Chilean Chronicles, Part 50: September 18 Celebrations Start in Providencia

A group of Chileans enjoying early Independence Day celebrations.

A group of Chileans enjoying early Independence Day celebrations.

Even though September 18 isn’t for five more days, you don’t have to work to find an Independence Day celebration here in Chile right now.

You just have to follow the music.

Dunreith and I had just returned from picking up our visa to go to Brazil in October when we heard the loud thumping music, full of accordions, pulsing from the ground up to our thirteenth floor balcony.

Bound by journalistic duty, I told my beloved wife I would be back soon.

I took the elevator down to the first floor, walked right, walked left and then right again on Padre Mariano.

The music drew me like a piece of metal to a magnet.

Louder as I went one street north to La Concepcion.

More accordions and singing.

I turned around the corner of a multi-story office building and saw the fence to the backyard slightly ajar.

Inside were dozens of Chileans at varying levels of sobriety bebiendo, bailando, comiendo y disfrutando.

Drinking.

Dancing.

Eating.

Partying.

The smoke from the grill that was cooking rows of anticucho, barbequed meat on a skewer, hit me as I passed through the opening in the gate.

Red white and blue steamers, balloons and Chilean flags lined the walls.

In the center were men and women in traditional dress and garb dancing with skill and abandon.

They finished one song.

The crowd that formed in a ring around them applauded, then started chanting, “Cue-ca, cue-ca, cue-ca,” for the national dance.

The dancers obliged with a flurry of handkerchiefs, drawing men and women from the group to join them.

Dancing the cueca.

Dancing the cueca.

They consented gratefully.

Next to the dancing stretched the end of a line of people waiting their turn to try to throw three hoops around the necks of bottles of alcohol that stuck out from a bed of straw.

One man won a bottle of red and white wine in his three throws.

The other people in the line eyed him with admiration and a tinge of jealousy.

I was shooting pictures with abandon while trying to heed the words of a Chilean photographer at one of the September 11 events who had politely encouraged me to not block people’s views when one of the dancers approached.

Where are you from? asked the man, who was probably in his 50s, was wearing a black hat and had a kind face.

I told him that I was from the United States.

This is the first time I’ve been here in Chile for dieciocho, for the 18th, I told him.

Do you want to take a picture with us, he wondered, motioning to the rest of the dancers.

Of course, I replied, starting to walk toward the eight of them.

No, my new friend said. With your camera.

Right.

I gave him my Lumix with just a hint of trepidation-many people looked like they had not waited for noon to start celebrating-and he snapped a shot of me with the group.

We shook hands as the group dispersed for the moment.

A woman near the wall on the side of the parking lot waved to the woman who was working the grill.

The grill lady smiled.

A couple of minutes later, she thrust my first anticucho in my hand.

I'm sideways with my first anticucho.

I’m sideways with my first anticucho.


It’s a national treat of skewered beef and sausage stuck firmly on top of each other.

Salty and cooked right through.

I could see my trajectory if I chose to stay, so started to walk back through the gate.

“Don’t forget to have more anticucho and, of course, terremotos,” a disembodied voice urged the revelers.

Dunreith and I learned last week from the adult students in our English conversation class that terremoto is a deceptively potent drink that consists of white wine, pisco, ice cream and sugar.

You have to try it, they told us.

I wasn’t quite ready for the earth to rumble, so maintained my focus and kept walking home.

The sounds of the music grew fainter as our apartment approached.

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