As the sun warms the bones of the people living in Chile’s deep-green south, they emerge over the Summer months in a beautiful display of their Patagonian and Chilote roots.
The events are a window into another world, a different way of life, full of unique cultural demonstrations, preserved for the most part by the tough conditions and isolation which people living in the southern reaches of the country have lived with for centuries.
“We do it because it’s an excellent way of preserving the pride we feel in our culture,” said Nelson Águila, the Mayor of Castro – the capital of Chiloe, which preserves one of Chile’s most unique cultures.
Events vary as much as the region’s dramatic landscapes. Most involve artisans, traditional costumes and food, music, singing and dancing. Coastal port towns like Puerto Aysén will feature locally farmed fish, while those farther inland and higher in the Andes foothills will focus on skills like sheepsheering. Friendly locals are happy to share their experiences and expertise with curious onlookers, demonstrating traditional household skills like milking cows, and making musical instruments from wood only using axes and .
In and around the island of Chiloé, the beloved local specialty curanto is the focal point for several festivities. Potatoes, chicken, meat, sausage, fish and shellfish are buried to bake in a large, stone-lined pit that serves as a subterranean oven. In the town of Calbuco near Puerto Montt a pit will turn out enough curanto to feed 5,000 people on January 23.
Planned events in January and February
Calbuco: A short bus-ride from transportation hub Puerto Montt. Music and dance will accompany a preparation of the famed Chilote dish curanto, cooked by the traditional method in an underground oven. Thousands of people are expected for the nine-year-old annual celebration on Sunday, January 23.
Castro: Capital of the Island of Chiloé. The largest folk festival in the region celebrates local Chilote culture with traditional costume, food, dance and artisans in Castro’s Municipal Park on February 19 and 20.
Futaleufú: A remote riverside town near the border with Argentina hosts its annual rodeo festival on January 21 to 23, including typical foods and grills and rodeo games for adults and children.
Los Lagos Region: Throughout January and February, towns and villages near Puerto Montt will host events in the Ruta de las Tradiciones, or Route of Traditions. Festivals in various towns will focus of gastronomy, costume, artisenal goods (particularly woodwork) and folklore. Locations include the towns of La Vara, Quillaipe, Metri and La Puntilla.
Puerto Aysén: Isla Díaz Park in this remote northern Patagonian fishing village will host a special seafood market as well as competitions for sheep sheering and folklore. Traditional Patagonian grill, including locally fished salmon, will be free for all festival guests on Jan. 23.
Palena: In the lush southern Andes along the Argentine border, the festival will include local farmers will demonstratign their skills, traditional games from the border region with Argentina and rodeos at the rodeo club, municipal market and gymnasium on Feb. 5 and 6.
Villa O’Higgins: Adults will ride horses and children will ride sheep in the festival in the town that serves as the last stop on the Carretera Austral on Feb. 11 and 12.