Parties north to south

The best events around Chile for the Bicentennial celebrations

Since September 1, Chileans have been counting the days to the national holidays with music, folklore, handicrafts, sports and food. But everything so far has only been leading up to the events taking place across the country this weekend.

Friday, September 17, 2010  
Crowds celebrating at La Pampilla Crowds celebrating at La Pampilla

September 17-20: For the four days surrounding the Fiestas Patrias (national holydays) the beach at Coquimbo (roughly 400 km, or 240 miles north of Santiago) fills with people partaking in Chile’s biggest party: La Pampilla. Though popular tales of La Pampilla trace its history to a 17th century mercantile tale of pirates and stowaways, the party probably dates to 1810. Following the governmental junta on September 18–the event that marks Chile’s independence to this day–slow-moving news did not reach Coquimbo until September 20. The news sparked a massive festival, which today, combined with the Fiestas Patrias proper on the 18th and several days preceding, constitutes La Pampilla. In the last 200 years the festival has grown into one of Chile’s largest fondas, with musical performances, traditional food, drink, dancing and every other kind of revelry imaginable for the thousands of people that gather to camp out on the beach.

September 17: On Alameda, central Santiago’s largest thoroughfare, and in front of the Palacio La Moneda, the seat of Chile’s presidency, a Chilean flag measuring 18 m (60 ft) in height and 27 m (90 ft) in length will be raised on a 61 m (200 ft) flagpole to fly over the city. The ceremony, led by Chilean heads of state, will begin at noon.

September 17: At 7pm this evening Santiago’s Municipal Theater will host a Presidential gala performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto. The gala, open only to invited guests, will celebrate both the national Bicentennial and the 153rd anniversary of the theater’s inauguration on September 17, 1857.

September 18: The day that marks Chile’s 200th anniversary as an independent nation begins with grand events performed in unison across the country. At 10am an Ecumenical Mass in honor of independence will be celebrated in Santiago’s Cathedral in the presence of heads of state and other Chilean luminaries.  The mass will be celebrated in churches and squares throughout the country between 10 and 10:30 am.

At noon, orchestras and choirs will gather in Santiago’s Plaza de la Constitución to lead citizens of the whole nation in the National Hymn, sung in unison from Arica on the border with Peru, to Punta Arenas in Patagonia. Following the Hymn the national air force will drop papers bearing the story of Chile’s history and leave messages in skywriting over the 15 regional capitals. In the evening, countless parties large and small, municipal and homegrown, will fill cities and towns throughout the country, running into the early hours of the morning. Check here for more information on the celebrations around the country.

September 19: The island of Chiloé, long isolated from the Chilean mainland, is the second largest island in South America and one of Chile’s most interesting cultural enclaves. Chiloé and its surrounding archipelago are home to a rich seafaring culture replete with folklore and traditions all their own. In honor of the Bicentennial, Chilotes (the inhabitants of the island) will turn to the sea to launch a regatta from the town of Quemchi at 3pm. Colored candles will fill the piers in preparation, lighting the waters that separate the island from mainland Chile where snow-capped volcanoes loom in the distance. The regatta will last approximately four and a half hours, sailing through the channel of Caucahue (a smaller island just off shore) to the nearby community of Pinquen.