Chile’s Independence Day in Colorado

Amy Brunner

September 18th is Independence Day in my Mother’s home country of Chile. It is day where the entire country celebrates Chile’s emancipation from Spanish rule. For the past several years Coloradan Chilenos have gathered to take part in fiestas patrias (national parties) at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Many families gathered to dig into delicious empanadas del horno, (meat-filled pastries), pastel mil de hojas (dulce de leche cream wrapped in layers of phyllo dough and topped with powdered sugar), ensalada de Chileno (tomato, onion, cilantro, olive oil and lemon salad), and the super delicious Chilinitos cookies (dulce de leche cream spread inside two thin biscuits). !Que rico!

I am always pleasantly surprised to see so many Chileans in Colorado. There must have been approximately 200 people in attendance this year! It was wonderful to sit at a table filled with people that looked like me and talked like my mother, and to eat good food without answering a patronizing “What’s that!?” Everywhere I looked there was someone who could be a cousin twice removed or a long lost aunt. It felt a little like visiting my mother’s hometown of Valparaiso, or “Valpo” as it is sometimes called.

As soon as we checked in at the front table we were warmed by the ubiquitous friendliness of the Chileans. Even the greeter, the American son of a Chilean ex-patriot, inherited the kindheartedness of his forebears. Whenever I spend time with my mother’s friends, they instantly treat me like family. It has been like this every time I’ve visited my family in Valparaiso. For example, a warm embrace and an offering of food and drink is always the custom.

In addition to the food there was music and dancing. Fiestas patrias could not happen without the Cueca, the national folk dance of Chile. The clothing worn is traditional with the huaso’s (Chilean cowboy) hat, flannel poncho, riding boots, and spurs. Women wear a flowered dress and apron. Dancers dance with a white handkerchief, which is waved in the air by both the men and the women. My 10-month-old son stared in wonderment while two Chilenos danced around one another for the crowd. It was delightful to share that experience with my baby and husband. I am proud to take part in fiestas patrias however far away from their origin. “!Chi Chi Chi, Le Le Le, VIVA CHILE!”

About Amy Brunner
Amy handles sales and marketing at our Boulder, Colorado office. Contact her at amy.brunner@translingua.com.