Escape from Chile’s mainland for Fiestas Patrias: Island celebrations on Chiloé

Fiestas Patrias is one of Chile’s most vibrant expression of culture and tradition, and the particular hue of the festivities varies throughout the country, as different regions add their own customs to the celebrations.

A long coastal country, Chile’s political boundaries include a number of inhabited islands. Throughout the nation’s history, these island cultures typically include indigenous populations, and they have remained relatively insulated from mainland influences. As a result, Fiestas Patrias on Chile’s islands is a truly unique experience.

Escape from the mainland for Fiestas Patrias

Chiloé is the prime offshore destination for Fiestas Patrias, where the island’s close-knit “Chilote” communities have even developed their own distinct version of the cueca dance.

The “cueca chilota” is on full display during Fiestas Patrias events. This interpretation of Chile´s national dance is primarily recognizable for its clothing, which is less extravagant than more formal costumes that are typical of cueca dance performances.

Chiloé’s cueca carries basically the same structure of the traditional cueca, but without the first verse, and displaying slightly different steps and musical intonations. Verses are longer, the sound of the accordion and voices are more pronounced, and performers adopt a more relaxed style of movement than the formal version of the dance.

Clothing conforms to the island’s cool and rainy maritime climate and rural lifestyle, with dancers adorned in practical costumes consisting of wool socks, hats, sweaters, and shawls, and gingham shirts and dresses.

Community celebrations in Chiloé

For a Fiestas Patrias celebration Chiloé-style, check out the celebrations in the following communities.

Queilén

Queilén is located approximately 22 km south of Castro, Chiloé’s capital, on route 5. Fiestas Patrias activities in Queilén include a Te Deum Catholic ceremony at 11:00 am on September 18 and the Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Transito church, followed by a parade. Also on September 18, bingo and a ramada will be held in Sede de la Junta de Vecinos de Detico, beginning at 4:00 pm. Dancing and bingo will also take place at 7 pm on September 18 at Álvara Vargas school. The month of Fiestas Patrias will conclude on October 2, with a community demonstration of cueca at 6:oo pm in the gymnasium of Chilhué school.

Chonchi

Very close to Queilén, the community of Chonchi also offers entertaining Fiestas Patrias attractions for visitors. The village’s ramadas will be inaugurated on September 17 at 9:00 pm. On September 18, a Catholic ceremony takes place at 10:15 am at Nuestra Señora del Rosario-Patrimonio de la Humanidad church, followed by a parade at 11:45 pm. Typical Fiestas Patrias activities, including food, dancing and games, will be held from 1:30 pm until 11:00 pm. Celebration resumes at 1:30 pm on September 19, continuing until 10:00 pm.

Quinchao

For an even more rural experience, travel by ferry to the small island of Quinchao, off the cost of Chiloé’s big island. Quinchao’s fondas and ramadas will be inaugurated September 17 at 8:30 pm. The Catholic religious ceremony takes place September 18 at 11:00 am in Santa María de Loreto church, followed by a civic ceremony at 12:30 pm on Avenida Constanera de Achao. Rodeo activities will be held at 4:00 pm, with folkloric dancing at 6:30. Popular games continue the following day at Achao’s municipal stadium at 3:00 pm.

By Gretchen Stahlman, written for Chile.Travel
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