I keep meaning to write something about all the traditions going on around Indepedence Day here; and it keeps not happening. This is partly because I have significantly less internet access at home in Rancagua (the city I did my high school exchange in) and partly because I am busy doing independence day stuff (and attending the funeral and burial of my godson’s greatgrandfather yesterday– Agustin cried the entire mass, but I attribute that to him being 6 months old and not actual sadness at the loss of a wonderful man).
So here is what I propose to do (and sadly, no, you do not get a yay or neigh vote here): I will put down a few memories from my first 18 de Septiembre in Chile (that was way back in 1996) and I will link to Kyle’s Chile Travel blog which has amazing photos and info about:
I think that my first fiestas patrias were the most memorable. I had only been in the country for a month, my Spanish was limited at best, and I had been invited to a fonda (not knowing what that was) by a classmate and her family. A fonda, as it turns out, is a big tented area where one celebrates the fiestas patrias by eatting, drinking, talking, and dancing. The entire area is usually decorated in red, white, and blue and of course the chilean flad is ever present (Although it is similar to the Texan flag, they are different. Look carefully). Here is what stands out in my mind 11 years later:
- Maca was vegetarian, her family supported this, and there were vegetarian empandas!
- How many Chilean Flags were hanging everywhere. It seemed that there was one in front of every house! (Turns out, there was one in front of every house– it’s the law to have the flag hanging on the 17th and 18th. Also, it is illegal to have it hanging backwards or upside down.)
- I had a great time watching the national dance (cueca) and decided that I wanted to learn. Later, I did. It also made me think about what it means to live in the heterogeneous society that is America– we have no national anything really (besides a song). I love the diversity and freedom that in theory America aspires to– at the same time I get sick of trying to explain that we have no national dance or national food (and I refuse to accept that line dancing or McDonalds are it).
- The fonda had set up amusement park rides in an open space. Maca said we should go on one and I agreed. We got onto this ride which was a large circle with a bench around the outside. It was flat on the ground (well on an aparatus) and there were no seat belts. As other people piled in, Maca tried to explain to me how to hang on my looping my arms through the bars behind us. Not really understanding, I did as was told. The ride started once we had all been crammed in, sitting almost on top of our neighbor. The ride began by spinning and I thought: “Why do I have to hold on? centrifical force should keep me here.” Then the disk tilted. When you were at the top part, the only thing keeping you on the bench was your grip on the bars behind you! Being the daughter of a lawyer (or rather growing up in the overly letigious USA) I said to Maca in broken Spanish; “In the US this is illegal!”. As the ride continued, I watched someone lose their grip and slide or fall or crash, depending on your point of view, to the bottom where she quickly pulled herself into a new spot on the bench and proceeded to hold on. Then, the conductor of the ride, instead of having it spin, would jolt the machine which had the effect of shaking people loose. Admittedly, I was laughing. It was fun. That flirting with danger kind of fun that is fun until you actually fall. I never fell. We rode 4 times. Boy were my arms sore the next day!