I had so much fun during Fiestas Patrias or, Diesiocho. This is Chile’s Independence day, celebrated on September 18, hence the name Diesiocho (Eighteen). This is technically “Independence Day” but it is actually celebrated for about a week. In fact school gets cancelled for at least three days and the other days that classes are technically in session, hardly anyone goes or is expected to go. To top it off the entire country shuts down for three to four days depending on where you are. When I say it ‘shuts down’ I don’t just mean that the malls and barber shops and small businesses close. I’m talking grocery stores. Closed. No one does much during the day except for going to the Fondas and partying.
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A fonda is basically a giant carnival of food. There are different huts you can go into and order traditional Chilean foods and drinks such as chicha (wine with fruit inside), puncha (wine made from apples), empanadas, choripan, completos and so much more. There’s tonnes of meat and everything tastes amazing. Some fondas even have amusement park rides and mascots and even parrots you can hold if you want to.
During Fiestas Patrias, the city gets really rowdy at night with all the parties. Clubs are packed and everywhere people dance cueca (national Chilean dance). This dance is a partner dance where the male and female make figure eights around each other while twirling handkerchiefs. For some reason it is supposed to symbolize a rooster seducing a hen but the woman leads the dance.
I celebrated Fiestas Patrias in Vina del Mar and Valparaiso (two coastal cities about an hour away from Santiago) with my host sister, Javiera and a group of my crazy gringo friends. Luckily we got beautiful weather for the whole weekend and were able to enjoy the beaches in Vina and Ranaca as well as the sand dunes in Con-Con.
It was such a good weekend especially since I was really missing the ocean. I think my soul thrives most when I am near a big body of water. Growing up by a big lake has spoiled me way too much but I am especially drawn to the ocean. In my personal opinion there is no better feeling than sand between your toes, sun on your face and the smell of salty air. I honestly believe that the ocean is one of the most magical and mysterious beings in the world.
April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies Leaving Footprints. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.