I came to Chile in search of scenic wonders and an end to my winter pallor. I found instead a country in the final throes of presidential electioneering.
Given the country's tragic political history, it seems a minor miracle that Socialist Ricardo Lagos was running for president and not lying in an unmarked grave somewhere in the Atamacama Desert. I wasn't particularly worried about how things might end this day, but I also vividly remember my only other encounter with Latin American elections, particularly the bit when Haiti's Ton-Ton Macoutes opened up with machine guns on my rental car.
So I casually drove out of Santiago and headed for the beach. Just in case. But the day came and went peacefully, until at sunset, the streets filled with cars and trunks blaring their horns and throngs of supporters waving flags, celebrating a decisive victory.
All night, Lagos voters danced and celebrated in the streets in one of the most joyful and inspiring displays of patriotism I've witnessed. I'm still cleaning the confetti out of my camera bag.