Public holidays are synonymous with parades in most countries. The 21st of May was a public holiday in Chile, Navy Day to Commemorates the Battle of Iquique.
The Battle of Iquique was a confrontation that occurred on May 21, 1879, during the naval stage of the War of the Pacific, a conflict between Chile and Peru and Bolivia. The battle took place off the then-Peruvian port of Iquique. The Peruvian ironclad ship named Huáscar sank the Esmeralda, a Chilean wooden corvette after four hours of combat.
A lieutenant named Ignacio Serrano boarded the Huáscar on his horse and with eleven men from the Esmeralda but unfortunately Serrano was the only survivor and had received several shot wounds in the groin. This is such a weird battle to commemorate, especially since they actually lost the battle.
In Park Forestal not very far from Plaza de Armas there was a military and Navy parade to commemorate this famous battle. We stood around for a while and listened to the band play but left as soon as all the speeches started. It was quite crowded and difficult to worm my way to the front to take photos. I tried taking photos with my arms stretched over the crowd but this proved to be more difficult than expected, most obvious reason probable being because I’m quite short and cant reach that high.
Plaza de armas was filled with people and entertainers but what caught my attention were the really awful looking fake horses. They were really strange looking and stood all over the plaza. I figured that they were props for photos, although I didn’t actually see anybody sit on one of these little horses for a photo. I wouldn’t want a photo with one of these fake horses, they look a bit creepy to me.
The streets Paseo Ahumada and Huerfanos were pedestrianized in 1077 by closing 12 blocks off to motor vehicles. These two walkways are flanked by numerous shops, restaurants and commercial businesses. It has a very lively ambiance with people walking to and fro all day.
It is here that I found a “coffee with legs” café. Coffee with legs, or Café con piernas in Spanish, really refers to coffee shops in Chile where the waitresses wear short skirts to serve customers their coffee. There are no tables here, instead people sip coffee standing around the counters surrounding the Italian-style coffee makers and old-fashioned soda fountains. The servers are all wearing very, very short dresses to show off their legs and I am sure all the men are just waiting and hoping for one of them to pick something up from the floor. The high walls are actually covered completely in mirrors, so that everybody can see the leggy waitresses no matter which side of the coffee shop they are facing. This is the first time during my travels that I have ever come across something like this. It was quite interesting and definitely not what I have come to expect from a very conservative Chile.
My Navy day stroll took me through Plaza Bulnes a tree lined walkway down the city center, all the way to the beautiful Basilica de los Sacramentinos. Better known as the Church of the Blessed Sacrament which was built between 1912 and 1931. For a church that took nearly 20 years to be built I expect that the inside should be quite spectacular.
I would have loved to explore this striking Cathedral but unfortunately it was locked on this public holiday. I love the Byzantine style of this church although the fact that it is fenced in with barbed wire was a bit disconcerting. Another disturbing thing for me was that there was actually graffiti on the church and the church steps. Who would graffiti on such a beautiful church?