The Wild Mothers of Williams

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Mon 16 May 2016 01:12
54:56.1S 67:37.1W

Thursday afternoon I got off the Twin Otter plane, back in Puerto Williams. The trees looked stunning, I had missed them in Punta Arenas. Franco's flight had been re-scheduled late the following day so he would still make his appointment with Lisa in the Peak District for the week-end and would have plenty of time before his mother's 80th surprise birthday party. 

Although the air strip is just across the river from the Micalvi Marina, it takes an hour to walk there, over the bridge way up river. I was lucky to be offered a lift within seconds, the man had just dropped off his mate for the flight back to Punta Arenas.

Friday morning, knock on the boat, Mauro and Roberto, the two sailing school instructors were alongside in their rib. Would I mind sowing up one of the Optimist sails? They had stuck a patch on but it needed stitching. As I was finishing I noticed another tear so I repaired that too. They were very grateful, could they pay me? Get me some wine? I explained Narcissio had helped us out in Uruguay and this was payback time. They couldn't really see the link. Narcissio is the professional skipper of the businessman who's trust owns the school.

Saturday morning I bumped into Mauro and Roberto by the pontoon. Mauro said "Roberto and I will do a striptease just for you! To thank you. For free." Why they think I would have any interest in their muscular twenty-something bodies, I have no idea. "Great," I said, "can I invite Juliette (my French friend)?"

Roberto didn't like the idea of inviting Juliette, no doubt he is scared of Jacky her husband.

I was a little surprised to be offered a striptease, of course it was a joke but it did seem a little forward. But then, these Latino men ...

Saturday is when the fresh food arrives in Williams, so later on, I walked into town to buy some fruit. I noticed a poster in a window "Fiesta - Dia de la Madre - Entrada Abierta - Sabado 14 Mayo 9pm" with a couple of photos of showbiz personalities. Mother's Day in Chile was on 8th May. From what I know of life in Williams, people don't go out much, even if they eat restaurant food, they tend to buy it as a takeaway and eat at home with the family. Socialising is done mostly within the family. A Mother's Day event was bound to be a family outing. Did I dare gate crash? Probably not. It's not just that I would be alone in a crowd but I really do stand out here. Although officially the Indians died out at the end of the 20th century, their genes have survived strong in the Chilean population; handsome faces, dark hair, dark skin (not that they like to be reminded).

By 8:30pm, the decks were covered in a slippery layer of ice and the air, although still, was bitterly cold. I was sending a few emails in the Micalvi when Mauro walked in. "Roberto is on his way for the striptease, let's go," he said. "Go where? It's freezing out there" (my over-developed imagination told me that 'cold' would not be good for certain parts of their anatomy). "To your boat" he said with a straight face. "No, no, do it hear, it's warmer" I replied (wondering where the conversation was going). "But we need the mast for the pole dancing" he whined and burst into a big grin.

"Are you going to the fiesta?" he asked. "I don't think so." "You should, Roberto is going. You could go with Nelly" (our Spanish teacher). Mauro understood the conundrum of going alone.

To go or not to go? The choices were: to risk looking stupid on my own in a family event or, to go back to Caramor and read 'Biggles' in Spanish aloud, to improve my accent.

At the door I recognised one of the two bouncers, he was the friendly government official with whom I had discussed applying for a one year residency permit. I came straight: "I'm not a mum and I have no kids". "Of course you can come in", hugs and kisses all-round.

The games hall was fitted out with twenty long banquet tables facing a decorated stage with a huge banner 'Feliz Dia Mama'. At each table were sat twenty women. It was a women's only event! I had had no idea from the poster. I chose the middle table and sat down, near two ladies who were chatting together. Within seconds they turned towards me and included me in their discussion. "So do you have children?" I asked. Neither of them did! We drank to freedom.

Running to and fro was an army of smartly dressed waiters plying us with juices, soft drinks or pisco (local brandy) cocktails. Carolina and Lisa have been in Williams less time than we have, and  are both working on a tourism development initiative. "Who has organised this event?" I asked. "The mayoral elections are in less than six months. The lady mayor is keen to be remembered but it is the town council that is paying." they told me. Food arrived (second dinner for me! I hadn't expected a meal). Roberto brought our plates, he was one of the smart waiters. I didn't recognise him without all his waterproof clothing but he called my name. "He knows you" Carolina exclaimed in surprise. "I must be famous" I replied. As soon as you emptied your glass, it was refilled. All for free. "I think I might vote for her" I said. My friends laughed. They explained that Chileans attend the parties but are too cynical to be swayed to vote. Although the music was loud, we could mostly still hear each other. We talked about Chiloe and the terrible death of sea life over the past few months which has left traditional fishermen destitute. My friends were clear, the problem isn't a red tide, it is the poisoning of the sea by the salmon farming industry and the dumping of tonnes of dead salmon nine miles offshore.

The music volume was turned up, in pranced the first act. He danced around the stage, off came the shirt. He lifted his t-shirt to reveal toned abdominal muscles. The ladies went wild. He selected two women from the audience. Their task was to roll a golf ball up one leg of his tight fitting jeans and back down the other, each starting at the bottom of one leg. It was a race. The least self-conscious lady won but we could tell that both were concentrating very hard on the ball rather than on the legs and desperately trying to ignore the bit in between. More music, the hunk jumped down from the stage, the audience was riotous. He toured around the room kissing and inhaling the girls' perfumes. A round lady in her sixties danced furiously on a chair. He picked her, along with three others to join him on stage. The game this time was to dance 'caliente' (sexy) with him, one at a time, until the balloon he had placed between them burst. There is no doubt that latino blood still flows this far south in the Antarctic frigidity of Patagonia. The round lady was hilarious, she kept pumping up her boobs. At last it was her turn to dance, she couldn't get enough of him, running her hands up and down his smooth skin. He took his vest off for her, she wouldn't let go of his abdoms. He wondered whether he would get away in one piece. Eventually he picked her up and danced with her legs rapped tightly around his waist. We were roaring with laughter. If there is a Mr Roundlady, I doubt he has much muscle tone left, she was thoroughly enjoying every minute. At the end of the act she refused to leave the stage, she had obviously seen him on telly and knew what other tricks he had up his sleeve. He gave in. It involved a short stubby biscuit that he gave to her to put between her lips, he then had to retrieve it with his. She played dirty and when he went for the biscuit, she swallowed it, undeterred he went straight after it! His last game was speed dating. He asked for volunteers, the criteria was that they had to be single. The show of hands suggested that most of the women in the room were!

More pisco then the second act. A singer in a tight Mexican suit with a very large sombrero. "Mexican?" I asked Carolina. "No, Chilean" she explained that Chileans prefer to listen to Mexican music than Chilean. That scuppers my efforts to blend in by listening to Chilean folk music. "Got good taste the mayoress, hasn't she?" Carolina grinned. Lisa wasn't too taken with the Mexican, I think she prefers Chilean music. He took his jacket off but in his waistcoat, shirt and slacks he was over dressed for the audience who were getting bored.

The last bit of excitement was when all the white-shirted waiters rushed for the door. I wondered if they had heard that a tsunami was on its way. Natural disasters had also been one of our topics of conversation. Lisa made enquiries "not to worry, a lady had left the hall and fallen over in the street, totally drunk" and still the piscos arrived.

The lights came back on at ten to two and we were reminded that the clocks had gone back.

A long queue had formed in one corner of the hall. Carolina asked them what they were waiting for "To see Pastorino, the Argentinian macho-man.". The rest of us queued to kiss 'Good Night' to the bouncers on the way out. As we walked away I said "I never expected to see that many people in one place in Williams", "neither did we" laughed Lisa. Her husband who has been working in Williams for some time had warned her that there would probably be no more than ten people.

It had been a great night, I had spoken more Spanish in one go than ever before and drunk more pisco than I ever will again.

Augustin Pastorino's visit to Puerto Williams must have been common knowledge in town and within that context, Mauro's offer to do a striptease makes sense. He also knew the fiesta was open to women only but didn't realise I had no idea. I have always been intrigued by the way information spreads in small communities (or larger ones for that matter). It doesn't need to be written down, there is seldom an awareness of it being passed around and yet all those who need to know, usually find out somehow. Not until you are part of that network, are you part of the community.