Tikitikiti! The sound of cueca lingers in the air… and the smell of grilled meat saturates everything. But sadly, friends, the weeklong celebration of the Fiestas Patrias is coming to an end. In Chile, September 18 is comparable to an Independence Day celebration, but instead of celebrating for one day, they celebrate at least two days… and usually it’s the whole week.
Here’s some key vocabulary to help you with the dieciocho (18):
La Fonda: A fonda is a big party thrown in honor of the dieciocho. These have evolved over the years, and at this point they range in size from an intimate, one-restaurant party to enormous events with famous musicians, countless stands to buy food, drinks, or artisanal gifts, dancing, and even fair rides, in some cases. The picture above is the line to enter a fonda in the Plaza de Maipú… which was huge.
Huaso and chinita: The cueca, Chile’s national dance, most traditionally represents the central zone of Chile, and so to dance cueca, you usually have to dress like the country folk of the Central Region. Typically, the men or huasos wear a large poncho—called a chamanta—over a waist jacket, horse-riding boots with spurs, and a flat, broad-rimmed hat called a chupalla. And of course, a panuelo for dancing cueca. The chinita is the huaso’s partner or sweetheart. She wears a flowered, bell-shaped dress.
Aguinaldo: A bonus that employers pay employees in honor of Fiestas Patrias (and also Christmas).
Anticucho: Meat on a stick. Chileans eat anticuchos to celebrate their independence and chilenidad. Throw ’em on the grill and watch ’em sizzle. (What? I don’t eat meat?)
Aro aro aro! Before a toast, you’ll often hear this chant shouted across the room. According to the Diccionario de etimologías chilenas, this comes from a Mapudungun phrase, aro-aro, which means roughly, “with your permission,” and is used when the singers in a cueca band take pause after a song for a drink of wine.
Terremoto: What’s more Chilean than earthquakes? Chile’s alcoholic drink, the terremoto. Drinking one of these in Chile, especially during the Fiestas Patrias, is as essential as drinking a “hurricane” in New Orleans. It’s usually a mix of vino pipeño, pineapple sorbet, fernet, and grenadine, although it may also include rum or cognac. The result is like a much more delicious college party punch—deceptively alcoholic and apt to leave you wondering why the ground is moving so much. And if you have one too many terremotos, the next day you might…
Andar con la mona: Yup… you’ll have a hangover.
If you’re interested in more terms about drinking, check out my Basics of Drinking post!