SANTIAGO, Chile A cheer was heard in various corners of Monumental Stadium March 11 as tens of thousands of Chilean Church members and their friends waited for the evening's cultural event to begin. "Chi-chi-chi Le-le-le. Viva, Viva, Mi Chile!"
It was an unrehearsed but perhaps essential beginning to an enthusiastic colorful evening of history, patriotism, culture and dance. An hour or so after listening to the counsel of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder L. Tom Perry and other Church leaders at a devotional assembly at the stadium, a cast of about 2,500 Chilean children, youth and young adults donned costumes, stretched their legs and shared their talent for a cultural event that has become the norm throughout the Church on the eve of a temple dedication or rededication.
Despite the countless hours demanded practicing dances, crafting costumes and producing video segments highlighting Chile's rich LDS history, participants called it an honor to perform in front of General Authorities and fellow Church members and friends.
"It was exciting to be able to share our country, our customs and our culture," said Monica Arena, the cultural events artistic director.
The thousands gathered at the stadium stood to sing Chile's national anthem as the nation's red-white-and blue flag was unrolled on one corner of the field. Massive video screens placed across the field and on the stadium's giant television screen told the story of the Church in Chile. Dancers donned in an impressive variety and cut of costumes performed, among others, the folkloric dances of the indigenous Mapuches of southern Chile, the Baile Chilote, the Tirana of the north and, of course, the Cueca dances that symbolize Chile's "wrangler" culture.
A day after the cultural celebration, Elder Perry said he still had not recovered from "that tremendous affair."
"Two-thousand-five-hundred great young people, with all of the energy of their souls, demonstrated to the Lord how they feel about this wonderful work that's going on here and demonstrated their different cultures."
"It was exciting to be able to share our country, our customs and our culture."