A Memoir on Chile Independence Day – Or As The Chileans Call It, Fiestas Patrias.

Today is the independence day of Chile, which is also called Fiestas Patrias or dieciocho, the 18th. Having celebrated this grand day in its mother country, I promise you that the one week of celebrations preceding the independence day and on the day itself are unmatchable. And why shouldn’t they be?

On this date in 1820, Chile overthrew Spain and freed herself from 300-year-long captivity.

Chileans are thrilled around their independence day and celebrate it with honesty, love, and passion. Children, students, adults, grandparents all dress up, decorate, cook, visit their families, talk, celebrate, drink, host barbeques, dance, sing, and act.

 

Chile independence day
Look at the fancy musicians.

 

The preparations for the grand day and the festivities start by the 10-11th. Though 11th is a horrific date for Chile as its parliament was bombarded by a dictator on this same day and thus had commenced the dictatorship(more on this later), this date doesn’t sadden Chileans anymore. They have left the suffering behind, and rather than crying over the old times, they celebrate; Chileans prefer to laugh and enjoy while they can, the mother of my Airbnb couple once told me.

The students and teachers of the school on the island of Chiloe I was teaching English at shut down classes a week before and got busy practicing cueca, the national dance of Chile, decorating the classrooms, drawing Chilean and island legends and customs on posters, singing songs, planning customary food, rehearsing plays, cutting colored papers to make beautiful frills, and then tying them to the ceiling, fan, and glass windows so that they ran down them freely.

 

Chile independence day
A fisherman wades his boat through the Pacific while trying to catch fish. Island folklores are captivating.

 

Chile independence day
The national symbol of Chile, The Coat of Arms, on a classroom wall. It says, “By reason or by force.”

 

chile independence day
The Stage of the school getting all dressed up.

 

chile independence day
The paper frills, flying high, like Chile.

Then on the celebration day, which was a couple of days before the 18th, teachers, students, and school inspectors gathered in the school, dressed up in traditional dresses, which was a poncho and a hat over a trouser-shirt for men and a colorful, knee-length dress cinched at the waist for the women. Some lady teachers wore other styles of customary dresses, too, which were specific to the island.

The cueca was the king of the day, as almost all students and even the most uptight teachers danced to its tunes, with handkerchiefs in their hands, tapping their feet, circling their partner, flirting, and laughing.

 

Chile independence day
Kids being kids.

 

chile independence day
The entire class along with the teacher is dressed up and eating local food in the dolled-up classroom. The food is prepared by the students and the teachers.

 

Chile independence day
Cueca.

 

chile independence day
An act within Cueca where the boy is trying to woe the girl with drinks.

I laughed as my little 6th and 7th standard students raced with an egg on a spoon which they held in their mouth. Some of them wore a plastic bag over their legs and ran, while the others tried to eat an apple which was tied above their heads on a string using just their mouths. Vino tinto or red wine was freely passed among the teachers in the staff room, and I wasn’t shy that day.

Then the school shut off so that the families could celebrate.

 

chile independence day
The middle one was a Columbian kid but participated in the celebrations wholeheartedly, until they started jumping like bunnies when he over-jumped the rest.

 

The Islanders said that the celebrations on the island were not as grand as compared to other parts of the country, but I would like to disagree.

I was invited to many parties over the one-week and together with friends, families and performance artists, we lit campfires and barbeques or as they asados, danced as many forms of cuecas as are the varieties of Indian mango, drank pisco sours, wine, and terremotos (earthquake literally, a drink made with pineapple ice cream, a sweet white wine, and grenadine), ate beef and chicken anticuchos (grilled meat skewers) and empanadas de pino and chatted around the fire.

And this is what we did all day and night long, for many days.

 

Chile independence day
With my best friends on the island. The lady on the left invited me to her home so many times that I have lost count. We are holding pisco sour, a famous Chilean drink which is made with pisco, a grape liquor.

 

chile independence day
You can see the bottle of pisco in this picture, along with lemons which are added for flavor.

 

chile independence day
A performance group performing a flirtatious form of Cueca. Cueca is supposedly an interpretation of the courting between a rooster and a hen. Don’t ask me anything else.

 

chile independence day
And celebrations couldn’t be complete without empanadas de pino or empanadas filled with ground beef, boiled egg, raisins, onion, and black olives. Empanadas are also a year-long favorite, but they are a must on the independence day.

I spent the dieciocho with my host mother and her daughter’s family in their countryside home drinking pisco sours and eating chicken empanadas and chicken anticuchos which were prepared especially for me as I don’t eat beef. What more can you ask from life?

 

chile independence day
Anticuchos, they rule the food department on the 18th.

 

chile independence day
Casuella de Gallina or chicken soup, a favorite on the island. Yum.

 

chile independence day
Another fiestas patrias hero, Mote con Huesillos, a street side drink. It is made by cooking dried peaches with sugar, cinnamon, and water. And then the liquid is mixed with fresh cooked husked wheat. Tastes quite nice, especially the dry peach.

 

chile independence day
More anticuchos. Look at the amount of meat.

 

All over the country, people celebrate Fiestas Patrias in their own way; in some parts, the national sport Rodeo Chileno is played, some people light firecrackers, some play other conventional games, but everyone dance cueca, sing, eat, and drink while sharing their joy with as many people as they can.

The local legends, customs, and beliefs might drive the celebration, but every single house of Chile hosts the Chilean flag which flies high above their heads and roofs all day long.

The feeling is one and special, we are free. Let’s rejoice in our freedom.

 

chile independence day
Even the little one agrees.

 

 

Chile independence day
With my host mother.

 

chile independence day
Cheers, my Chilean friends.

Also Read: 9 Months and 3 Countries – Golden Highlights of My South American Adventure

It was a memorable week, and I hope you felt the passion that every Chilean fills up with on this day.

Have you seen such grand independence day celebrations anywhere else?

 

PS: Thank you, Veronica and Lisa, for this post wouldn’t have been complete without your pictures.

2 Comments

  1. Vito September 24, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    Great pictures Pri!
    Now I’m trying to recover my liver after these days… gosh!!!
    Greetings

    Reply
    1. Priyanka Gupta September 25, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      jaja! I wish you good luck. And thanks for stopping by 🙂

      Reply

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