Last Saturday I had the chance to go to Doñihue, which is a small town south of Santiago and west of Rancagua in the VI Region. This particular area is called La Región del Huaso. A huaso is a Chilean cowboy, and he looks something like this, pictured below before dancing the cueca, Chile’s traditional dance.
Anyway, we went to Doñihue because it’s the only place in Chile where chamantos are made. A chamanto is a woven poncho word by the huaso. In the above picture, the huaso is wearing a manta, which is slightly different because it has a simpler design and is faster to make. Every chamanto is different, and they are worth more than US $3000 because it takes the chamantera (weaver) around six months to weave it. The woman we talked to said she could weave about 7 mm in 8 hours of constant weaving!
After learning about the chamantos, we visited other people in Doñihue who have small businesses selling different products. We visited a woman who grows hydroponic lettuce and sells yummy jams made from her orchard of peach trees.
We visited a man who makes aguardiente, which is a fermented alcohol made from grapes and contains around 55% alcohol. By itself it just kind of tastes like rubbing alcohol, but this man makes different mixtures with manjar (Chilean milk caramel), maqui (a wild berry found in Chile), almonds and cherries. I tried the manjar which I didn’t like because I don’t like manjar, and the maqui, which was so good that I bought a bottle (at around US $3.00 I couldn’t say no!).
Then we went and visited a man who makes chicha, which is another type of alcohol made from grapes that has significantly less alcohol. It’s kind of like hard cider and very popular around Chile’s 18 de Septiembre celebrations. He mixed it with toasted wheat to make a drink called chupilca, which was surprisingly delicious. (Thanks to Marmo for reminding me of the name!) The most impressive thing about this place was the fact that this man’s bodega had been built in 1900! It has survived four major earthquakes, including last year’s, which was very damaging to many houses in Doñihue.
It was interesting to visit a part of Chile that is so close to Santiago yet so completely different. It’s not very touristy (or at least it wasn’t when we went) and it was refreshing to be able to talk to real Chileans about their lives.
The only unfortunate part of the day was what I chose to eat for lunch. I was recommended the pernil, which is a very traditional Chilean cut of pork. I was under the impression that it was like baked ham. No. Not at all. It is a giant leg of pig. If you don’t believe me, check it out below. Besides being ridiculously gigantic and super hard to eat, the worst part was that it still had the skin and you could see hairs on the skin. At least now I know that I do not like pernil. Never again.