Fiestas Patrias in Chile – What is going on?

Isabel Cocker/The Santiago Times Staff

SANTIAGO – During the week of the 18th September, there will be festivities across the city and the country to mark Chile’s Independence Day. But what exactly is going to be happening?

The 18th September 2017 will celebrate the 207th anniversary of the proclamation of the First Governing Body of Chile, and the beginning of the independence from Spanish rule. The 19th is known as The Day of the Glory of the Armies commemorating the military and the people who have given their lives for the protection of Chile, honoring their sacrifice.

These two days are celebrated jointly with parades and street parties which incorporate Chilean traditions such as dancing the Cueca and the Chilean Rodeo, rounded off by a huge military parade on the 19th in the Parque O’Higgins.

Public buildings are required by law to hang a pristine Chilean flag, so the centre of the Santiago will fluttered in white, red and green. Parks will be opened in celebration, and packed with fondas – festival tents – where the proceedings are celebrated with dancing, music, eating and drinking.

This food includes the ever-present empanada de pino (an empanada filled with meat, onions, a hard-boiled egg, an olive and sometimes raisins), asadosor barbecues of all sorts of meat, and alfajores de manjaras something sweet to round off the meals.

For drink, the Chileans celebrate with chicha, a lightly alcoholized apple or corn drink, wine, pisco, or the traditional cocktail the terremoto – a potent mixture of sweet white wine, a dash of fernet and a scoop of pineapple ice cream.

During the Fiestas Patrias, supermarkets, shops and shopping centers will all be closed, and transport can be expensive and crowded due to the large migrations of people visiting family and friends. It is estimated that up to 20% of the Chilean population change location for the festivities, with many from Santiago leaving the city to visit seaside resorts.

This year, the authorities of Santiago have organized a big celebration in Parque O’Higgins, in commemoration of the Chilean folksinger and artist Violeta Parra, who was born 100 year ago. Called “Santiago celebra bajo la mismaestrella” (Santiago celebrates under the same star), it is a 5-day festival starting on the 15th September.

Famous Chilean folk artists such as Los Jaivas and Tommy Rey will perform La Violeta’s own work among other traditional folk music on a main stage in the park, which will see between 3 and 5 acts per day. There will also be a zone called the “Cuecódromo”, a space dedicated entirely to the Chilean national dance – the Cueca. Dance troupes and other players will give performances here, as well as classes.

Apart from the performances, Parque O’Higgins will contain a kids zone and stalls of typical games and artisanal crafts, as well as food trucks and catering tents. Entry will cost 4000CLP, or 3000CLP with a Santiago Card, with children under 12 entering for free. According to the Santiago Tourism website, 240 000 people celebrated the Festias Patrias in Parque O’Higgins in 2016.

However, although Parque O’Higgins may be the most famous of the fondas, there are also many others dotted around the city, with each neighborhood having smaller celebrations. Other large fondas include the Fondas Parque Padre Hurtado and the Fondas Estadio Nacional.

The Parque Padre Hurtado is located slightly outside the main center of Santiago and each year celebrates with a “Semana de la Chilenidad” (A week of Chilean celebration). It is a large outdoor event dedicated to popular Chilean traditions such as the Rodeo, kite-flying and the Cueca, as well as animal shows and aerial displays. According to the website, it offers a more relaxed and family-friendly alternative to some of the other, busier, fondas. It runs between 8th – 19th of September, costing 5600CLP per adult.

The Fiestas Patrias are a way of celebrating Chilean traditions, but also the start of a new spring. Be prepared to get outside, enjoy what should be a lightly warmer season, and discover events throughout the city which you never dreamt of stumbling upon. It will be busy and noisy, the streets crowded with people as businesses and schools close for the week. Just don’t expect to get any work done!