I was so excited to go out Thursday night. I mean, beyond excited. The reason: I had plans to dance till dawn to what promised to be one of the most ridiculously awesome musical fusions ever spun: Balkan gypsy cumbia.
I had stumbled across a flier for the Balkan cumbia event while scrolling through the event listings on Saborizante and had been looking forward to it for the better part of a month. I had rounded up a group of similarly enthused would-be Balkumbia dancers, among them a few actual Balkans. I was so intent on having a blast that I even called the venue earlier Thursday evening to make sure the event was still on. It was.
So you can only imagine my surprise when I skipped up to the front door of the venue with a shivering, anxious group of people behind me and peered onto a virtually empty dance floor with '90s indie rock blaring from the speakers overhead. When I asked where the Balkan gypsy cumbia was, a staff member told me there had been "a change."
A change my ass.
"But I called to confirm!" I wailed to no one in particular as we all shuffled back out into the cold.
"Don't worry," someone else said. "These things happen."
Apparently, they do, because I quickly realized that I was the only one pissed off. Everyone else was disappointed, of course, but they were perfectly content to just head to another bar and order cheap beer.
I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that the others were used to this. After all, Thursday wasn't the first time this had happened to me in Chile. While we roamed the streets in search of a back-up plan, I thought back to the night I'd walked into a certain Santiago concert venue (*cough* Galpon Victor Jara *cough*) revved up to see a band two friends had been raving about. An hour and two underwhelming opening bands later, event organizers announced that the band we had all come to see would not be performing because the venue couldn't pay them: Not enough tickets had been sold. When my friends and I went to get our refunds, we were told that there would be none.
If this isn't robbery, I don't know what is. I'm sorry (actually, I'm not), but if you're a venue and schedule an event, it's your responsibility to promote it if you want it to be profitable. And if you end up losing money, that's just part of the risk you take on. You can't just cancel when it suits you and blame it on all those jerk customers who didn't bother to show up and give you money.
Anyone who moves to Chile from the States (or from a number of other countries, I would imagine) quickly realizes that social arrangements tend to be more fluid here. As every exchange student eventually learns, the fact that those nice kids from history class said you all should hang out over the weekend in no way means that it will actually happen (unless you take some serious initiative). It's certainly frustrating, but it's not impossible to get used to -- and can even work to your advantage if you're looking for a way to get out of plans.
I feel, however, that I shouldn't have to adapt myself to this type of fluidity when it comes to scheduled events. Canceling a concert, book launch or Balkan gypsy cumbia party at the last minute is just plain unprofessional.
I'm not saying this kind of thing is universal in Chile. I've been to plenty of decently organized events here. Still, I've had enough not-so-decent experiences to call my attention. Something I've noticed is that, in these cases, I get incensed while nearly everyone else seems simply resigned. As open as I try to be, I guess there are just some things about Chile I'll never get used to.
Alex y Sebas | Viña Tarapaca, Chile
4 weeks ago