Month of festivals puts Chilean culture on display

From lush and temperate south to the desert north, February marks a month of fiestas that stretch the length of the country, putting the diversity of Chile’s people and culture on show.

To get a sense of just how long Chile is, how many climatic regions it encompasses and how many types of people call it home, one just has to look at the diversity of cultural celebrations on offer in the month of February.
And with a range of celebrations that includes rodeos, horse racing, pre-Columbian dancing and tomato fighting, it’s a list that explains why half of Chile is on holiday this month!
Fiesta de la Chilenidad, Valdivia
In a park straight out of a Monet painting, on an island in the middle of a city famed for its Spanish castles, the setting for Fiesta de la Chilenidad (February 2 – 5) couldn’t be more picturesque.
The festival displays the traditional Chilean “cueca” dance – reportedly based on the courtship rituals of chickens and roosters – as well as traditional foods, the region’s German-style beers and other customs, including equestrian competitions.
Trilla a la Yegua Suelta, Biobío Region
The “trilla a yegua suelta” is a rural Chilean tradition that has its roots in the wheat harvest in pre-industrial days. To thresh the crops – to seperate the edible grain from the stalk – Chilean farmers hold a festival to race horses over the top of the wheat.
The “trilla” festival of Santa Elena, held on February 5, is a great place to see real country culture, “huasos” (Chilean cowboys) and sample local foods and “chicha,” semi-fermented sweet wine.
Festival of the Tomato, Quillón
A smaller version of its famous Spanish counterpart, the tomato fight of Quillón – or “tomatina” – offers the locals of the small town in the Ñuble Province a once-a-year chance to shed some clothes, pick up a ripe tomato and hurl it into a loved one, bitter enemy or passing tourist. You could be that tourist! February 11, from 3.30 am.
Tambo Andino, Tarapacá
The many different indigenous communities of Chile’s northern regions share a rich cultural heritage that is intricately linked with the altiplano cultures of Peru, Bolivia and northern Argentina.
Tambo Andino, held in the Plaza de Armas of Tarapacá, is a great way for people to learn more about their customs, dances, food, art and stories. From February 14 – 18.
Fiesta del Choclo, Huaqui
For a really unique festival try Huaqui’s Fiesta del Choclo, a festival that’s all about…corn. This crop is the staple of the Americas and features in most of Chile’s best cuisine. Huaqui is around 12 miles (20 km) east of Los Angeles, and the festival runs from February 17 – 19.
Festival Costumbrista Chilote, Castro
The archipelago of Chiloé is famed for having the most unique folkloric tradition in Chile. Isolated from the mainland and possessed with unique flora, fauna and geography, the island has a rich storytelling tradition, replete with witches, monsters, spirits and all kinds of strange creatures.
In the Municipal Park of Castro, this tradition will be both celebrated and kept alive with around fifty artisans giving performances, along with plenty of food stalls displaying the unique cuisine of the island. This includes “Curanto,” a meal of shellfish, meat and potatoes prepared in 3-foot, fern covered fire pits. From February 19 – 20.
Ruta de Tradiciones, Puerto Montt
Another southern city with a strong German tradition, and a booming salmon industry to boot, Puerto Montt holds an annual celebration of its rural workers, with handicrafts, costumes and some delicious local food and drink. The festival runs throughout February.