Fiestas Patrias, or Dieciocho, is what Chileans call their national holiday. It is officially celebrated on September 18th (independence) and 19th (“Day of the Glory of the Armies”). Many schools and businesses will close for longer though, like the whole week in my case. This year the 18th and 19th were on a Thursday and Friday respectively, which meant a long weekend no matter what.
So what happens for Dieciocho? Like many countries, it is a good excuse to have some time off and party. People go to fondas, which are basically tents that sell food and drinks, listen to traditional music, and dance la cueca. La cueca is the traditional dance of Chile, but for some reason Dieciocho is pretty much the only time you will see people in traditional dress and dancing to this old-fashioned music. I didn’t learn it, but it is a boy-girl partner dance that symbolizes the rooster and hen courting ritual. Other than the dancing, I think I did a pretty good job of being Chilean this week. Here’s what I did:
Wednesday my Chilean friend Fernanda invited me to meet her at a nearby park that was having a concert to kickoff the festivities. I met up with her between 7 and 8pm. We walked around, watched some live traditional Chilean music, saw some cueca in a cuequera (the place set up for cueca dances at the fondas), and ate some food. I had an anticucho, which is meat and veggies on a skewer (like a kebab for us in the US). I love them, but this one was 3500 clp (~$7) when I normally pay about 1000 clp (~$2) on the street! The music was pretty fun since it was my first time listening to live Chilean music. The headliner of the show was Americo, and he seems to be a heartthrob here. haha. Lots of preteen and teen girls were lined up in the back to try to meet him after the show. Fernanda and I were also back there waiting, but for another reason. Her mom saw Fernando Gonzalez (famous Chilean tennis player) go backstage, and Fernanda LOVES him! Lucky for us, Americo came out first and the whole crowd disappeared following him, so by the time Fernando came out, I was able to call him over for a picture. Fernanda was in heaven the rest of the night! 🙂
Thursday Cadu was still working so I went out with our friends Gemma and Max to a popular bar called La Piojera and the biggest fonda in Santiago at Parque O’Higgins. I had heard it is dangerous, but a Chilean guy we were with assured us it was better because they started charging an entrance fee. We had a great time eating and drinking again. More anticuchos and empanadas too. I also won a free piscola, which is a traditional drink here made from pisco and soda. After Cadu got off work, we met up with him and went back to Gemma and Max’s for another drink. We called it quits earlier than usual though because we knew Friday would be a big day of partying.
Friday Cadu was lucky enough not to work, so we met up with Gemma and Max again to check out another fonda. This time we went north to Recoleta where it was much cheaper. It also seemed to be a popular place for families because we saw lots of kids playing in the grass. Cadu and I got some terremotos and then we were surprised by a big cueca performance. We stayed at the fonda for about 2-3 hours eating and drinking. We had piscola, choripan (like hot dogs but made with chorizo), and churros. Then we went back to our apartment because we were hosting an asado (barbecue) for all of our friends. We spent the night drinking and talking with everyone until about 3am! Needless to say, Saturday we had a rough start. Celebrations were still happening Saturday and Sunday, but we got our fill and relaxed on Saturday. However, we were craving burgers for dinner so we went to Johnny Rocket’s at the mall. We also ordered a chocolate peanut butter milkshake to share. They made it with Skippy peanut butter and it was to die for! I have not had Skippy since I left the US at the end of December! It is amazing how you can taste the difference like that. It’s the little things, right!?
Tomorrow it is back to work already! Crazy how fast a week goes!