A Gringo’s Guide to “Fiestas Patrias” (Fogs & Flags)

Don’t expect anything to happen anywhere here until well into the afternoon or evening. Chilenos like to sleep in late, very late – just as well, as from what we can tell they don’t get in until 4 or 5am during these holidays.

Don’t be fooled by the heavy rain and thick swirling fog enveloping Valparaíso early morning – it’ll be sunny and clear by mid afternoon. You might not think that at 8am but then everyone’s asleep apart from you, so quite rightly most people wake to a gorgeous sunny day.

You’ll hear a lot about Fondas – being traditional Fiestas Patrias venues. On the face of it, a rather confusing concept as the literal translation is ‘inns’ or ‘hostelries’. We kinda thought they’d be small local jolly gatherings, perhaps like an Aussie Day BBQ where people drop in and have a few bevvies and enjoy a sausage. Nope. We heard about our local Fondas up in Playa Ancha. Asking directions along the way it was ‘around the corner’, then 10 mins up the hill, then 40 mins (a slight, if discouraging-at-the-time exaggeration), then there it is, right in front of you.  It is in fact a huge fair ground (actually a football field), ringed by candyfloss, trinket and empanda-stalls and ‘try-ya-luck’ stands and hundreds of families milling around. We discovered (after we’d hauled ourselves there up hill and down dale) that the central part of the Fondas doesn’t open until 8pm and was after last night’s rain (as we could see through the fences – bars and fairground rides all ready to go) a vast quagmire of mud. Apparently this place goes off – it’s all about being patriotic – drinking, eating and dancing for Chile, in the mud. We were too early, but I bet they are all having the most amazing time right now.


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