Last weekend, we went to an indigenous New Year’s celebration called We Tripantu. This celebration happens at the winter solstice (what is our summer solstice) as the indigenous people believe that this is the time of rebirth. One of our professors told us that in her childhood, they woke up at 5 am, bathed in cold water to help renew themselves, ate a fresh-cooked Mapuche breakfast, and then celebrated the New Year together.
We arrived while they were still setting up, and while Isa had explained some of the history of the celebration, I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
The celebration was located at the base of a cerro which is considered to be sacred due to its history with the indigenous peoples.
The first thing we did after descending from the van was to climb said cerro. While we were still in Santiago, we were in the very south, and the zone appeared to be much more agricultural. It was hard to believe we were still within the city limits. The hike up the cerro was decently easy, and the view (as it always seems to be) was fantastic. After enjoying the terrific view, we headed down to watch the celebrations.
While what we were going to see is traditionally a Mapuche New Year’s celebration, there were two other indigenous groups celebrating with the Mapuche; the Rapa Nui who hail from Easter Island, and a group from the North of Chile. The ceremony started with a blessing of the earth and the people. While I couldn’t see what was happening (I am short and was in the back), I know that the ceremony involved a drum, incense, and canela. A Mapuche leader asked everyone to gather around in a half circle and refrain from taking pictures so that they could truly participate in the ceremony. I ended up standing on a table so that I could try to see what was happening, and what I was able to see was really different from any ceremony I’ve ever seen.
Next, the various tribes gathered and performed dances and songs. The group from the North was clad in bright orange and purple with huge feathered hats, while the Rapa Nui were barely wearing clothing. They looked like a stereotypical tropical tribe, but they were real people demonstrating their culture. As our director remarked, “Look how strong their culture is that they’re wearing that when it’s this cold outside.” The Rapa Nui were also my personal favorites to watch dance. I was absolutely fascinated with their dances and music, and the care and passion they demonstrated through their dances.
After the dances, we gathered to eat traditional Mapuche food! There was a huge crowd around the tables, and the people with the food took what seemed like ages (when there’s food involved, everything seems to take longer), I ended up trying sopaipilla, pan amasado, a cake made out of squash and banana, and a strawberry drink. It was all very good!
After filling up our tummies and contenting our hearts, we headed back to Santiago centro, where we ran into a Pride Parade. It seems like it was just a day to celebrate!