During holidays like the 4th of July, I’ve been asked how we celebrate in the US. My US Independence Day celebrations seem a little boring compared to the Chilean counterpart that turns into a week-long celebration with barbecue hopping, unlimited empanadas, ever-flowing wine and chicha, cueca dancing, and tons of festivities all over the nation. In the US, I would maybe go to a parade, have a barbecue, watch a firework show, and celebrate with drinks in between, but it was nothing like the way Chileans get down for their country’s birthday.
One thing about living abroad and experiencing national holidays away from home is that I feel much more American and connected to the US than I would have felt celebrating the same holiday back home. It’s that comparison between myself and the rest of the Chilean population that makes me want to seek out other Americans and celebrate this holiday as a manifestation of my culture, an urge that I didn’t have before living abroad.
I noticed this feeling the first time I celebrated the 4th of July abroad during my exchange semester in Valparaiso. I celebrated with an awesome group of friends, and most of them American from all over the States, along with our Canadian, European and Chilean friends who joined in on the festivities.
This day also happened to be the last day we would all be together before travelling back to the places we call home and returning to our regular lives after an epic journey. It was our last day and we decided to celebrate the shit out of Independence Day and end our semester together the same way we started it, with one last party!
My friend Jared had the best host family in Viña del Mar who were nice enough to host the Independence Day barbecue, which was really the previa / pre-party to our night. We threw some burgers and chorizos on the grill, and popped open a couple bottles of pisco and beer.
|A Chilean friend found these at Jumbo! (Pic: thewoolyyarn.com)
A Chilean friend of ours found generic cola cans with the American flag on it and once she got there, with a couple drinks in our bellies, it was like she had brought the original star spangled banner itself – we loved it! I have some random images in my head of us (obviously having too much to drink at this point) pledging allegiance and singing the National Anthem as someone waved the coke can in the air since it was the closest thing we had to the flag. This might have been the most patriotic thing I have ever done. Someone has a video of this out there; unfortunately I couldn’t find it on Facebook to show you all.
We partied at Jared’s host family’s house until about 12 AM in anticipation for our last night out as group. We had the great idea to end at the same club we went to on our first night out, Bar Nautico. In retrospect, it was a really odd choice since it was by far not the coolest club in Valpo, they had the weirdest mix of 90s English and Spanish pop music, and, unsurprisingly, none of us had been back there since our first night out. What we didn’t know, and it turned out to be a great treat, was that they would even play the SAME MIX as the night we went there about 5 months prior. We danced along to Pit Bull and the Backstreet Boys just the same because we knew that this might have been the last time some of us would spend together.
We created our first and last memories at that club, and it’s a day that I won’t forget – feeling really American, celebrating with my compatriots in a foreign country, and partying one last time with some of the coolest people I’ve met.
It wasn’t so much about the place that was important, but spending our last night together just as we had done so many times before was important to us and meant so much more than going to a trendy club. The same goes with celebrating national holidays abroad. I may be half a wold away, but as long as I can celebrate with good company who appreciate the same things I do, there’s nothing better than that.
This is my best Independence Day memory, even better than watching the firework show in the National Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial in DC, and it was a perfect end to my study abroad experience.
Wherever you are in the world, have a happy Independence Day!