Standing face to face with a shirtless man covered in tattoos, surrounded by 100´s of Chileans slowly starting to circle us, I look around to see flashes of cameras pointing towards us and a low murmer of astonishment and giggles. I stop for a second and think to myself, why me?
I should actually be glad he chose me- it was an experience to add to the glory of traveling.
Today is Columbus Day in Chile, so from the moment I walked out of my hostel I could hear the loud chants coming from the nearby streets. Oh, goody, this will be exciting to watch, I thought to myself. As I approched the main street, I couldn´t believe how many people were there.
As I walked down the street next to the parade, I came across what seemed to be another parade, or protest, separated from the first one. Strange. Everyone in this group (also hundreds) had dark clothing on with bandanas around their faces or full masks hiding their face. Anarchy flags were being pronouncly displayed and large sticks were banged together as the crowd echoed a strong chant in unison. As they barricaded the street I look to my right to see more than 10 military vessels. Huge bullet-proof trucks with their sirens blasting and a speaker in which a Spanish man spoke something, obviously of warning. I thought this looked pretty interesting so I decided to stand on the side for awhile.
A man who had removed his shirt and who had many tattoos across his body was an apparent leader of the group. He ran up to the army trucks, screaming, flipping them off, shaking and spanking his butt and flying his large flag with the Anarchy symbol. I´m still not sure exactly what this protest was about, but I got the jist.
After about fifteen minutes, the leader of the group ran towards the rest of the group and apparently spotted me. He stopped in his tracks, looked straight at me as I pretended to be looking past him, and from that moment I knew I better start practicing my Spanish in my head. Quickly.
He pointed at me and said something and immediately started strutting over. He was obviously a nice guy, so I wasn´t too nervous. Well, nervous enough. Anytime I get somewhat put on the spot, people always say, ¨wow Ellen, your face is soo red.¨ Well this time I could feel every inch of blood in my body flowing directly to my face.
He started talking in Spanish, more like a low scream, and I said, ¨lo siento, hablo muy poquito espanol¨. As he started talking to me about how ¨el policia es muy mala¨, the crowd started closing in on us and the news reporters started flashing their cameras. ¨Por que?¨ I asked. He continued to try and tell me why, but I obviously didn´t understand. He looked around to the crowd yelling, ¨como se dice en ingles!?¨ ¨que habla ingles!?¨no one made any recognition, not wanting to get involved. He was a bit pissed at this point, but continued to try.
After a while, some people had chimed in english words here and there, such as ánarchy´or ´damage´and ´fight´, but he got the point across explaining that I needed to leave this street because they were going to fight the police and I may be arrested or hurt. I explained how I wanted to watch and see what he was standing up for and then he asked me to join the protest. I declined. He told me his name, Eduardo, and asked for mine, asked where I was from, (ooOOOoo California!!) then gave me a huge kiss right on the cheek. At that point the crowd burst into laughter. He persisted in getting a kiss from me so finally I put my cheek against his and kissed the air. (As many do to greet eachother here).
Finally we said goodbye (just like that) and we went our separate ways. I waied around for a bit longer but nothing as interesting as that was happening, so I headed back down the street.
That made for an interesting day.