So the Fiestas Patrias are almost upon us. Contrary to popular belief, September 18th does not celebrate Chile’s Independence. It celebrates the first gathering of the National Government on September 18, 1810, but Independence wasn’t declared until some seven years later on February 12, 1818. So why celebrate in September and not February? The answer is not clear, but this article (in Spanish) speculates that it’s because Carnaval was celebrated in February and Bernardo O’Higgins didn’t want the celebration to be low-class and carnival like, so they moved it to September. (Not sure if he was so successful on that front, but the day is still celebrated in September!)
So after that bit of history, I now bring you to the point of this post. I’ve never been here for the 18th before, so I’m trying to get into a Patriotic mood. This involves a few things. First of all, I’ve been asking all my classes how they celebrate the 18th. Most travel to their hometowns (if that is indeed outside of Santiago) and attend huge parties, or fondas, drink lots of chicha (sweet wine), and eat lots of empanadas and meat. Various sources have told me that the average weight gain from the Fiestas Patrias varies between 2 and 5 kilos! Wow!
Secondly, I’ve been trying to learn the lyrics to the Chilean national anthem. Back in the day when I volunteered at a Chilean colegio I knew the words because every Tuesday we had to sing it as a school. But I had since forgotten. Now, thanks to Youtube and this website, I’ve almost got all the words down.
Another integral part of the Chilean festivities is dancing the cueca, which I have no idea how to do, but if someone put a pañuelo (handkerchief) in my hand, I could probably attempt something similar. I do want to learn, but it scares me that the woman is so independent. I do better dancing when there is a man to guide me who knows what he’s doing (only in dancing though, this is by no means a bigger metaphor for my life!).
Anyway, I’m hoping the huge party is as great as everyone says it will be. Look for a re-cap this weekend!