For one week in September leading up to the 18th, “fiesta patrias” is celebrated in Chile (Chilean holiday time). This day is very important to the Chilean people because they are celebrating their freedom from Spanish rule. So, they celebrate it the best, and most Chilean way they know how: with attending fondas (outside parties), hosting family asados (barbeques), dance the traditional dance Cueca, and drink mainly a lot of red wine. Many enjoy traveling to the south and the coast during this time, popular vacation destinations such as Vina del Mar, and Pucon.
I, with six of my fellow American friends, decided to travel down to the island of Chiloe. There we rented out an Airbnb cabin in a small port city called Dalcahue, to the north of the island. In our time there, we went on a tour of the Jesuit churches on the island (there were hundreds), and most were built using not one nail. Our tour guide showed around the ports, and we almost even had the chance to see penguins, but alas they were farther north on the island. We took a tour boat ride, and managed to see the whole coast of “palafitos,” or the houses on stilts that bordered the coast!
So many beautiful and bright colors the houses were painted, it was quite a lovely sight. We also saw a small house in the hills that the tour guide pointed out to. As the legend goes, there is a spiritual creature that lives in the woods of Chiloe, “El Trauco”. It is said that the Trauco is a small man of only 80 cm, with a manly and ugly face, but with a special and sweet look that attracts women. He has no feet, and they say that he wears a suit with a hat made of a plant called coralito, which is used for the production of brooms and baskets. When virgins are impregnated, the villagers would always say that El Trauco impregnated them.
On the last day, we took a hike in Chiloe’s national forest. Since it had been raining nearly almost every day we were there, the trail was drenched, and virtually was a long stretch of muddy pools. Incredibly windy, but overall very exciting and adventurous charting new paths through the forest to avoid the mud pools. Afterward, some of us bought llama or alpaca sweaters, the fuzziest and softest clothing you’ll undoubtedly ever wear!
On top of everything, we shared a grand meal together called “Curanto,” which is made by collecting large pieces of pottery, heating them up in a large hole in the ground that’s covered up with brush, and all sorts of meat, seafood, potatoes and of course, a whole lot of clams or “mariscos” are cooked/smoked in that hole. Salmon is also a popular fish in that area and a dish cost us around 6 bucks. Back in Santiago, it costs more in the ranks of 13 to 15 bucks. I left my vegetarian dietary restrictions behind me a long time ago when I arrived in Chile. The majority of dishes either have beef or chicken, or salchicha (sausage) at the center.
Chileans really know how to cook and grill up meat like nobody’s business here. My family has about an asado a month (a grill out), where the entire extended families on both sides are invited and we all share a meal together. What I didn’t know was that they start cooking the meal around 1 or 2, finish cooking and start eating around 3, then eat and around 4 or 5 they have postres (desert), and around 6 or 7 snacks and more wine. It’s a complete day event, and everyone sits around the table for many hours chit-chatting.
I, for one, couldn’t stay for too long without helping myself to a few glasses of Chile’s famous wines. Delicious as it was, it left me pretty sloshed, or feeling fairly buzzed, while all the other Chileans present would roar in laughter and talk very fast Spanish, often leaving out consonants at the ends of their words. All in all, every asado was just as impressive as the next. One asado I had this very expensive kind of meat. Primarily, it was cow blood wrapped in intestines (yum) but cooked to the texture of soft ground beef (but much much softer), while also onions and herbs were cooked into the blood. Muy rico! Very very tasty!