08/08/2013 01:02 pm ET | Updated Oct 08, 2013

Chilean Chronicles, Part II: Edmundo Verdugo Carnitas and the Treasures of Quinta Vergara

Quinta Vergara park in Vina del Mar has many treasures.

There are the large stone plaques that greet you when you pass through the black gates and that honor Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, Chile's pair of Nobel laureates for literature.

There are the paths that wind up and down the park.

Filled with leafy green spaces that spark memories of the California redwoods, they provide shelter from the sun, a cocoon of cool, clear air and the perfect environment for a lengthy, unhurried stroll to consider and start to discuss one of life's most fundamental questions: What do we want to do and to have done with our time on the planet?

There are the stones placed artfully around the garden, each with poems or poem fragments by bards through Central and South America that invite you to engage in their words, their images and the images about the single conversation that matters most-life.

There are the leaves sculpted with skill and precision into the shape of dinosaurs and pachyderms, of a brontosaurus and a mother elephant leader a child by her tail.

There is the Vina del Mar Municipal Band that has existed for generations. Composed a dozen or so gentleman who stand in their tan suits and ties, they deliver songs for parkgoers' consumption and pleasure every weekend.

Yet as wondrous as all of these may be, they all pale when compared to the nimble feet and unquenchable thirst for performance of Edmundo Verdugo Carnitas.

Edmundo is a natty dresser with a red bow tie and sweater, a white scarf that matches the feather in his black bowler cap and a long black jacket. He's got a Chaplinesque mustache, plenty of white stubble, few, if any, teeth and an unblinking gaze.

He's also 97 years old.

We met when he was standing near the band during a lull in performance. He rested part of his weight on his cane.

We talked long enough for me to establish his name and age.

I started to ask him another question, but then the music began.

Edmundo stepped forward and started dancing, shedding decades by the second.

His tongue protruding the way basketball legend Michael Jordan's used to wag as he took flight, he moved forward and back in perfect rhythm, twirled in a circle, put his cane through his legs twice, spun it around and caught it cleanly.

Edmundo's awareness that I was taking pictures of him only heightened his energy.

Off came the bowler hat in a salute to the crowd of about a dozen people -- a move that revealed an impressively full head of hair.

One more spin of the cane.

Edmundo didn't catch it, but his feet still kept time as he bent to pick it up.

The glitch didn't dampen the audience's enthusiasm.

They applauded vigorously after the song ended.

I asked Edmundo to write down his name, which he did in shaky but legible letters.

Dunreith and I started walking toward the paths, but looked as the band struck up their version of "Tequila," complete with chanting the word at the right moments in the song.

Edmundo was still dancing.

We only stayed in Vina for about half a day, so we know we'll be back to see the rest of what it has to offer.

I know where I'm going.

This post was first published at

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