Sunday mornings are typically slow in Santiago Centro (downtown Santiago). Most businesses are closed including most Starbucks. Normally on my morning strolls, all I’ll see is a jogger here or there, a few cyclists, and an occasional bus. But I thought there would be a little more bustle on Easter morning. I was wrong.
A country’s region provides so much insight on experiencing a culture so I always try to visit a local religious center when I travel whether it’s a Buddhist temple in Thailand, a mosque in Malaysia, or in this case, neoclassical cathedral in Chile. The fact that I was here to experience a major holiday like Easter (Pascua de Resurrección in Spanish) was even more exciting. Plus, I knew my mother would be proud. Nearly 70% of Chile is Christian and over half of those Christians are Catholic. So I decided to go to Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral. It’s the center of the archdiocese here. Go big or go home, right? It’s located in Plaza de Armas which is a touristy square that I normally would avoid, but it is home to this beautiful cathedral which dates back to the mid-1700s. Fun fact!
Growing up in Chicago, Easter to me is typically colder… maybe low-50s to low-60s on a good year (10-15 degrees Celsius). Yet, women and girls are typically wearing dresses with floral designs or bright, pastel colors. Men usually don button down shirts and possibly as suit jacket depending on their involvement in mass or their post-mass activities. I only have one backpack worth of clothes so I sported a dark blue button down shirt, khaki pants, and black 100% leather shoes (they’re new). Late March is fall in Santiago so the temperature was no different than a typical Chicago Easter, yet I was really surprised that 70% of the congregation was wearing street clothes… hoodies, workout jackets, jeans, etc. Yes, it’s in an urban, touristy area, but still, most tourists have at least one nice outfit in their luggage.
Anyway, the mass itself was nearly identical to American Easter masses back home. The priest had the same rhythm to his voice, the church was decorated with white lilies, and the communion wafer got stuck to the roof of my mouth like it always has.
Two important things to remember for attending church in Chile:
One, when you exchange peace and fellowship with the people around you, rather than saying “peace be with you” you say “la paz” which is Spanish for “the peace”. Two, when the ushers come to receive your money (yes, this is universal), a common donation is 300-500 pesos (that’s less than $1 USD).
Once the final hymn played, everyone dispersed. No coffee, pastries, or socializing. So if you think you’ve earned a free coffee for sitting through an hour-long sermon, you’re wrong. However, the architecture, artwork, and relics of the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral make it a worthwhile visit and a must-see in Santiago regardless if there’s a mass in session or not.
Happy Easter everyone.