Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Illegal Ferias

The ferias in Santiago are one of my favorite parts of the city's culture.  They consist of people selling used clothes and other objects, handmade jewelry, sandwiches, sushi, cupcakes, special cupcakes, candies, people doing capoeira, forming drum circles, playing didgeridoos, children frolicking, and more!  Ferias are beautiful expositions of Santiago culture, a celebration of sunny Sunday afternoons, a chance for people to sell their art, and a place for people to get together outside.

The thing is.... they are illegal.  The ferias pop up here and there, spontaneously and by word of mouth.  One will establish itself in a certain park and be strong for a couple weeks, only to be busted by the carabineros (police).  Then the vendors and the general public will slowly decide on another park or plaza.  That one will get really big and wonderful, then be busted like the rest.  Finding one in its prime is pure luck (or perhaps the people you talk to).

A few weeks ago I went to an amazing feria in Parque Forestal on a Sunday afternoon.  When I first got there, the police were lurking around and everyone was very obviously hiding their stuff.  There was a weird feeling in the air of anticipation, as everyone waited for the police to leave.  After about 45 minutes, they were still there and I was doubtful that it would ever begin.  Everyone started booing and clapping for the police to leave.  After a while, they did and the park erupted in activity.

arguing with the police

People with coolers took out their signs, advertising their tasty snacks.  Others on the grass spread out their blankets and out came the used stuff.  Just about every inch of grass along the pathways was taken, covered by a multitude of shoes, books, jewelry, clothes, knitted items, and trinkets to look at.

Last weekend, the park was crawling with police and it was sadly clear that the event wasn't happening. But, true to Chilean spirit, people were organizing!  There were representatives of a group being formed to represent the feria and have some regulations on what can and can't be sold.  This, coupled with portable bathrooms and clean-up crews, would satisfy the city and the neighbors.  Hopefully they get it OKed soon!  But for now... where will the next feria be?

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