CULTURE Fiestas Patrias

Week of ‘Chileanness’: Celebrating Fiestas Patrias

LA REINA – In Padre Hurtado Park residents celebrate the Semana de la Chilenidad, or “Week of Chilean-ness.” This festival forms part of the celebration of the Fiestas Patrias from September 16-22. Chile Today takes a look at what is meant by “Chilenidad” and how it is celebrated.

The week of September 18 is the biggest in the Chilean calendar. It is a time for every Chilean to celebrate what it is that makes them Chilean, taking part in tradition and enjoying what makes the country special. It is impossible to be too patriotic during this week.

A fonda – something like a funfair – called Semana de la Chilenidad takes place this week in Padre Hurtado Park in La Reina, a commune of Santiago, boasting a large variety of activities, performances, and food to enjoy.

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

The fun begins just outside the park with people selling kites and other juguetes (toys); and then inside the gates many of these same kites decorate the sky above an expansive tangle of corrals, food courts and food trucks, game stations; animal military, and other displays, pony rides, and other activities.

One of the most iconic events during the Fiestas Patrias is the Chilean rodeo. This popular sport involves two huasos (Chilean cowboys) driving a calf around a crescent-shaped corral called medialuna.

During Semana de la Chilenidad, the rodeo draws a significant crowd which spills outward from the viewing arena. It is clear that the tradition continues to be relevant, as the crowd remains engaged throughout, whistling and exclaiming when a huaso performs a particularly impressive move.

Possibly due to the recent attacks against rodeos, the area is noticeably more guarded than other areas of the festival.

Chilean Rodeo – National Sport and National Conflict

In a large tent near the entrance of the fair, a stage is set up surrounded by stands selling artisanal goods. This area embodies the idea of celebrating traditional Chilean culture.

A number of performances take place throughout, including a wide variety of different dances. Most notably, the cueca which elicits great excitement. People clap along and are even invited onstage to dance with the professional dancers. The crowd is unified in its appreciation for the dance.

Fiestas Patrias: What exactly are we celebrating on September 18?

The stalls surrounding the stage also sell traditional artisanal goods, such as hats and ponchos for a classic huaso look as well as handcrafted scarves from wool. Local and traditional craftsmen are celebrated and quite popular.

Food and drink play large roles in the festivities, with classic Fiestas Patrias fare being the most popular. More food stalls than everything else have been installed, and it is impossible to spot a person without either a terremoto or an anticucho in their hands.

The Terremoto Cocktail – an earthquake personified

But fondas are best understood not just from the performances and foods but also in the way they bring people together. Fiestas Patrias is a time to both celebrate Chilean culture and to spend time with family and friends.


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