September 18th is Independence Day in Chile and is marked by a week long celebration of traditional dances, such as the “Cueca,” and classic Chilean food. The school I attend began the festival week with a large fair filled with Chilean food, such as sopapillas, and choripan.
Alongside the food, there were dancers in traditional Chilean dress doing a partner dance. This dance is seen throughout Chile during the Fiestas Patrias as it is a display of their pride in their culture. I was surprised by the high number of Chilean flags I saw displayed across the country. As I talked with Chileans about this, they told me it was mandatory to have the flag displayed outside of your house, or office, during Fiestas Patrias, or else one could be fined. They also added that it was highly suggested to display the Chilean flag on one’s car for the entire month of September. As I discovered more about the history of this mandate, I learned that the Chileans reclaimed their country’s flag after the dictatorship and it serves as a symbol of independence and country pride. Throughout the holiday, there were large open-air markets where local artisans would sell their products and one could try millions of different foods. My favorite experiences were talking with the vendors. I was able to hear their stories and learn about what inspired their craft.
Fiestas Patrias is an incredible way to experience Chilean culture and immerse yourself in the Chilean culture. It was also interesting that during Fiestas Patrias every store closes completely, unlike in the United States where consumerism overrules national holidays. I appreciated that large and small businesses respected the holiday week and truly let their employees take time to be with their families.