Hola amigos! This is your boy Anthony Perez with another quick check-up on how Santiago, Chile is treating me. Well today I wanted to inform any future Drexel University study abroad students interested in heading to Chile or just anybody who has free-time to read this article, about something very common that you will see throughout Chile: street performers (or artistas callejeros). There is no joke when I say street performers are everywhere! You would normally think that these street performers would head to more crowded areas such as Plaza de Armas (where the featured image was taken); however, no matter the hour, I always spot street performers around the area I live. Granted the student residency I stay at is located right next to Parque Bustamante (which is pretty populated at all times), but I see performers away from the area as well. The effort placed into gaining attention in order to receive some chilean pesos or monedas (coins) is pretty astonishing.
The most common locations to spot these performers are….right in front of traffic! Honestly! Every single day, no lie, I have seen performers standing in front of traffic (at a red light of course) showing off cool tricks and skills in order to wow the drivers and any passersby. Predominantly, the tricks performed in front of traffic consist of some sort of juggling. I have seen a man juggling bowling pins (pretty common), a man juggling colorful balls, a man dribbling a soccer ball (guy was amazing), and a clown on a unicycle juggling bowling pins (this was quite rare). Once the light turns green, the performers bow at their lovely, mechanical audience, stand in the middle of traffic (allowing the cars from both lanes to pass through), and reveal a hat or box in which donations are meant to be placed. So far, from what I have seen in the short, quick moments of me wandering by, they do not gather much pesos (near to nothing honestly), but they continue red light after red light, day after day.
Besides the performers around my neighborhood, some of the best performers I have encountered are around the area Plaza de Armas. The primary contrast between neighborhood performers and those at Plaza de Armas are definitely amount of effort placed into routine as well as dressing the part.
Just look at this golden fairy above (and my very awkward appearance). The detailed costume, the fact that she never broke out of character, and her elegant movements caught so much attention, I had to push through a crowd just to get to her. The way her act worked was that she, and also this man dressed as a Roman statue, would stay on a certain platform, hers was this pole with a seat which gave her the illusion of floating. In front of the fairy and the statue were bowls to place money into. If the fairy noticed that you dropped money into her bowl, she would do this mystical hand movement (usually around someone’s head, as you can see in the picture), then she would pull out a fortune from the golden bowl in her hand and, again majestically, hand you the fortune.
There is a wide variety of performers however. For example, Maria the llama and her photographer buddy. Cannot recall the actual price, but for about 4.ooo pesos you could take a picture with Maria which would then be printed on the spot. There are also break-dancers, dancing robots (some guy dressed up as Bumblebee from Transformers), violinists, guitarists, drummers, traditional Chilean folk dance, and, my favorite so far, clowns. In fact, the clowns at Plaza de Armas are one of the most successful street performers I have seen and I think it has to due with their outrageous and hilarious act. These clowns usually joke around with any innocent citizen that passes by their path: impersonating the way that they walk, playing pranks on them, confusing them and, even more, they also literally stop ongoing traffic for the humor of it. The clowns would put their chin up and exaggerate a soldier-like walk then go into the middle of the street, blown on a whistle, and raise a hand to halt the driver. Then they would jokingly pretend to pull-over the driver in order to give him a ticket, and the best part is that the drivers go along with the joke. It is all a fun time for everybody. The clowns also pretend to be cleaning or sweeping every time an officer (or carabinero ), but, in reality, the officers do not care for the performers and sometimes even joke with them.
I feel as if these street performers and the willing audience are just another evidence of what I discussed about the students at PUC. Although everyone has something to do or somewhere to be, they do not give up the opportunity to enjoy themselves and make room for fun. Thinking about it, I have not met one person here in Chile who is too serious that they only focus on work. Of course when work needs to be accomplished the gloves are put on, but they understand that occasional distraction and entertainment is vital.