the day: the answer to everything in this city is “Because we’re in Valparaíso, that’s why.”

As I walked into town today, I passed a man in a soft, red striped outfit that looked a bit like pajamas. It seemed odd, but I thought nothing of it; I see odd things on the street every day: a few days before Christmas, for instance, there was a man in boxer shorts, an “Australia” shirt, and a Santa hat merrily directing colectivos. However, a half a block later, I passed a girl trodding along the dirty city streets in fluffy bunny slippers. Behind her, there was a crowd of perhaps twenty people of various ages, all in their pajama best, walking determinedly up the hill. As I passed them, I tried to maintain a serious face, but failed. I will never know where they were going nor why they were all in pajamas, but it was an amusing scrap of randomness.

Once I reached the plaza, I noticed that a large semicircle of people had gathered, and went to investigate. There were a man and a woman in chairs, he with a guitar and she with a thin plastic piano contraption. The center of the semicircle was covered with a large carpet. I decided to settle nearby to see what would develop.

The musicians began a tune, and a woman in a red belted dress wandered in, holding a teapot. She slowly walked around the circle, posing with it, and then sat at a table near the musicians and poured a cup full of water. Then, a man and another woman entered, strolling into the center of the stage quite casually with her perched on his shoulders. They proceeded to do a variety of nifty acrobat things.

Then, the two of them joined the woman in the red dress at her table, and she poured them each some water. After a bit of silly domino-ing back and forth and spilling their glasses, the man proceeded to juggle the glass saucers between his lap and the ground, flipping them down and then bouncing them back up again using only his foot.

The lady in red leaped up, proclaiming herself to be borracha (drunk); this served as a fine excuse for her to do a variety of impressive tumbling maneuvers. She would stagger to her feet, stumble a little, execute a perfect backwards somersault, drop to the ground, roll around only to end up on her feet again, seemingly gravity-less… eventually, she ended up splayed placidly on the carpet. At this point, the other woman wandered over to her, balanced on her head, and started placidly reading a book (both she and the book upside-down).

I don't know about you, but this is how I prefer to read literature.

The man walked out to help heft the red-dress woman to her feet. After several false starts, during which he slung her around like a sack of potatoes, she regained her footing, at which point he collapsed onto the ground. She proceeded to lift the other woman above her own head, in an elegant demonstration of strength and balance. A few minutes later, the man sprung up again, so the non-red-dress woman climbed up to his shoulders, and balanced on her head upon just one of his hands.

She climbed down again, and they capered around the circle. Then, the woman in the red dress clambered up to the man’s shoulders, and stood there solidly. The third woman climbed up to his shoulders too, steadied herself, and then ascended all the way to the second woman’s shoulders, forming a spectacular stack of humans three-high.

They dismantled their tower, and they and the musicians stood for a bow. They mingled with the crowd, each holding a shoe or teapot, and collected any coins people wanted to contribute. I gladly gave them some, and then continued on my way. This city startles and delights me nearly every single day.

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