29 May 2012
Every year in the port city of Valparaíso, local fishermen partake in a vibrant, thunderous celebration of San Pedro (Saint Peter), the patron saint of fishermen.
The festivities surrounding the Fiesta de San Pedro are intended to help protect these local fishers of the Pacific's often wild waters from the sea's dangers, as well as to ensure the fishermen's labors will be repaid with bountiful returns in the coming year, and the whole city turns out to help them celebrate.
Although San Pedro festivals are held up and down Chile's Pacific coast, the Valparaíso celebration is far and away the most splendid, uproarious manifestation of the centrality of fishing in these coastal people's lives. Just an hour west of Santiago and easily accessible by public transportation, visitors to the cosmopolitan capital will want to be sure to pencil in a day trip to Valparaíso at the end of June.
An annual ruckus at the end of June
The morning begins with musical events, groups carrying colorful flags, and local food and artisanal craft vendors as the crowds await the afternoon spectacle. Get to the waterside early for the traditional morning mass presided over by the bishop of Valparaíso in the Capilla San Pedro, a quaint chapel near the cove of Caleta El Membrillo.
Following the service, events continue with a colorful procession of dancers from Valparaíso's different coastal neighborhoods. This river of color, music and noise carries aloft a figure of San Pedro as far as the Muelle Prat pier. Here the San Pedro image is set sail on a boat that circumnavigates the bay, trailed by hundreds of boats, blowing their horns and extravagantly decorated, following in its wake.
For more than 120 years, the Fiesta de San Pedro has been celebrated along Chile's coast. Over time, this festival has transformed into one of the most traditional local celebrations, representing the region's intriguing heritage and beckoning both Chilean and foreign visitors to take part in its colorful customs. Those who attend often bring small mirrors to greet the passing procession of seamen and dancers with bright, sun-reflected flashes.
How to arrive
Valparaíso is easily accessible by bus from Santiago and visitors can use the city's metro system to access bus stations.
Take the metro to the Pajaritos stop (line 1) and walk literally just a few steps to the Terminal de Pajaritos.
Alternatively, take the metro to the Terminal Alameda, the main bus terminal in Santiago, located at the Universidad de Santiago metro stop (line 1), and catch one of the frequent buses to Valparaíso.
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