Folklore and traditional games

We should always stay a little childlike, because a people’s identity is nurtured by its capacity for play and diversion


In Chilean popular culture the spirit of play is fundamental and is expressed from childhood on in riddles, tongue twisters, singing nursery rhymes while dancing in a circle, songs, turns of phrase and mischievous humor. The things that are used and how people play in traditional games are intimately linked to the earth, to open-air spaces.

Life in the city, audiovisual culture and access to new technologies open up a gap between tradition and globalized ways, but children and adults always go back to the ludic spirit, especially during the holidays that commemorate Chile’s independence.

The family goes outside to fly a «volantín» or kite. The biggest kind is called a «pavo» (turkey); the smallest and most popular, «ñecla»; and an improvised one, «cambucha».

They also play with «bolitas» or marbles and with toys called «emboque», a cup-and-ball toy. The emboque is made of wood and shaped like a bell, with a hole in its center. A length of string ties a small stick or bar to the bell and the game consists of «embocar» – throwing up the bell and catching it by fitting the stick into the bell hole.

The «trompo» or top is perhaps the best- known traditional game. It is cone-shaped with a nail protruding from its center. A string is wrapped around it and the trompo is then thrown to the ground to make it spin or dance on the nail. People often say:  baila como trompo to describe a good dancer (he/she dances like a top). «Rayuela» or «tiro del tejo» is also played.  Tiles are thrown at a cord stretched across the center of a mud rectangle; the tiles that fall closest to the string decide who wins the game, and if a tile falls on the rope, the player wins a double point, or a «quemada».