On September 18th or “dieciocho”, Chile celebrates its Independence Day known as “Fiestas Patrias”. This celebration commemorates the beginning of Chile’s freedom from Spain. Fiestas Patrias is a week-long celebration that includes a lot of Chilean food, drinking, dancing, flag waving and a week long break away from school!
Most of the celebrations are held in fondas or ramadas, open sites with food vendors, games, and amusement rides. Fondas are what I would call your typical fair ground in the states. Fondas normally operate for 5 days throughout the week of September 18th. I spent this week down south in Pucon, a small touristy town located in the lake district of Chile. During this week, there was practically no Chilean vendor that didn’t offer a good selection of different meats, a tasty empanada, and glasses of chicha, a Chilean wine specialty.
In Chile there are two main types of chicha: (1) apple chicha, which is produced in southern Chile and (2) grape chicha, which is produced in central Chile. The week before dieciocho, our CEA program director took us on a private tour of a small chicha producer in Quillota, Chile. He explained to us that the grape juice is heated for several hours at a low temperature and once cooled, sealed into tinajas, large ceramic jars, for fermentation. Our samples were harvested in summer but he explained that chicha only improves with time; I was actually the one to ask about this because I really wanted to take a bottle home to my family and was worried about the bottle not being sealed… turns out the farmer wouldn’t sell me a bottle because he exclusively produced it for his family and not for profit! I was slightly disappointed but finding a bottle during the week of Fiestas Patrias is not a daunting task, just go to ANY fonda located throughout the entire country of Chile!
Overall it was a wonderful week in a beautiful country filled with a tremendous amount of culture and an extreme amount of Chilean pride! There were countless cueca, the national dance, competitions, numerous parades, and a number of Chilean huaso rodeos. This was defiantly an experience that I will never forget.
¡Salud! from your 2013 Vina del Mar, Chile MOJO, Danielle Banks
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