202 years ago Chile received its independence from the Spanish. The 18th of September 1810 to be exact. For this reason, the 18th of September and the days that surround it (Dieciocho) have become a rather popular celebration. It’s an occasion that I could compare to the excitement surrounding Christmas, or perhaps Thanksgiving or even Halloween, depending on which holiday you anticipate most.
Up until the beginning of September (yes, the celebrations basically occur all month long) I had seen hardly any Chilean flags flying proud. Boy does that Change in September. Flags out of windows, on top of buildings, on cars, you name it. I suppose this has something to do with the law passed many moons ago that makes it illegal for you NOT to fly a flag on Dieciocho. There used to be another law, which has since been done away with probably due to its ridiculousness….. It stated that it was also illegal to have a flag up on any other day of the year. WTF? Dieciocho and Dieciocho only? But as I said, the latter law no longer exists. One is free to hang his/her flag when/how/where he/she likes.
Since the whole country basically gets the entire week off, almost everyone leaves the city to celebrate in more ‘Chilean’ parts of the country, or away from Santiago at least. It has been said many a time that Santiago isn’t really Chile and I tend to agree. (to a certain extent.. many outcasts/haters tell me Santiago isn’t Chile. Its still in Chile isn’t it? is Johannesburg not South Africa? I think not) But you cant come to Chile and only see Santiago because the rest of the country really is quite different. The rest of the country is, in one word, rural. And that’s where all the ‘typical’ celebrations can be found.
We left for our Dieciocho adventure on Saturday the 15th along with everyone else. What you’re about to read apparently never happens and we were ‘lucky’ enough to be part of it. It took us 7 hours to travel 60 km. 7 HOURS. Since the average human walks faster than we were ‘driving’ there was a lot of walking going on. I also pointed things out to myself and to others about how the situation could be worse, namely; imagine you were stuck in this alone and not with 8 friends, imagine you’re stuck in this with a baby or small kids, or on a bus. A 6 hour trip turned into a 13 hour trip. Somehow we were all still friend afterwards, headaches, empty tummies, full bladders…. You get the picture.
We were heading towards a tiny seaside village called Chovellén, or perhaps it’s betterexplained as an area close to a small village called Curanipe. Or Curanipe is a small village close to the village of Pelluhue, which people still don’t know about. A friend has a family home there and after lying to his parents about us being 5 instead of 9 we (did a lot of organizing) and headed there for 5 days. Since Diecioho is about celebrating Chile’s freedom it’s also about celebrating all things typically Chilean. For those few days this is what you do: have asados (braai/barbeque), drink Chica (fermented grapes), eat empanadas, watch rodeos, fly kites (the basic kind not the ones that sweep you off your feet) and dance Cueca- a Chilean dance of courtship.
It was great to see such national pride literally coming at you from all directions. Not a minute goes by over the course of 5 days without being reminded what this time is all about. And while what I just said may sound like a bit too much, at the same time you never feel any kind of arrogance or egotism about it. Just a general happiness about being Chilean. Viva chile!
Oh and I forgot to mention that the epicentre of the 8.8 earthquake in 2010 was in Pelluhue. It was also the place worst affected by the tsunami that followed. The town is still in repair mode and its all the locals can talk about. ‘Our house was under water up till here’, ‘This was damaged, this is new, that survived the earthquake…’ etc…. The following picture is what you get when you google images of Pelluhue. And the next one is one I took which shows a damaged house that doesn’t seem to have received any TLC since.