A few weeks ago, Chile celebrated another dieciocho de septiembre, or Independence Day. It was my fourth here, and each year I’ve gone somewhere new. Just to clarify, Chilenos aren’t particularly patriotic any more than any other country. The party though – that’s some serious biz-nass! It landed on a Tuesday this year, which is perfect for what’s known as a “sandwich”. If there is a mid-week holiday the prior or following weekend gets to be extra long. Most people began to celebrate on the 14th or 15th at the office/factory/plant what have you. By Friday night the fondas start (more on that in a bit). Monday and Tuesday were legal holidays, so most people didn’t have to work. Wednesday is taken as a free day to recover from a likely hangover. Hell, by that point why work Thursday or Friday? Then you got another weekend, so all told this year’s festivities were about ten days.
This meant that we took ourselves a little trip. A friend whose family lives in the country invited us to his house. So ten of us packed up and traipsed down to Yungay. It’s a small town surrounded by all kindsa campo. They live next to a clean, wide flowing river. The house is really a big room with an old school wood-burning stove in the middle. They lived nearer to the beach, but when they lost their home in the 2010 earthquake they set up in Yungay. There is no hot water or electricity, but they have one solar panel on the roof to charge cell phones. Due to a six hour traffic jam leaving Santiago (28 km) we didn’t arrive until 1 AM the following day, but our friend’s parents welcomed us at that hour anyhow. The next morning the four year old and her seven year old cousin, both verbally years beyond their physical selves gave me a grand tour: the seven dogs, countless cats and chickens, two big pigs – she said they’re too lazy to bother to name – and the mama cow with her one day old calf. They also explained about all the plants growing and the neighboring towns. Catalina beamed with an innate confidence when I thanked her for her wonderfully presented tour.
A fonda is a big open air party with live or recorded music. There are old and young, drunk and sober and a whole lot of dancing. We shook our butts all night long on the nights we didn’t have a little campfire instead. There is always chicha, a fermented beverage made from apples or grapes, terremotos (earthquake) which is a typical drink made of a special type of wine with fernet and pineapple ice cream, beer and of course all manner of baked empanada and grilled meat products. I haven’t danced that much in awhile. Now that I’ve been in Chile for awhile, I recognize much of the cueca, cumbia, reggaeton etc. Cueca is a national music style with a dance that goes with it. The two partners hold hankies and stomp around with cowboy boots and outfits to match. It’s a courtship representation. Huasos abound and the little boy with their cowboy suits and girls in the colorful dresses are absolutely the cutest. I prefer to spend 18 outside of Santiago. It’s more fun, authentic feeling and way, way cheaper. My last night out dancing I spent ten dollars on myself and a friend to eat and drink for seven ish hours. That’s just nuts.
There is one more Fonda I’d like to check out in Santiago though. It’s called the “Yein Fonda”. Yein, because that’s how Chileans pronounce Jane. Yes, it’s named after Jane Fonda just because they get a kick out of the fact that her name is the same as the party house. She was invited one year to her namesake fonda – and she showed up I am told. In general, the names of the fondas are all hilarious, as Chileans are always cracking jokes about everything. It’s almost a national pastime.
Happy spring in the southern hemisphere! I’ll put some photos up here right quick.