This will be scrambled eggs——just going to relate stories as I remember them and not in order necessarily for that summer.
La Serena, as I siad, was a big tourist destination for Chileans and Argentines——the international road directly behind La Serena, a dirt road to be clear, had served Argentines for years before the coup, as a closer distance to the beach then their own beaches driving in from Northern Argentina——still many came from central Argentina areas like Mendoza to the coast but mostly central. Immediately in the days after the coup, the Chilean Army dynamited all of these smaller passes——before that with the pass open, Chileans or Argentines would register with police on either side their intention to cross the border from what ever town was closest to the border but often from 100 kilometers away on the Argie side and Vicuna being the closest on the Chilean side (During summer months with so many travelers, Carabineros would set up a temporary customs maybe 12 or 15 kilometers from the pass) Chileans of mid to upper class came to La Serena for the less crowded beaches of the central coast. Many in Santiago had summer houses or family in La Serena so it made sense. Still La Serena was pretty light in regard to what I was accustomed to in regard to summer tourist towns.
Either staying in hosterias, second homes or with friends——Chileans wanted their month to be fun and free of the rigors of Santiago life. Many middle class Chileans chose to just camp out on the beach——not in La Serena but leading into it. Not much beach north of La Serena so south of it. “Campings,” although available, were not really built up like they were starting after 1987 or so. Middle class Chileans would pull out mattress and put it on top of the car and then with the dining room table upside down on the mattress or mattresses, they would place the dining chairs on the inside of the legs in corral fashion with everything they would need protected——so bedding, pillows, dinnerware, clothes as well as everything they would need to cook with——and then wrapped all up in a tarp and roped to the car——rope over the goods and through the car with and with the door closed, securing it all——and it was off to the beach. Either alone or in small groups you would see impromptu camp sites along the beach——No Chilean would go without a good meal and at their dining room table sitting in their chairs. Kids would play on the beach, Dad would watch over it all as mom cooked the next meal——the protective tarp became the tent off some poles and attached to the car. This was Chilean camping with nearly all the comforts of home.
I went to the beach nearly every day——Typically Chileans on vacation don’t arrive to the beach until around 3 pm or so——after lunch. Chileans didn’t eat dinner until 10 pm normally anyway at home and maybe if they are going out not arriving anywhere to eat until 11pm. Many restaurants in La Serena did not open until 10 pm and that was mostly when employees were arriving to go to work. With dinner done and home by mid-night, older teens were leaving after that to go to a disco or party usually arriving around 1am and staying until at least 2am if not later. Most any Chilean on vacation was not up in the am until after 9 am. A groggy, lazy simple breakfast and then maybe a nap and lunch around 1pm brought them barely ready to go to the beach until 3 pm. Leaving around 5 to 6pm brought them home for once and family time at the cabana or hosteria.
I arrived to La Serena on a Saturday and went home to sleep after a long bus ride. My sister took me downtown on Sunday for groceries and other errands——the down town was pretty busy with people everywhere after church——I checked out the plaza de armas as well as the feria for fresh fruit etc. We came back for lunch and wanting to see more of the city, I took a collectivo downtown——I could not believe that hours before, where the city was crowded and full of people, it was absolutely deserted with a fusty dogs and thats it——my first lesson in the the firm tradition of the provincial “Siesta.” Strictly adhered too, I went downtown in the evening to go to the movies and people were back and everywhere strolling the street en masse.
In those days workers arrived to work around 8:30 to 9 am———worked until 12:30 and went home for lunch and siesta only arriving back to work between 3 and 4 and then working until about 8:30——so four rush hours a day——rush hour in La Serena was not much by most city standards across the world but with a lot of small one way streets, it was crowded. I cannot say how serious a siesta was during this time——everyone observed it and it was solid.
I mostly went to the beach everyday. The water was cold certainly but offset by the heat, it was nice. I met a lot of people my age and so spent the evenings, after dinner, at parties or in a group at a disco. Chilean youth parties at the time were completely different than anything I had experienced before in the US. Usually about 15 to 20 people and held in a home or in the patio of a cabana or hosteria or on the beach with a fogota. Usually no snacks really but always with wine and especially piscola, a mix of coca cola and pisco. No one was getting drunk and sipped their drinks talking and sharing. I was mostly with university students so it was about school, lost loves and hopes but rarely ever politics. Certainly there were little romances beginning and ending but really calm compared to an American party where rowdy drunkenness and crazy behavior was the norm. Most Chileans at the university level had experience with alcohol from an early age and everyone knew how to behave. Inevitably someone would pull out a guitar and take requests for songs——not ACDC, Metalica or anything else but nearly always folk songs——everyone would sing along and be a little melancholy or happy with the lyrics——Bob Dylan, Victor Jara and especially anything by Cat Stevens and his eternal Chilean favorite at the time “Cat’s in the Cradle.” as well as any mix of other Chilean songs, “Yo Vendo unos Ojos Negros.” etc….. Friends would pair off to go home sharing a collectivo or get dropped off——but not without stopping to get french fries off a street cart or empanadas——not hard to find a food cart in the city or in nieghborhoods. Younger children, having stayed home, would still be in the street riding their bikes or playing soccer and other games. Rolling in at 4am was pretty much standard and then it would start all over again the next day and night.