Chile’s Fiestas Patrias: Fondas for September

Another major part of Chile’s Fiestas Patrias—Independence Day celebrations—are the “fondas.” Also called “ramadas” because they are often made with branches (ramas) these temporary fairs are set up in parks all over the country for about 10 days of food, games, drinking, dancing, crafts of all sorts, and general good times to be had. Some of the bigger (and/or more rural) ones have rodeos and most will have cueca contests.  There are the municipal versions as well as some of the more popular ones such as the now-famous “Yein Fonda” (which in Chilean sounds just like the actress) and the Guachaca version full of cueca chora.

Fonda Collage-2009

Fondas kick off the weekend before the September 18th holiday and close up the Sunday following, although they sometimes reappear as “18 Chico” the following weekend.


Girl in traditional flowered "huasa" dress buys a treat from the organ grinder

They are very family oriented by day, although by no means cheap. Entrance fees can vary widely from a luca or so ($1000 pesos, about $2 USD) to $10,000 pesos for some of the more upscale versions with more bands. And once inside, prices of everything are considerably higher than anywhere else in town.

Price doesn’t seem to matter much though. Families save up to go (reminds me of going to the State Fair as a kid). Organ grinders crank away and the kids line up to buy their pinwheels, slinkies, glow-lights, and other souvenir treats.


Magicians and other entertainers draw crowds

Fonda Menu ©MSnookT 2009

The food is one of the biggest attractions.

This menu for an informal sit-down restaurant offers all the favorites: pork, cazuela, salads, soft drinks, choripan (grilled sausage on a roll), empanadas (savory baked beef or fried cheese pastries), anticuchos (skewered meats), beer, chicha (a partially fermented and very sweet almost-wine), french fries, mote con huesillo (a wheat and peach drink/dessert), terremoto (rustic wine with pineapple sherbet), wine, coffee, or tea.

Pork ribs on the grill, empanadas in the oven

Pork ribs on the grill, empanadas in the oven

Fried cheese empanadas

Fried cheese empanadas

Snack food that can be eaten out of hand while strolling through the fonda is perhaps the best of all.

A fan of choripan (note the anticuchos on the grill behind him)

A fan of choripan (note the anticuchos on the grill behind him)

Cueca- Fonda Inés de Suarez ©MSnookT 2009

Cueca in Providencia-Fonda at the Parque Inés de Suarez

As night falls and the level of alcohol consumed rises, the families tend to clear out and leave room for the revelers who come for the shows, dancing, and more booze. Amazing quantities of chicha, beer, and wine  are consumed. In fact, this is Chile’s biggest drinking holiday, much akin to New Year’s Eve in the US.

It seems that 2009 is the year of the Cueca Chora (also called Cueca Brava). Young people who were long reticent to twirl their handkerchiefs and stomp their feet have taken new pride in the national dance.

Las Niñas got the crowd stomping and twirling with cuecas bravas

White handkerchiefs fill the air when Las Niñas take the stage

Las Niñas and Cueca Brava ©MSnookT 2009

Cueca Brava ©MSnookT 2009

Cueca Brava ©MSnookT 2009

For more on September 18 Fiestas Patrias activities, see “El Dieciocho“.

11 responses to “Chile’s Fiestas Patrias: Fondas for September

  1. I brought my husband over last night to check out your 18th pics. He said” Que buenas las fotos!” (with a lof of enthusiasm) I thought you should know.

    And then he totally started salivating at the cheese empanadas… and the choripan… and we both went to bed hungry!

  2. Thanks Annje! Sorry about making you hungry, but hopefully this means that your campaign to be here for the Bicentennial just gained momentum!

  3. Pingback: Fuente de Soda: Schop, Cortado, Completo, Cueca Brava & Buddy Richard… « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  4. este buna mincarea chilena

  5. Pingback: Aromos mean SPRING! | Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  6. Actually – – a bit of a correction on the currency – –

    I’ve been here a little over 5 years, and the highest the dollar’s been in that time is about 637 pesos. At this point, a dollar is worth 495 pesos. So – – a LUCA (1.000 pesos) is a bit over 2 dollars.

  7. Hi Stephen- You are absolutely RIGHT! Can’t believe no one has caught that before!! I always think of the term “luca” being similar to the use of the word “buck” in English, although of course their values are different.
    I’ll fix that right now! THANKS!

  8. Pingback: I’d rather be reading On Food and Cooking « a sheep in wolves' clothing

  9. Pingback: Fiestas Patrias! Chilean Independence Day! « Crazy Beautiful Life

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