Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Chile Organizes World´s Biggest Fireworks Display

Chile Has World’s Biggest Fireworks Display
Valparaiso hosts spectacular New Year’s celebration

For the past five years ago the city council of Valparaiso, Chile´s main sea port, has organized a fireworks display that is now reputed to be the best of its kind in the world. To mark the start of 2008 a total of 28 tons of fireworks and 23,500 rockets (30% more than last year) were fired from rafts in the sea and from 17 points along the hilltops surrounding the Bay of Valparaiso and the adjacent resort city of Viña del Mar. A total of one million tourists arrived at the bay area mostly from the capital city of Santiago, located 130 kilometers to the east to see the fireworks show . Many people decided to camp near the coastline in order to get the best view of the show that lasted for nearly half an hour and left everybody in ecstasy.

One of the best places from which to see the fireworks is the top of Cerro Artilleria (Artillery Hill in Spanish) that can be reached by a lift or by a rather difficult 15 minute walk up the streets. Close to midnight the street leading up to Artillery Hill was full of people wearing colorful party hats, drinking champagne and shooting off “party poppers” into the air. One of the most famous neighbors at

Artillery Hill is Lidia Jara that runs a shop where she sells drinks and food to the many tourists that arrive there throughout the year. Lidia complained that little has changed in Chile after Pinochet and declared that she was tired of the current government officials that “are only interested in getting rich by stealing state funds”. In the 80s Lidia was arrested and beaten up by Pinochet´s security agents but now she says she will not collaborate with the ruling “Concertacion” coalition in the next elections. “Forget about it, I won’t help them get votes. They have done nothing to help the poor, nothing has changed in Chile after Pinochet,” said Lidia.
At the end of the spectacular display, most of the people walked down the hill towards Valparaiso´s main square, Plaza Sotomayor, where a musical show had been organized. According to some tourists from Germany, France and Brazil that were at the square, Valparaiso´s fireworks display is definitely the most spectacular in the world.

However, what until then had been a peaceful celebration turned sour as drunk youths fought against each other and littered the square with bottles of alcoholic drinks. The police were hard pressed to control the nearly 50,000 people that danced to the music at Plaza Sotomayor since many persons denounced that they had been attacked or robbed by drunkards. The Chilean police announced that from the long weekend that began on December 29 until January 1, 39 persons had been killed in 855 car crashes or traffic incidents, and the victims were mostly drunk pedestrians that that were run over by cars as they crossed the street. While the New Year´s celebration in Valparaiso was a complete success, the situation was completely opposite in Santiago. At approximately 9 p.m on January 31, a blackout left 15 districts without electricity, spoiling the celebration for hundreds of thousands of citizens. In one neighborhood, a drunk man volunteered to climb up lamp post to try and restore energy but was killed immediately by the electric current.
According to Chilectra, the national electricity company that is now controlled by Spanish investors, the blackout was caused by vandals that threw chains against the power lines in order to cause chaos or also by the firing of “party poppers” that can shoot sheets of aluminum paper for nearly thirty meters . Also many violent incidents were reported by citizens in Santiago, such as an eight year old boy that was killed by a stray bullet during a shootout between rival gangs, or the case of an 18 year old college student that was wounded by another stray bullet that hit the window of the house. In another incident, two men were killed and another seriously wounded during a knife fight in Santiago’s southern suburbs.

Viña del Mar (The Garden City): Located to the north of Valparaiso, this city was founded in 1870, and its name means “Vineyard by the Sea” and the land where the city is now located was donated by Francisco Vergara. Today Viña del Mar is Chile´s main tourist center, especially during the summer season that is just beginning.

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