How to Celebrate las Fiestas Patrias in Chile

It’s Fiestas Patrias week! Chilean independence festivities go on all over the country for the entire month and are dedicated to commemorating the declaration of Chilean independence, and, most importantly, celebrating Chile’s rich history, culture, and national identity with parades, festivals, parties, barbecues, music, dancing, food, drinks, and the list goes on.

I’ve gathered a couple typical things to do for las Fiestas Patrias in Chile that you must experience at least once while you’re in Chile for such a celebrated holiday.

Have an Asado

Chilean asados are an institution that accompanies almost any and every event, but most popular during las Fiestas Patrias. It is said that the average Chilean gains 5-7 kilos just during this holiday.

It is typical to grill all types of meat cuts, mainly beef and pork, chorizos for Choripanes, and Anticuchos (a variety of meat on skewers), all with a side of Pebre (chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, olive oil, salt, and sometimes peppers).

Go to a Fonda & Ramada

Fondas and Ramadas are my favorite things about Independence Day. Not only are they the central location where most of the food, dancing, and other activities take place, but some of them have themes catering to all tastes. Don’t be surprised if there’s a ramada hosting a drag show next to the ramada with punks and rockers watching a live band.Fondas and Ramadas easily noticeable with their thatched roofs made from tree branches, reminiscent of the Chilean countryside. Although fondas and ramadas are widely used interchangeably, traditionally fondas mainly serve food and drinks while ramadas also have a dance floor and often have cover charges. Coquimbo’s Pampilla is said to be the largest celebration, but Parque O’Higgins is the largest in Santiago.

Eat More Food: Empanadas

Almost everywhere you go, the scents of asados and empanadas fill the air. The most popular empanada is the mouthwatering Empanada de Pino / Empanada Chilena filled with minced meat, sautéed onions, a hard boiled egg, an olive, and sometimes raisins.

Drink Wine, Chicha, and Terremotos

Wine, national beers, Pisco, and everything in between are choice drinks to accompany the immense amount of food. What steals the show is Chicha, a sweet, distilled grape or apple based beverage that is almost exclusively drunk during the week. Melón con Vino (wine inside of a melon) is also a favorite, as well as the infamous Terremoto (pipeño wine, a bit of fernet, and a scoop of pineapple ice cream), all sweet ideas, but potent choices.

Watch, Learn, and Dance Cueca

@Juan Jaeger
Chile’s national folkloric dance is Cueca, and performances and competitions take place throughout the country. There are local variations, such as la Cueca Chora, la Cueca Brava, la Cueca Chilota, etc.
Symbolically, the dance alludes to the mating ritual between a rooster and chicken. The man tries to win the heart of his female companion with his stellar moves in a very flirtatious dance where they wave handkerchiefs in the air and stomp their feet. Here are some dance instruction videos in English.

Fly a Kite and Play Traditional Games

It’s a common practice to either buy or make kites for children, and in some places, the skyline will be dotted with their colorful designs. 

Although not so popular among the youth now, las Fiestas Patrias brings out all of Chile’s traditional games dating back to colonial times and countryside culture for fun and competition. Carnival-style rides, horse races, hopscotch, tug-of-war, sack and three-legged races, pole climbing, catching a pig, and spinning tops are all typical games for the young and old.

Go to Races in the Country

 Not only would all of these activities be especially quaint in the countryside of Chile, they have some races that you don’t see too often in the city. Check out the la carerra de galgos, greyhound races, and la carerra chilena, bareback horseback riding race

 

Go to a Rodeo

Although it doesn’t personally interest me to see a cow killed in front of a crowd, Rodeos take place in medialunas, a semi-circled arena where huasos (Chilean countrymen) also demonstrate their horse riding skills and dance cuecaHuasos are an iconic example of rural Chile and the country’s past which has maintained traditions for centuries. The city of Rancagua is most famous for this spectacle.

Listen to Payas

The sound payeros on their guitars going back and forth with their clever rhyming verses (payas) is like watching the Chilean country version of a freestyle rap battle. Payas will have you clapping, laughing, or blushing, here are some examples:

Brindo dijo un huaso moderno,
con sombrero y celular,
porque puedo decir payas,
en una realidad virtual.

Brindo dijo un picaflor
por todo lo que he picao
de tanto que he picao
el pico se me ha gastao.

Fiestas Patrias Events

Ready to celebrate? Check out these sites to find out where everything is going down:

Santiago Tourist
Carretes
Chile Es Tuyo

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