Todos Juntos... those are the words that first come to mind when i think about the 18th of September.
The 18th of September is Chile's independence day, and this year was their bicentenary. Chileans joke that they have been preparing food, parties, and music for this day for 200 years. After witnessing the celebration, i believe them!
I started out my celebration on the 16th when all of my extended family arrived from Santiago to stay with us. There were around 15 of us living in our modest home throughout the entire holiday weekend. Once everyone arrived, we immediatly began eating. I have noticed that in Chile meals and food are ways of showing affection. If you really love someone and are happy to see them make them a ton of food of course! I am definantly not complaining about this, as my host mom is an amazing cook.
After the huge meal i went with some friends and my host brothers to a Ramada. A Ramada is pretty much a huge fair with different tents set up serving all kinds of food and drinks and separate tents for dancing of every sort imaginable. Throughout Chile there are Ramadas every year for the 18th and they are very distinct in different regions of the country. We got some more food (of course) and then headed to a dancing tent blasting reggaeton music. I went home that night tired, full of empanadas, with a Daddy Yankee song stuck in my head.
The next day was devoted to cooking sweets of various sorts and just spending time as a family. I baked cornbread for my family and it became an instant favorite. That night my mom and i went to go see a Los Jaivas concert in la Quinta Vergara (a huge amphitheatre). A word about Los Jaivas: first of all, their music is really good, but besides that they are legendary in Chile. They are a band that started in the late 60's and quickly gained fame by using native instruments to make rock music. During the years of the Pinochet dictatorship they left the country because their music spoke out against the dictatorship. During that time they traveled around various parts of the world, and their music gained recognition across South America. When they returned to Chile they were seen as heroes and pioneers.
So pretty much while i was watching Los Jaivas i felt like i was hearing and seeing history, not simply great musicians. Los Jaivas most famouse song is called "Todos Juntos," and every Chilean knows the words to it. They sang that song last, and the entire theatre with thousands of people was singing. At that moment i felt so proud and happy to be there. It was an undescribable feeling to be singing with that many people.
The Los Jaivas concert got us all feeling very patriotic for the next day. The morning of the 18th, my family and I went to Valparaiso and took a boat ride. Getting that many people on public transportation and onto a boat was a challenge but well worth it. When we returned we immediatly began cooking empanadas de pino. My grandma taught me how to make them and i will definantl be bringing the recipe back to the US with me! Besides the empanadas we consumed large quantities of chori pan, and more cornbread.
That night we watched the fireworks over the ocean, and then all of us went back to the house and talked politics late into the night.
Over those couple of days i learned so much about chilean culture, my host family, and country pride. I learned what juntos really means. Todos Juntos (everyone together) with family. Todos Juntos with love for their country. Todos Juntos celebrating Chile's bicentenial.