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Las Fiestas Patrias

The past week here has been defined by two major historical events in Chilean history: September 11th (1973) and September 18th (1810).
September 11th has long been a notable day in the lives of people from the US, given the terrorist attacks that took place on in 2001 in New York City. However, this day has held importance in Chilean history for much longer, as it marks the day the US-backed coup led by Pinochet occurred in 1973. While we haven’t quite gotten to this point in my history class, it’s very apparent that the coup remains a polarizing topic. On the 11th there were numerous marches, protests, and even celebrations throughout the city and country; in Santiago there was one march to and one march from the general cemetery. One week later, on the 18th, is Chile’s independence day, celebrated with gusto for most of the month of September. These festivities are called the fiestas patrias, and they’re marked by massive celebrations.

The fiestas patrias are mainly celebrated at fondas, which I can only describe as carnival-like tent parties that attract thousands of people. The average fonda offers traditional games, foods, music, shows, artisanal crafts, and so much more. Found all over Santiago, they really make it clear that Chileans know how to throw a party – some fondas last until after 5AM! Some foods typical to Chile, and the fondas, include:

Anticuchos: kabobs with beef and assorted veggies
Mote con huesillo: cooked peaches and wheat husks in nectar
Chicha: sweet fermented wine
Empanadas de pino: empanadas filled with a mixture of beef and onions, with a big of hard-boiled egg and an olive
Asado: a range of barbecued items
Churros: usually filled with manjar or chocolate
Cuchuflis: a tubular spongy dessert filled with manjar

Besides the copious amounts of food, another staple of the fondas is the cueca, Chile’s national dance. One of my Chilean friends told me that the cueca is really only danced on and around the 18th, and called it outdated. That being said, the cueca is everywhere during the fiestas patrias, and despite the opinions of other college-age students is endeared by kids and adults alike.

While I took the time to visit a couple of fondas during the fiestas patrias, I was also able to walk around parts of Santiago when most Chileans were partying and truly get a grasp on just how celebrated the day of independence is here. The only other people out were tourists, and nearly every single shop was closed; some even closed the day before the 18th.

The fiestas patrias have been described to me as a time when the entire country comes together to celebrate being Chilean, to revel in the country’s history, traditions, and of course, delicious food and drinks. Coming only a week after September 11th, a date that remains very charged for many Chileans, it was definitely an experience to see people come together and celebrate.

dsc02071 Cuchiflis are the lil rolled items on the right side of this vendor’s stock! dsc02074 Horses being shown by members of the Chilean police force dsc02081 The site of a rodeo, another traditional Chilean event found at many fondas dsc02083 Stands selling anticuchos and terremotos dsc02093 Plaza Italia/Plaza Baquedano, which is normally filled with people at all hours, was nearly empty on the 18th dsc02096 Great weather for the 18th; in the past Chileans have been urged to barbecue less because of the already high levels of pollution in Santiago

 

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