VIP at the Chilean presidential elections
When we checked into the Hotel Plaza San Francisco in downtown Santiago, we were handed a letter explaining that one of the presidential candidates would be using the hotel as their base zero on Election Day (that coming Sunday). Our room keys had an “Authorizado” sticker on them that would give us access to the hotel during the election. Sounded exciting but we didn’t really know the full extent.
Sunday came and my dad and I spent the afternoon exploring Santiago and then watching the last part of the Seahawks NFL game at an American-friendly sports bar in Providencia. It didn’t feel too American, since the entire city goes dry by law on Election Day. From 5am – 8pm no one is allowed to sell alcohol. As well, the shops aren’t even allowed to open unless the owner is the one working at the shop. This is to give everyone the opportunity to vote….and vote sober apparently 🙂
Leaving the bar we started hearing a string of cars all honking their horns, some waving flags. Michele Bachelet had won (62% of the vote no less), and this is who we heard was headquartering at our hotel. It was going to be a party!
Coming back to the hotel, the cab had to stop a few blocks away – Avenida Alameda was closed in both directions. People were streaming in on foot, buying banderas (flags) from the resourceful vendors who popped up suddenly along the way selling all things patriotic. There was a huge crowd of people in front of our hotel, hundreds and would grow to thousands.
I had to make my way through a mess of people (wearing my huge backpack since I had just gone to a local friend’s place to get my camping gear all packed up) to reach the fences guarding the hotel. The guards were arguing with plenty of people trying trying to get in; I was just some random backpacking gringa asking in. They said no. I kept explaining and showing my card, and then asking where then can I get into my hotel? Finally one of the women recognized my “Authorizado” key and let me by. I’m sure everyone else was wondering how I managed that!
Inside tv crews were interviewing people everywhere. I went upstairs, dropped my bag, freshened up a bit (who knew what tv station I might end up being interviewed for) and went back down. Standing outside we were basically backstage to the celebration speech stage. Listened to the new president Bachelet talk and then saw her come off stage. On the way she passed the reggaeton guy who would be performing for her. Quite a juxtaposition of styles. I have no idea who he was but he went onstage with a couple dancer girls and the the crowd went crazy.
By now it was 8pm and alcohol was back on the scene. My dad and I got a drink and hobnobbed with the people inside. Everyone there had “COMANDO” badges except us, I’m sure they were wondering who we were and why we were there!
Really unique night, something I’ll never experience in the USA that’s for sure. I can’t see The US president’s party going down like this with such lax entrance! Viva Chile!