Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas in Iquique: Carros Alegóricos

This is our first Christmas in the city of Iquique (our third Christmas in Chile) and we are finding it to be quite unique! One reason is the appearance of the traditional "carros alegóricos" this time of year.

Literally, carros alegóricos means "allegorical carriages." In reality, these are vehicles (usually trucks) that are festively decorated for Christmas and in which an orchestra and people in costumes travel. The carro is usually followed by a caravan of other cars and from each vehicle candy is thrown at children who excitedly race alongside. The ultimate destination of the caravan are the homes of families who work for major corporations in Iquique (originally the fishing industries but more recently the mining industries.) Upon arriving at these homes, gifts are distributed to the children of the family amongst much noise and celebration.

Our first glimpse of a carro alegórico was last weekend, when the apartment building where we were attending a birthday party was suddenly overwhelmed by men and women in costumes ranging from Tinkerbell to Batman to Santa Claus and his helpers. Outside a brass band was playing a festive tune and everywhere children appeared out of the woodwork in search of candy. The carro was decorated with colored Christmas lights and our kids were in awe. It was a fun introduction to a unique tradition in this part of the country.

I have to be honest, however, and say that for Pedro and me the novelty wore off pretty quickly. Probably our biggest complaint is that now that the carros have started, they just don't stop! And I mean literally, we will hear them outside our house as late/early as one o'clock in the morning. Not only is the band playing, but people are yelling through the loudspeakers and cars are honking their horns hours after our children have gone to bed. Sometimes even firecrackers are thrown! Our other concern is one of safety, as we see children fly out into the streets at the first strains of music. We've strictly admonished our own kids to stay inside the gate and let the candy come to them rather than running to it. And at the risk of sounding like the Grinch, the candy also drives us crazy because with so much of it going around we feel like a broken record saying "no more, no more, no more" from morning to night in our house!

Nonetheless, in the spirit of celebration it is neat to have the constant reminder that this is a festive time of year and we're glad to be able to experience this new tradition. Our kids love it for sure, and I imagine that the carros alegóricos will be a special part of their Christmas memories for years to come!


Anonymous said...

I love reading your blogs! Your life in Chile feels so familiar to me. Thanks for keeping me connected to Chile. I noticed your trouble with the ó in your post. I found a great program that makes it easy to add the accents without cutting and pasting: It's free and simple to use in any program. I hope your Christmas is full of peace and thankfulness!

Melissa said...

That sounds so interesting. I can see, though, that at 1 am it isn't so interesting :)

Maybe you will need to invest in a good pair of earplugs!

Lots of love to you!