Friday, March 20, 2009
The what and where of Santiago, trickier to find than you'd think!
Last Saturday I went up to the nosebleed section of Santiago with six friends, old and new to a Thai folk dance performance up at the Centro Cultural Las Condes, Apoquindo 6570. We sat and sweated up in the bleachers while we waited for the sun to go down and fanned ourselves with a list of phrases we will find useful when we visit Thailand, such as "Hong nam yoo tee nai?" which I am told means "Where is the bathroom?" Personally, I would also like to know how to say, I want it foreigner spicy, but not Thai spicy because I would like to maintain the integrity of my mouth and digestive tract." Anyone?
The dance performance was sponsored by the Royal Embassy of Thailand and the Corporación Cultural of Las Condes, one of the more adinerada (moneyed) comunas in Santiago, and entry was free. When I told people about it after the fact, or shared pictures, I got a universal, "awww, I wish I'd known!"
Which maybe is partly a desire to seem worldly (yes! I would love to go to a poetry reading of the famously depressing poet X read in a language I do not understand, and other assorted mainly false pretensions), but mostly is borne out of the fact that cultural events in Santiago are simply not well advertised.
According to a gringa friend of mine who will have been in Chile for ten years at the end of June (and she arrived in winter! and stayed, and look, I used the future perfect), the way you get information about events is that you talk to everyone you know all the time. On the off chance that one person has seen a tiny poster in the one metro station bulletin board on which it was posted, and manages to remember the information and disseminate it, this is how you will find out when/what's happening. Or they overheard it while walking down the street, or knows someone somehow connected to the event. Even so, getting details may be problematic.
I have to say, I think she's right. One time a few years ago I saw a news report saying that at the Parque Intercomunal La Reina ex Padre Hurtado (because everything in Chile has two names, the new one plus "ex the old one,") they'd be showing the old Godzilla movie. There was no mention of what time, and I searched and googled and called friends and never found out. I finally just took the bus up there before dark and waited for it to start. And they were giving away free pens (from a cellphone company) and a movie poster. Yay, useless swag. At the Thai performance we got fridge magnets with recipes for Pad Thai. I gave mine to a friend who'd lost his, but kept the handy phrase sheet. Sawasdee kaa (Hi!)
But the point here is that while events (even free ones) are plentiful, information is ridiculously hard to come by. Part of the reason is that there are 37 comunas (or districts) that comprise Greater Santiago, 26 of which are kind of within the city, and 11 of which lay in the afueras, or surroundings. Of these comunas, some are more likely than others to have fun and entertaining events. In any case, you must find the website of each, and read through until you find something that piques your interest.
Other fun events, like the cool movies they show at the Centro Cultural La Moneda (except on the 28th because they're participating in a money-saving lights out event), are not listed by comuna at all, and you'll have to sign up for their bulletin to find out what's going on there. Ditto on the museums, language institutes, public parks, spaces, churches and local community centers. I think part of the lack of dissemination of information is based on the idea that surely if it's in your neighborhood, you'll pass by, see a sign, hear about it at the grocery store, etc. And if it's not in your neighborhood, then you probably won't want to go, or the neighborhood itself hopes you don't come (we often suspect this about Vitacura and Las Condes, and to a lesser extent, Ñuñoa, cute, pricey districts with awesome, but often poorly-advertised cultural offerings).
To be fair, sometimes I am ignorant of cultural offerings because (gasp!), I don't watch television. The main reason I don't watch it is that I don't have one (which seems to upset people very disproportionately to how it affects them personally), and because I can't be bothered to watch the streaming news on the local news channels with any regularity. Call me old fashioned, but (surprise!) I prefer the written word.
What I would really love to see is a central Santiago website with cultural, sports and other offerings indexed and crossposted by date, location and topic. All comunas, organizations, religious institutions and other groupings of people could post there, and anyone with internet access (we're one of the most connected cities in the world, and even have free Wifi in the metro), could find out about them, and decide to go.
It would take away the "awwww, I wish I'd known" factor, but it would also really level the playing field. And then everyone could things like this:
Anyone up for the challenge? Don't look at me, I'm still trying to contort my hands into those elegant Thai poses (see first photo). And it's starting to hurt.