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Mil Tambores Festival Parade, in Valparaiso, Chile

Mil Tambores Parade Festival

Mil Tambores Parade Festival

Wait a minute, she’s not wearing a costume; that’s just paint! The Mil Tabores (1000 Tambourines) parade and festival turned out to be a real eye opener, an explosion of drumming, colours and creative expression. Much more interesting than the usual parade routine. Chile’s version of Mardi Gras.

Every parade troupe featured some kind of percussion, and at intervals the groups would grind to a halt to put on a show. Bystanders immediately formed a circle around the band and performers, vying for a good view, clogging the parade route. When the show was over, a few minutes later, half the bystanders walked beside the performers as they paraded along, so it was an ever changing sea of people surging down the parade route.

Mil Tambores Parade Sept 30 2010 in Valparaiso, Chile

Mardi Gras type festival parade in Valparaiso, Chile

Click here to launch photo gallery.

The purpose of the Mil Tambores festival is to commemorate the right to peace, justice and living with dignity. I saw a number of people carrying placards that demanded justice, peace or freedom. In the parade we saw a number of Mapuche indigenous groups, some with sombre faces walking slowly to drumming, unsmiling,as if in a death march. Other groups were dressed in fanciful bright costumes in clown colours and swirling princess witch dresses, in full fairy-tale glory.

Some men performed martial arts inspired dances, flipping in the air and twisting horzontally in ways that seemed to defy gravity. A street performer amazed the crowd with his ability to levitate a cyrstal ball, rolling it all over his body and suspending it for breathless moments in mid-air.

There were also a few enormous puppets, towering above the crowds, paper mache’d hands supported by sticks, waving in time to the music and drumming. Others were walking on tall stilts, children included,one hand held by a supportive parent.

Lots of different troupes of women, naked from the waist up, decked from head to toe in paint
sashaying in zig zags up and down the parade route, laughing and smiling in front of the drum squads. You never knew what might pop around the corner next.

Mil Tambores is a new festival, only 10 years old, and every year it gets wilder and crazier, I’m told. It’s going to be a weekend long party, with dancing on the streets (well I was told that would happen for the bicentennial too, and it didn’t but let’s see). The police are out in full force, and there is a tank parked down in the plaza below my cerro, as if expected things to get really out of hand. Bleachers have been set up in the major squares for live music shows and other artistic performances. Should be a fun weekend ahead.

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