This past Sunday was the local religious festival of Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, for whom the chapel next to my house is named. A few hundred locals from Pocuro and the surrounding towns turned out for the celebration, which began at 3:00pm with a Mass. Afterwards, people took to the streets for a procession through ten different stations at community members’ houses for various prayer intentions. The parish priests lead the procession. In the rear, Chilean huasos (“cowboys”) dressed in traditional garb followed. I was slightly amused by station eight where we offered a prayer for athletes; I was apprehensive at station nine where we prayed for “the rain that we need,” because rain means cold. It started raining about ten minutes later. My experience is that responses to my petitions come neither so surely nor so quickly, but I suppose there are always exceptions.
Before we ascended the first part of the local hill, a group of residents played a set of Chilean folk tunes while two couples of children danced the cueca, Chile’s national dance. One of the dancing girls looked to be no more than six or seven years old. She was quite good—much better than I am, to say the least. All the people around me murmured, “Look how well she moves her handkerchief!” (I should mention that good handkerchief movement is highly valued part of cueca.) That tiny dancer wasn’t the only surprising youngster of the day, though. Another boy, I’d guess four or five years old at most, rode his own horse along with the group. Only in the Chilean countryside…I can’t imagine that happening in the U.S. without talk of a lawsuit of some kind.
As we descended from the hill, someone cried out viva la gente de Pocuro!—long live the people of Pocuro!