December 30, 2011: Invasión Callejera

Oh dear. As you may know, I plan to travel to Patagonia in early January. Yesterday, I got an email from the lodging I’d booked in Torres del Paine National Park (where I plan to stay three nights), saying that there were forest fires happening in the park, but that they didn’t think they’d need to evacuate. Today, I woke up to two more emails. One was from the U.S. Embassy, warning everyone on the U.S.-citizens-in-Chile-email-list that Torres del Paine is now completely closed because of the fires. The other email was from the lodging people again, saying that they were evacuating after all, and that they hoped to re-open the lodging after January 3. What timing! If worse comes to worse, I can probably find interesting things to do in Patagonia outside Torres del Paine. I’m still crossing my fingers that they manage to rein in the fires soon, for the sake of the poor dear park.

I decided to devote the day to wandering around and bumping into more Invasión Callejera performances. Now that I knew about the unified event, I could check the schedule on their website ahead of time, so I had a fairly good idea of which plazas to head towards at what times.

I started out at Plaza Victoria, where I encountered a group of performers called Colectivo Inquietos. They were in Hollywood-blonde wigs, knee pads, and elbow pads. They danced around and rolled across the ground acrobatically. They prepared a horrendous sandwich covered with ketchup and mustard, and urged the audience to eat it, before chomping on it themselves. A nurse in a blue wig saved a woman in a dowdy brown wig from her life problems, by hiding her behind a sheet (which slowly became splashed with red); the woman emerged with a blonde wig and a bulging pair of shorts. I’m still not entirely sure what was going on, but whatever it was, it was very silly.

After that show, I walked over to Plaza Anibal Pinto. By sheer good timing, a one-man juggler show was just about to begin. There had been some technical difficulties, so while we were waiting for him to be able to begin, he mock-bashfully changed his costume in the middle of the sidewalk, and then began bantering with the audience. His first act involved juggling six balls at once; he distributed the balls to audience members, and then had them toss them to him at appropriate moments. This was a prime source of comedy: he was loudly disappointed in a person who fumbled the ball-catch three times in a row, and just as loudly enthusiastic when she succeeded. He had handed one of the balls to a young boy, who was very enthusiastic about throwing the ball to the juggler, but not terribly good with his aim. He spent several minutes attempting to teach the boy to throw the ball to him; when that failed, he called the boy’s mother over and had her do it instead. His second act was contact juggling (with a glass ball), which I never, ever get tired of watching. He was one of my favorite acts of the day: just the right mix of skill and humor.

After the juggler, there was a performance in the same location by Colectivo La Pescá, a group of women dressed in oceanic blue, with fishing line, spoons, and seashells attached to their dresses. They performed a series of dances to illustrate the lives of women fishermen (fisherwomen?). They used seashells like castanets, and whirled a giant blue net.

I decided I was ready to head home, so I headed purposefully towards the supermarket, but was waylaid by a clown. He caught my attention with a whistle (the plastic kind, not the harassing kind), then made entreating eyes at me, showed me where I could sit, and offered me a piece of magazine to sit on instead of the dirty ground. I relented, and spent the next fifteen minutes watching him attempt to rope in more audience members (at times, literally: he mimed pulling them in with imaginary ropes, and when they started walking away, he sadly mimed feeding out the rope). A street dog crossed through the stage-area; he nudged it gently with a piece of rolled-up newspaper until it chomped down on the paper, at which point he bit down on the other side of the paper, and played tug-of-war with it. Whenever any of the audience members started to take his picture, he would immediately stop what he was doing, and pose like a fashion model.

When it was time for the show to begin, he exchanged hugs and mock-glares with the performing troupe, and then wandered off; apparently he had been assembling an audience just to help out his fellow clowns, not for any overt benefit of his own.

This show featured a troop of clowns called La Otra Zapatilla. They told the story of a young man and his guitar who came to the town Providencia, where he encountered an assertive restaurant owner and her daughter, and a rather evil bellowing butcher and his assistant. There were numerous other comic town characters, too: an intoxicated profesora de matemáticas, a local policeman with a Moses-like beard, a crazy elderly woman who had fought in World War II and shouted warlike things, and so on.

La profesora.

The wide-eyed young man would sing songs horribly, and the town would join in to drown him out. The conniving butcher’s assistant stole the restaurant’s cashbox, and framed the young man for it. There as a great deal of rushing around and dancing and bawdy humor, and while I didn’t understand all of the Spanish, I could comprehend enough to be consistently entertained.

Run for it!

And thus ends my tale of street performances.

4 thoughts on “December 30, 2011: Invasión Callejera

  1. First of all, you say you didn’t understand all the Spanish in that last performance, but you can’t get all that just from the action. You’ve learned a lot, and I’m angry about it.

    I would’ve known that girl for una profesora even without your caption. She looks like most scholars of my acquaintance.

    Now, I have a very serious concern about the juggler. You say he changed outfits right there on the sidewalk. In the next sentence you say he started juggling six balls. Are the two sentences connected in any way? Finally, you say he was your favorite act. I worry.

    I’m sorry to hear about the forest fire. Are people in danger? Keep us posted about the progress of the fire. Is there a Web site that updates fire status and has a map, like the one I checked before I went backpacking when California was burning a few summers ago? If so, would you please put the link here so we can check with you?


    1. I think you were spot-on in your second-to-last blog: the only way to get past that stubborn non-fluent stage is to force yourself into a longer immersion stay, more than a few weeks. After a few weeks here, I still knew nothing. I think I know more now. If I were braver, I could have done an even longer stay here, but even just a few months has made a big difference.

      Heheheh. I shall nonchalantly decline to answer your questions about the juggler. All I can say is that they were rather large balls, and he handled them skillfully. Plus, he was a handsome fella.

      I don’t think people are in danger — the nice thing about it being such a big whompin’ park is that the fire has a lot of ground to cover to get to any towns or the like. I can’t find any fire progress website, but here’s some video:

  2. “Fisherpersons”, maybe.
    So sorry about your lodgings being evacuated. At least you weren’t there when it happened, right?
    You’re the only person I know who can write about a comedic performance and successfully-vividly-convey humor.
    And this: “There were numerous other comic town characters, too: an intoxicated profesora de matemáticas…a crazy elderly woman who had fought in World War II and shouted warlike things…” Sounds to me like you’ve gotten this Spanish thing locked down, that you could gather that much-and those aren’t the sorts of things that can be mimed very easily.

  3. Boy is my face red! Sleepy Gal said what I did, but better, about your comprehension of the goings-on during the performances. I suppose it was obvious that I hadn’t yet read the comments before posting my own?!

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