The weekends are pretty quiet in Las Cruces. It's not quite summer yet, so most of the houses are boarded up and the streets are usually empty. But there was an exciting buzz in the air due to two events this weekend.
First, this weekend was the Teletón. The Teletón is Chile's version of Jerry Lewis's MDA Telethon in the States. Except it is a HUGE deal here. They've been building it up for several months. I first heard about it from commercials on TV when I arrived in September. And about a month ago I started noticing donation cans in my local supermarket. The Teletón started at 10 pm Friday and ran 26 hours until late Saturday night. I watched the first hour on Friday night and when I woke up the next morning at 6:30 am, they were still going. What surprised me most, though, is that the entire country seems to participate. Early Saturday morning there were already reporters in almost every large city in Chile, interviewing people who had shown up for huge fundraising breakfasts in the neighborhoods and at banks. But the best part was that there were already cumbia bands (you know how much I love cumbia!) playing in the streets of Santiago, which I got to enjoy on tv:
There are some people who don't like the Teletón, though. My friend Rondrigo is a good example. He told me that the State doesn't give any money to disabled children for rehabilitation, so the main source of funding comes from the Teletón. The Teletón does great work, as evidenced by the numerous stories of disabled children getting the care they need. But he thinks the money should come from the State instead of expecting the Chileans - some of whom are probably struggling themselves - to pay for it. Not to mention that large companies get huge tax breaks for donating amounts that are miniscule in comparison to their profits. And there's some disagreement about whether they are spending some of the donations on the elaborate show, including venues and performers such as Don Francisco. I guess you never know with those kinds of things. At any rate, it was an interesting cultural experience.
The second thing to happen this weekend was a Las Cruces resident, Nicanor Parra, won the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish version of the Nobel in Literature. Nicanor writes 'anti-poesía', a form of poetry which 'uses common elements of language and modifies them to absurdity in a manner that attracts attention to the poet' - I don't really understand it, that's just my translation from Wikipedia in spanish. He's just as famous, though, in Chile as Pablo Neruda. The press has been stationed outside of his house for days and it's been all over the National news, but Nicanor wasn't giving interviews to the press.
Then, on Saturday, I met up with my friends, Rondrigo, Hagen, and Simon at ECIM. I like to call them the three musketeers:
You already know Rondrigo. Hagen (left) is a 19 year-old kid from Germany who's spending six months working at ECIM after graduating high school. Simon is from Liverpool, England and came to ECIM to get some research experience in order to help him decide whether he wants to pursue graduate studies. These guys are always together and a ton of fun to be around.
That day we decided to go look for Nicanor's house after walking to the Supermercado Malloco in town. Las Cruces isn't that big so it was a quick walk. And when we got there, Nicanor was standing on his doorstep talking to a group of people! He waved to us as we strolled up and then continued telling all of us about his life (that's him with the white hair):
It was quite the experience. Imagine, a Cervantes Prize winner in tiny Las Cruces!