Everyone has heard of the Rio Carnival, which takes place each year just before Lent, but such festivities are by no means a Brazilian speciality: from the Day of the Dead in Mexico to the Inti Raymi in Peru, all of Latin America has a rich history of cultural celebrations!
At Journeysmiths we have, however, a particular sweet spot for the fiestas in Chile. Perhaps it’s the well-preserved authenticity or the passions with which they’re enacted. The fact that relatively few foreign tourists attend and participate also has its charms: you’ll be partying alongside the Chileans. If you’re mulling over when to explore this extraordinary country, the timing of these three very special cultural events might well influence your decision.
1 — Fiesta Tapati: February
Visiting Easter Island - a Chilean territory - is rightly on many people’s bucket list. But just imagine coming here and not only seeing the mystical stone heads but also the living culture of the people who live here.
During the Fiesta Tapati, teams prepare songs and dances which retell the myths and legends of old. Performers paint their bodies with natural pigments: they call these living canvases takona. And there are lively competitions, too. Young girls compete for honour in swimming and canoe races; men pit their physical strength against one another in the Haka Pei, which sees them throw themselves at a great speed down a mountain.
2 — Fiesta de la Tirana: July
This tiny town of around 900 people explodes to accommodate 250,000 at festival time. The Fiesta de la Tirana in the far northeast of Chile, not a far stop from the renowned Atacama Desert, honours the country's patron saint, the Virgin del Carmen, but strong Andean folk traditions are intricately entwined with Catholicism. Thousands of people - many dressed as sprites, devils, and saints - take to the streets, often in elaborate costumes and frightening, intricate masks. They engage in dance offs late into the night, accompanied by fabulously raucous music. Plan to sleep in the day and celebrate once darkness falls.
3 — La Semana Valdiviana: February
La Semana Valdiviana, or Valdiviana Week, is a festival which takes place near Northern Patagonia's beautiful lake district. It is set along the river banks of Calle-Calle River in the beautiful town of Valdivia, on the Pacific coast.
La Semana Valdiviana is a celebration of summer, and it is part of a one of a kind floating parade. On the last night of the festival, brightly lit boats take to the river in a seemingly endless procession whilst spectators watch from the banks. It’s also a prime opportunity to watch all manner of outdoor performances and to shop for handmade Andean souvenirs in the extensive, high quality craft markets.
Chile is rich in history and has stunning landscapes, but it is the country’s intangible cultural heritage - its storytelling and drama, the music and dance, costumes, handicrafts, and food - that will make you fall in love with the Andes. You can experience one aspect of these at any time of the year, but the concentration of experiences reaches fever pitch at festival time. Get in touch with one of our Journeysmiths on 01604 637332 and we’ll soon have you dancing with the crowds in the streets!