Thursday, September 18, 2003
Feeling at home back in Santiago, I threw the camera and tripod into my backpack and headed for the Metro light rail system. Santiago’s Metro is world class. The stations are clean, large and well lit. The trains run on a tight schedule. Television monitors on the platform tell you when the next train is due. It was independence day, and the streets were quiet. Most shops had closed for the holiday. I returned to the Plaza de Armas to record independence day celebrations. The plaza was mostly cordoned off by police.
It is a Chilean Independence Day tradition for the President, the military elite, and other high government officials to attend church at the Metropolitan Cathedral on the plaza square. The appearance of the president comes with much fanfare. Two regiments of Chilean soldiers marched and paraded around the square. One of the regiments dressed in grey ceremonial uniforms with black boots. Their shiny grey helmets eerily resembled those worn by the Wermacht soldiers of Germany in World War II. While the band played patriotic music, I perched myself on a monument and had a perfect view of the plaza. Sure enough, President Ricardo Lagos arrived in an open-air limo. Lagos stood in the back seat of the convertible wearing a grey suit with a broad, red, white and blue ribbon, waving to the crowd. As the motorcade turned the corner it passed just a few feet from my camera.