January 15, 2014
Barrio Bellavista Neighborhood
I have no idea where they come from but by 4 PM, a young crowd is beginning to fill the tables along the sidewalk in the lower part of Pio Nono. This street, like the part in the middle of the hair, splits both sides of the historic Bellavista neighborhood in Santiago.
Kids in shorts, T-shirts, jeans of every style jam together in couples or tables pulled together like boxcars. Servers from the small bars/restaurants wade in to serve beer, fries, empanadas, and pizza (yes) and try to squeeze another table into whatever space they can claim. Personal space? Forget it. We’re talking a can of sardines here.
By midnight, the sidewalks are packed. At 4 PM, the group on R is just getting started.
The high-energy din expands by the hour. It will continue until well past midnight. By around 10 pm, another wave of hormonically charged kids fill the Patio Bellavista, the upscale two level courtyard halfway down the street. They’re dressed for nightlife, more upscale versions of jeans and shirts, more attention to “ the look,” showered, and shiny. They’re not interested in the souvenir shops or toney eateries. Hundreds of them are packed around both levels on all four sides cheering for the band on a small stage. The deep blue sky overhead, stars barely visible, is a serene canopy for the action below.
VIDEO PATIO BELLAVISTA
Bellavista is a destination for an evening on the town. Constitution Street, one street over, is where the older brothers and sisters, aunts uncles, and parents of the crowd on Pio Nono come to eat and drink. Some will even filter over to youth territory later in the night.
An older crowd sits inside the bars, ceding the sidewalks of Pio Nono to the young. I stop dead in my tracks as I pass The Crazy Bar. Where was the bandstand? Surely the gorgeous voice of the woman singing the ballad had to come from there. Nope.
Scanning the interior from the open window, I spot a middle-aged woman in a red and white knit dress holding a microphone… a moment later I see the screen on which the lyrics are crawling along. Karaoke! The place rings with applause when she finishes.
(I was astonished when I played this video two days later for Ricardo's 20 year-old niece Marcelita - she began to sing along just like some of the crowd had done inside The Crazy Bar! "The name of the song is Piensa En Mi, it means 'think of me,'" she says in halting English, "it's very popular." Indeed.)
This is Santiago. Social life is just getting up a head of steam by midnight. Me? Sixteen hours on the go and I’m ready to stop. I’m heading back to my Hotel Castillo at the end of Pio Nono.If I could sing karaoke, well…that would be a different story.
Photos, videos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.