Pot March: Partying for a Purpose

Marijuana. It's a source of constant debate around the world. Your own thoughts on the subject most likely are hovering as you read these words. But this is not a debate about whether marijuana is good, bad, right or wrong. This is a story about a yearly event that occurs each May, which brings together thousands of people who feel passionately about one thing: a plant.

 Photo by Brandon Stanley
Photo by Brandon Stanley

Beginning in Plaza Los Héroes at 11am, the protest trekked through the streets as people of all ages chanted, paraded banners and sang with the same enthusiasm of a classic Santiago student protest. A grey-haired man in shirt and tie marched alongside a young girl on her dreadlocked father's shoulders, both enthusiastically waving the same 'Legalize' flag. Right behind them was a group of teenage Chilenos with guitars, drums and tambourines providing the reggae soundtrack to all within earshot.

 Photo by Brandon Stanley
Photo by Brandon Stanley

Spirits were high and groups of enthusiasts, adorned in everything from all green make-up to sparkling beads and colorful robes, danced in cheerful praise. Some even took it a step further by becoming the plant and wrapping themselves in paper, transforming themselves into the form of a massive walking marijuana cigarette. As diverse as the crowds were, there was still a strong sense of unity that only protests seem to evoke in complete strangers.

The march finished in Parque Almagro, culminating in a gathering more reminiscent of a music and arts festival than a public park. Of course, there was drinking, and there was smoking. But you didn't need to take part in either activity to enjoy the unique energy and atmosphere that only the taboo freedom of this day could provide. Wandering through the crowd of thousands, one could find everything from drum circles to flag twirlers on stilts, pop-up dance parties as well as a 40-person game of Duck-Duck-Goose. And the occasional person passed out face first in the grass.

 Photo by Brandon Stanley
Photo by Brandon Stanley

The park provided a space not just for personal enjoyment and passive protesting, but for organizations and informed users to educate all who were interested. Constant lines were formed around the 20+ booths where you could sign petitions, pick up pamphlets and purchase all sorts of magazines and paraphernalia. A Jerry Garcia look-alike chatted to anybody willing to listen about the medicinal benefits of Cannabis. At the next booth young entrepreneurs sold seeds and literature on proper home growing methods.

There may be a varied list of reasons one may attend this event: fighting against the law, fighting for the plant, providing or receiving knowledge, simply partaking in guilty pleasures or as a spectator out for a Sunday stroll. Regardless of where you stand, if you are interested in experiencing a Chilean subculture that has a unique voice and energy all its own, you should consider checking out the annual protest that occurs at the beginning of each May. So take it or leave it, they are here to stay, and they tend to have a damn good time.

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