It´s the last day of Fiestas Patrias for 2011. A three day party in Chile with an excess of food, drink, dancing and fun! Many people in Chile will tell you that it is very common to gain at least a few kilograms in weight over the celebrations. Whether you decide to go to one of the Fondas (typical parties usually organised by individual municipalities or neighbourhoods with live music etc) or you celebrate in your house, the focus is definitely food and fun.
Yesterday Rodrigo and I went to a “family Fonda” in the childhood home of his oldest sister-in-law. This house is in a neighbourhood on the west side of Santiago and one which I had not visited before. It was nice to see the area where Rodrigo and his brothers grew up…a typical middle class neighbourhood, which still today feels miles away from the bustling city. He lived within a few blocks radius of all his school friends and I could just imagine the childhood they had. In many ways similar to my upbringing on a farm outside Johannesburg, except our closest neighbours were a little further away than his.
Family functions in Rodrigo´s family usually consist of at least 25 people and sometimes can be as big as 40. Parents, brothers, neices, nephews, cousins, in-laws…the list goes on. This is a world away from my family life in South Africa which consisted of my brother and my parents. There is constant talking (usually over eachother and all at the same time), laughing, jokes and fun!!! The first few times I went to such lunches, I was totally overwhelmed, but I have now become accustomed to them and love it! I can even follow the general conversations most of the time depending on how hard I concentrate or how tired I am. Needless to say, yesterday was a little difficult thanks to my terremoto experiences the night before.
The thing that made yesterday´s lunch different to other family lunches was the focus on Chile. Chilean flags everywhere, napkins saying Feliz Fiestas Patrias, cueca music, traditional food and a generally patriotic atmosphere. I LOVE the way Chileans don´t just see this holiday as a day off from work, but actually celebrate the independence of their country with pride. It made me think of South Africa and what we do to celebrate our Freedom Day on 27 April (the day that marks our first democratic elections in 1994)…generally we do nothing. We see it as simply a day off from work. There are some political events on the day, but the average citizen has no pride in what the day means for our country. To me that is so sad. Everywhere in September you see Chilean flags fluttering in the wind…from buildings, apartment balconies and from cars and taxis. The pride is tangible…wouldn´t it be nice to see the same thing in South Africa.
A cake with the national crest of Chile made by Adriana, Rodrigo´s sister-in-law from Mexico. She is an amazing baker and this cake shows her creativity. Sadly I never had a taste, but I am sure it was delicious.
And with this post my “coverage” of Deiciocho in Santiago is done. Tomorrow life returns to normal and within a week or so, the flags will disappear from all the buildings and cars until next year. But it´s the start of summer and so there is still much to look forward to in the last few months of the year…