Total solar eclipse wows in Latin America

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Total Solar Eclipse Wows In Latin America
A Mapuche Indigenous family uses special glasses to try and observe a total solar eclipse in Carahue, La Araucania, Chile. The total eclipse was not visible from Carahue because of an overcast sky. Photo: AP Photo/Esteban Felix
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By Esteban Felix and Eva Vergara, Associated Press

Thousands of people gathered in the Chilean region of La Araucania to witness a solar eclipse, rejoicing in the rare experience even though visibility was limited because of cloudy skies.

Skies were clear in northern Patagonia in Argentina, where people also watched the moon briefly block out the sun and plunge daytime into darkness.

Many people wore masks to curb the spread of Covid-19, though they crowded together in some places in Pucon and in other areas of La Araucania, 690km south of Santiago, the Chilean capital.

The moon covers the sun during a total solar eclipse in Piedra del Aguila, Argentina. Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP

“It was worth the two minutes,” said Diego Fuentes, who had travelled south with his family to see the eclipse.

“I liked it a lot and it was good that there were clouds because we could see it a little without glasses,” said Catalina Morales, a girl who watched the eclipse with her father, Cristian Morales.

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He described it as “spectacular, a unique experience”.

A man uses a welder’s mask as protection. Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Thousands jumped and shouted in the drizzle when the sun was completely covered by the moon and then silence descended for a few moments. People again screamed and whooped excitedly when the sun appeared again.

During the brief period of darkness, only the lights of mobile phones were visible.

About 500,000 Indigenous people of the Mapuche ethnic group live in La Araucania. They traditionally believe that the eclipse signals the momentary death of the sun after a fight with the moon, and leads to negative events.

Viewers wear special glasses to watch the eclipse. Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Diego Ancalao, member of a Mapuche community and head of an Indigenous foundation that promotes development, noted that a total solar eclipse in July 2019 was followed by civil unrest in Chile and then the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts said the solar eclipse was partly visible in several other Latin American countries as well as parts of Africa and areas of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The next total solar eclipse in Chile is expected to occur in 28 years. Another is expected to be visible in Antarctica by the end of 2021.

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