Sweeping: a Spanish thing?
May 23, 2010, 4:03 am
Filed under: chile, culture, mountains, south america, travel

Santuario de la Naturaleza del Arrayán

Originally uploaded by cobismith.

I’ve noticed that Chileans have a thing for sweeping. I have vague recollections of the same thing when I was in Seville, so my feeling is it’s more a Spanish culture thing than Chilean per se.

Everywhere there are people sweeping. When I look out from our balcony, maybe once in every three times I can see someone on another balcony, sweeping. Yet to where do they sweep? The balconies are contained. You can’t sweep stuff off the sides. And why? We’re on the 22nd floor, there are no leaves. No mud should be trekked in from the doorway as balconies are on the other side of the apartment.

In the parks people are sweeping. It’s autumn, there are gorgeous brown leaves everywhere. Except on the paths. The leaves are swept off to the side of the path, so they no longer crunch beneath our boots, rather they sit in sad, damp piles, decomposing. Sometimes they’re swept into Hessian sacks, which sit on the sides of paths all the same. Swept, but left lingering.

On the footpaths people sweep. Council workers with brooms, sweeping the same five square metres of pavement for half an hour. Perhaps it’s Zen, like raked rockeries in Japan. Perhaps it just keeps unemployment down.

When we were in the mountains I saw a woman sweeping outside the perimeter of her rickety house. You can see a photo on the right. How futile, sweeping an ocean of red dust! Why does she sweep?

I don’t want to conclude that people are just passing time; surely they sweep for a reason. Surely?


1 Comment so far
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Yep. The national past time of sweeping. In fact, I’m decidedly lacking in that category. I get around to sweeping maybe once every other day or so… In Santiago because of the toxic smogdust you should really do it every day. Oh well.

Comment by Sara Beck

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