September is a great month to visit Chile, because this is the month in which Chileans celebrate their independence from Spain with a celebration called ‘Fiestas Patrias’ or ‘Dieciocho’ (the 18th). The celebrations consist of two public holidays: Sept. 18 marks the beginning of their Independence process and Sept. 19 is known as the day of the ‘Glory of the Army’. Because the 18th was a Wednesday this year, the celebrations started on the Tuesday and continued until Sunday – almost a full week of vacation and partying!
Throughout Santiago there were various ‘fondas’ where people celebrated Fiestas Patrias. Beforehand Chileans warned us about the fondas and told us to be careful and not to attend the fondas at night…we were imagining hectic violence and protests on the streets…but we were still brave enough to go out to attend three of these fondas…Much to our surprise a fonda is similar to an Aardklop Festival in Potchefstroom – a beer tent with musicians performing the Chilean version of ‘Boeremusiek’ and drunken people dancing and eating traditional food. Yes, I agree, drunken people and Boeremusiek can be very scary sometimes, but we found the fondas to be quite enjoyable.
The largest fonda is held at Parque O’Higgins…it’s actually three or four fondas in one location. Apparently the Chilean President attended a fonda there to eat an Empanada (traditional Chilean pie filled with meat and sweet onions). We attended this fonda during the day on Wednesday and were blown away by the thousands of people that were there!
Each fonda has a different name and is branded and advertised and you need to pay entrance to enter the tents.
I was greatly amused by one fonda which was named after Jane Fonda – La Yein Fonda!!
The fondas have stalls where you can buy traditional food and arts and crafts…
…and even tiny turtles if you need to.
There are games that you can play at the fondas. I tried a seemingly easy game where the goal is to throw a ring around vertical posts with peso notes tied to the posts. If you get the ring around a post, you get to keep the money! Alas, it was harder than it seemed and I did not win anything.
Cueca is the name of the national dance that Chileans dance while waving white handkerchiefs and stomping their feet and clapping their hands throughout the dance. During Fiestas Patrias you get to see these dances perfomed everywhere, even in supermarkets!