CULTURE Fiestas Patrias

Fondas everywhere – but what are they?

SANTIAGO – Fondas or ramadas make up one of the most popular spots to go to during the Fiestas Patrias in September. They represent a long standing tradition for sociability, mostly in the more rural communities of the country. As migration to Santiago began to grow, country men brought with them these centers of entertainment.

Known as fondas or ramadas, and are a  place for celebration, socializing, drinking, eating and of course, dancing. They originated from the colonial period, back in the sixteenth century, as centers of entertainment of the popular rural communities. Organized primarily by the women, they sought to represent a more country-like identity in contrast to the more elite and political societies of the time.

Ramadas before the Republic

Ramadas originated way before the Republic was officially formed. They represented a place of entertainment, but also of family- and religious celebrations. Music, singing and dancing surrounded the atmosphere, which never went without an alcoholic drink. Fondas on the other hand, also included a place to stay for those who attended the events. Fondas were considered more permanent than the ramadas, which were set up and taken down for specific events only. They were built with much more solid materials like wood, appearing as a form of “extension” to a house or residency.

When the Republic was established in 1810, these civic parties presented a new opportunity for the rural world to represent their peculiar way of celebration to the growing city of Santiago. The government discovered the strong social attraction these events had on the people, and decided it was the best way to grow the feelings of adhesion of the people to the new and growing Chilean nation. Before this, the only official celebration rituals to celebrate the nation consisted of kite flying, races, traditional games and music, all without having a specific space to perform those.

In an effort to separate fondas and ramadas with religion, they were continuously closed, prohibited and then opened again. Eventually they stopped operating for Holy Week, weekends and Christmas and were limited only through the celebration of Fiestas Patrias. So, as an element of culture that fed the nationalism speech, they became a popular way of celebrating the independence of Chile and all its wonders as a country.

Where to go during the Fiestas Patrias?

What to expect at a fonda nowadays

The institutional characteristic that these celebrations acquired during the years as an official manifestation of the patriotic identity can be seen even today. For example, in the Parque O´Higgins in Santiago, civic authorities and government representatives continue to make a presence at the inauguration of the oficial fonda that takes place there.

Even though fondas still maintain their essence in their music, food and constructions (branches, wood and straw ceilings…) it is still possible to find more contemporary built places. Nowadays you can hear not only cuecas being sung, but rancheras, cumbia and even reggaetón being played over big speakers. Aside from typical foods, music and dancing, some fondas feature small domestic barn animals for petting like horses, sheep, cows and others.

McDonalds celebrates Fiestas Patrias in Chile with terremoto-flavour ice cream

Terremoto´s and empanadas

The favorite part of many is the typical drinks to enjoy at these events. Terremoto is one of the most popular ones. A combination of pineapple ice cream, granadine and pipeño make for a sweet but surprisingly strong drink! At La Piojera, they even serve it with a bit of cogñac for those who think they can handle it. On the other hand, there is the famous borgoña, which includes red wine with chopped strawberries served with frappé ice. And lets not forget about micheladas, deliciously made of beer with lemon, salt and a bit of tabasco.

As far as food goes, it is very varied. Empanadas de pino and cheese being the most popular, they can be fried or made in a brick oven. Anticuchos (skewers) filled with grilled meat and other condiments are added for flavor. Today you can even find food-trucks installed in the middle of the fondas, to sell sandwiches of carne mechada (string meat). There is no doubt as to why these events are the highlight of the Fiestas Patrias.

Read also:

Empanadas during the Fiestas Patrias – avoid getting sick!

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