WHILE MANY NATIONS have thrown time-honored traditions and ceremonies to the wind, they remain central to the South American nation of Chile. Through the wisdom of its leaders, be they civil, military, Liberal, Conservative, Radical, Socialist, or Christian Democrat, this republic on the Pacific has not sampled the bitter taste of war since 1883 when they snatched the last remnants of Bolivia’s coastline. (Bolivia, now landlocked and ever holding a grudge, still maintains a small navy in defiance of geography). Having steered clear of the suicidal bloodlust which consumed much of the Western world during the Twentieth Century (say what you will about the deaths of the Allende/Pinochet years, they are far fewer than our dead of the World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam), Chile feels free to continue in the best of its European traditions free from emotional hangups.
For we in the Anglo-American world, goosesteps and pickelhaubes evoke nasty images of Prussian militarism and Nazi hegemony. While the pickelhaube is actually of Prussian origin, having been designed in 1842 by Frederick William IV, the revolutionary Hitler eventually banished them as fusty remnants of the ancien regime. And, while Hitler did popularize the goosestep, this particular form of march has its origins in old Imperial Russia.
Chile is a nation composed of settlers from almost every European country, and has adapted and melded its traditions and culture thencefrom. The ‘Father of the Country’ was an Irishman by the name of Bernardo O’Higgins, while the founder of the Chilean Navy was the 10th Earl of Dundonald. Later immigrants brought influence from Germany, Italy, and other countries, while the founding influence of Spain remained.
Every year, Chile celebrates the ‘Day of the Glories of the Armed Forces’ on September 19, the day following Chile’s Independence Day of September 18 commemorating the 1810 junta. The civil leaders of the land and high-ranking military officers assemble at a stand on the Campos de Marte in the Parque O’Higgins in Santiago and review a long parade of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Carabineros, Chile’s gendarmerie-style national police.
I’ve always loved a parade, and there is no parade like a military parade, so I decided to share with you a few views of Chile’s annual parada militar. One gets the impression that just before we put the Third Reich out of business, they contracted a huge surplus uniform sale to the Chileans which has left them a bountiful supply of uniforms to this day. Indeed, judging by some of the uniforms, one might even get the impression that the same happened earlier in the century when we (lamentably) forced the Kaiser to close shop. But the Chileans will continue to wear their uniforms with pride, and who can blame them? They look good.
The Andes form a scenic backdrop for the Parada Militar.
Now-former president Ricardo Lagos gives a rather papal greeting in this shot from a previous year’s parade.
Soldiers with plumed pickelhaubes await the parade.
Some video footage from YouTube:
The sailors and officers of the Chilean Navy march, singing the song of the Armed Forces. (1:17)
The cadets from the O’Higgins military academy parade to the Radetzky March, followed (about five minutes in) by cadets of the Prado naval academy. (8:27)
Cadets from the Air Force academy, followed by those of the Carabineros academy. (7:10)
Army soldiers marching in the uniform of the Pacific War of the 1880’s. (1:09)
Pickelhaubed troops marching in the rehearsal of the Parada Militar. (0:17)
Cadets of the Escuela Naval.
A military band.
Ladies of the Chilean Army.