Published: November 7th 2008November 7th 2008
There is a KFC around one corner and McDonalds around the other. In the park, 4 year olds are regularly seen chugging two liters of Coca-Cola. Black Iron Maiden t-shirts are ubiquitous. There is Budweiser and Doritos in the supermarket. Moreover, the dominant economic philosophy of the country was imported wholesale from the University of Chicago’s School of Economics and Milton Freedman. All of which is to say that American hegemony is more or less wholeheartedly embraced in Chile. Unfortunately, super awesome parts of Americana such as Halloween have met stiff resistance. Halloween is the good old fashion pagan holiday Samhain, dressed up for church. Over in the British Isles, Celtic druids costumed in animal pelts, dancing around big bonfires, communing with the visiting dead got mixed in with some Roman stuff, and then along came Catholicism. In classic fashion, they grafted some Catholicism on the top of local traditions, borrowed a truck load of symbols and called it Catholic: Oct 31st All-Hallows Eve, Nov 1st All Saints Day, and Nov 2nd All Souls Day are the result. All of which used to fall into the horrible ‘have to go to church’ holiday category. Luckily, in North America, the Catholic immigrants
arrived late, so you have the way more amusing secular, costumed, candy gorging, adult binge drinking holiday. The Chileans aren't shy about packing the year with public holidays. In addition to All Saints Day (nov 1st), there are 8 other Christian holidays and then 8 more of the secular variety.
But of holidays, there can never be enough. So, this year, President Bachelet introduced the new holiday ‘Día Nacional de las Iglesias Evangélicas y Protestantes’! Oct 31st got saddled with that mouthful because 500 years ago Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the doors of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. Bachelet said the holiday is “a way of recognizing the contribution that the evangelical church has made to national progress and to values that enrich the country’s unity and support for the culture of tolerance and respect.” I have a couple thoughts on this matter. One, if you are thinking that that is a grotesquely unwieldy and drifting toward nonsensical sentence, it may be my translation. However, I am inclined to blame the deeply rooted Spanish hatred for the period. In comparison with most, that sentence is a short declarative and probably a little too direct. Second, I may
be guilty of ignoring the Protestant part of the day and assuming American Evangelicalism is the same as Chilean, but I have a hard time putting Evangelical, progress, and tolerance in the same sentence. Maybe that is because the Evangelical tradition in Gringolandia wants to have their little creationist fairy tale put in the school curriculum and the Constitution rewritten to keep 'the homeland' safe from gay people. Not exactly progress and tolerance. Finally, giving Christians a holiday and then lauding it as demonstrative of religious and cultural tolerance is laughable. Last time I checked the calender, Christians weren’t getting shafted on the holiday allotment. Nevertheless, In Chile, Halloween will never be. Oct 31st now goes to the Evangelicals and Protestants.
In a stroke of administrative genius, they worked out the rules so that it wasn’t important what day of the week the 31st actually fell. The holiday will always be 'celebrated' on Friday or Monday. I am sure three-day weekends helped convince non-Evangelicals of the pressing need for another holiday. Who knows how one is supposed to celebrate Evangelical Day, but if you are Chilean, you close everything and do whatever it is Chileans do when one of the 17 public holidays rolls around. If you are a gringo and still convinced it is Halloween, you try to find the makings of a Halloween costume in a city where nothing is open.
Luckily, Bachman's brilliance, an apropos Chilean idiom, and my boundless free time came together. We decided Halloween ought to be Chileanized, and dressed as the two characters who market the local soft drinks Bilz and Pap. Their national popularity is evidenced by the local idiom “El vivo en el mundo Bilz y Pap’ (he lives in a Bilz and Pap world). Someone who lives in a Bilz and Pap world sees the world through rose colored glasses. Somehow fitting given our lives. The final result was successful though at 4 in the morning, it is never reassuring to realize that you are fairly intoxicated, dancing (it goes without saying, poorly), and dressed like a lemon tele-tubby.