A Weeklong Independence Day in Chile

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Mira Diamond-Berman
October 19, 2023

Studying in Chile for the fall semester (or the Chilean spring semester) may have its downfalls as you enter Chile in the middle of winter. Nonetheless, a major highlight is you get to experience diceciochoDieciocho is a fiesta patria (homeland holiday) on the 18th of September that celebrates Chile’s independence from Spain. From the name it may seem that the celebration of independence only lasts one day—the 18th. However, it usually lasts for an entire week. I was shocked by how much effort went into independence day. For July 4th in the US, celebrations do not drag on the entire week and everyone returns to work July 5th after a late night of fireworks. Dieciocho is taken so seriously that is illegal to demand an employee to work on the 18th.  Schools, universities, and jobs often have a vacation for this entire week and many families take trips to the beach or the mountains.

I, on the other hand, stayed in Santiago for the week as I did not want to miss out on the festivities in the capital. One of the best ways to celebrate the fiestas patria is fondas–big festivals with food, drinks, music, and dancing. There are fondas all over Chile, but some of the biggest are in Santiago. At fondas, terremotos, a traditional Chilean cocktail made of wine and pineapple ice cream, is one of the most popular drinks. Terremoto translates directly to earthquake as if to show that Chileans are not scared of tremors, common in Chile due to its location in the Pacific Ring of Fire. 

Other traditional Chilean drinks and foods at fondas are mote con huesillo (peach juice with wheat and dried peaches), sopaipillas (fried pumpkin dough), chorillana (french fries with fried eggs and meat), completos (hot dog with avocado and salsa) and of course tons of empanadas. To complement the wide array of traditional food, there was also tons of traditional Chilean dancing called cueca. The national pride of this week extends beyond fondas as well. 

My host mom, like many others, put out a Chilean flag in front of her house for a week or so. However, she was sure to wait to put up her flag until the day after September 11th, which marks the day when Pinochet took over Chile in a violent coup. Unfortunately, September 11th is an awful day both for the U.S. and Chile. There tends to be violent protests on the anniversary of the coup, especially in the capital Santiago. Many classes were cancelled that day as could be unsafe to be around the city. 

On a better note, on the day after September 11th, the streets of Santiago were safe again and the preparations for September 18th began. Typical to most Chilean households and my host family as well, there is a big Sunday lunch for the entire family to celebrate independence day. El dieciocho was an amazing week full of energy in which Chileans take a break from the normalities of life and celebrate their independence day with friends and family.

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Mira Diamond-Berman

Hi! I'm Mira and I'm a Chemistry major at Grinnell College! love taking my dog on long walks and binging a good book. When traveling, I love going on runs to explore new places.

2023 Fall
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