The Chilean people are celebrating their Independence Day on September 18, and you are invited to the party! And what a party it is! Like most Latin American countries, the celebrations for the ‘Fiestas Patrias’, as it is called locally, include parades, nationwide holidays, and dancing, but Chile takes it up a notch higher, with celebrations that begin even before Independence Day.
History of Independence Day
A small country, Chile was under the rule of the Spanish Empire for 300 long years. By the 18th century, an atmosphere of independence was gaining ground — the U.S. threw off British rule and Northern South America was fighting for freedom for New Granada. These examples lit a desire for independence in the Chilean people, too, a desire which was further compounded by their mismanagement under a corrupt Spanish-appointed governor, Francisco Antonio García Carrasco. In October 1808, he was caught stealing smuggled clothes from a British whaling warship and he caused the deaths of its captain and some crew members, fanning the flames of revolutionary thought among the Chileans.
Further spurring on the independence movement was France’s invasion of Spain and Portugal in 1808. French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte then installed his brother on the Spanish throne, imprisoning King Charles IV and his heir, Ferdinand VII. The colonies rebelled, in part because they did not want to pay taxes to the French government. Some countries like Argentina and Ecuador chose a middle ground, declaring themselves independent until Ferdinand VII could take back the Spanish throne. Chile took the same route, and declared conditional independence from Spain on September 18, 1810, although only gaining total independence a decade later, after a drawn-out war. Nevertheless, because an important first step was taken on this day, Chileans have designated September 18 as their official Independence Day.
Independence Day is immediately followed by another public holiday, the Day of the Glories of the Army, honoring the members of the military who fought for their country. Many businesses and schools will announce a week-long holiday for the ‘Fiestas Patrias’ or ‘Homeland Holidays,’ which commemorate the events surrounding the country’s fight for autonomy. These fiestas feature parades, dancing, partying, traditional Chilean food, and displays of patriotism. ‘Huasos,’ the country’s iconic cowboys, are frequently featured in these parades.
Even as Chileans celebrate their liberation, they continue to face many financial obstacles — such as affording a quality college education. Luckily, there are many organizations and associations that offer funding to help. Scholaroo has numerous scholarships for Hispanic students, so check them out.
Independence Day timeline
The small country of Chile comes under Spanish rule.
French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte invades Spain, thus starting the Peninsular War, which lasts until 1815.
Hesitancy to pay taxes to the French government, a corrupt governor, and inspiration from other European colonies gaining independence combine to invoke anti-Spanish sentiment; Chile declares conditional independence.
The last Spanish stronghold in Chile falls and the Spaniards surrender, leaving the country completely free of Spanish rule.
Independence Day FAQs
What is Chile's Independence Day called?
Another name for Chile’s Independence Day is ‘Dieciocho,’ which means 18 in Spanish, and is likely linked to the date of the celebration, September 18.
What is the most important holiday in Chile?
Fiestas Patrias or Independence Day would be considered as the most important Chilean holiday by most people.
How do they celebrate Independence Day in Chile?
The festivities for Fiestas Patrias usually begin a week before September 18 and last until September 19, which is another public holiday known as the Day of the Glories of the Chilean Army.
What is Chile’s motto?
The country’s motto is ‘Por la razón or la fuerza,’ or ‘By reason or by force.’
What do Chileans drink?
If you’ve been to Chile, you’ve almost certainly had the famous pisco sour cocktail made of grape brandy, also known as ‘pisco.’ It is Chile’s national drink and is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
How To Celebrate Chile’s Independence Day
Learn the flamboyant courtship dance known as 'cueca'. The national dance of Chile since 1979, cueca competitions are a ritual to be celebrated on Chilean Independence Day, as much as the dance itself.
Cook a traditional meal
Feast on special Chilean delicacies like ‘empanadas de piño,’ which is made with beef, onions, olives, and, occasionally, eggs. A year-round favorite, this delicacy is found everywhere across Chile on Independence Day.
Fly a kite
In Chile, September heralds the spring, and with it, the wind picks up — perfect kite flying weather! Hundreds of colorful kites dot the sky during Fiestas Patrias. So go ahead and grab a colorful paper kite yourself, and let it fly high.
Fun Facts About Chile’s Independence Day
Much of the celebration takes place in the ‘ramadas’
The Chileans enjoy dancing, music, and drinking in the ‘ramadas,’ which are open-air 'buildings' with a dance floor under a thatched roof or a roof made from branches.
The country shuts down during the festivities
Like many Latin American countries, Chile closes shops for the entire duration of the celebration, with schools and offices also being closed.
Flags are a crucial part of the celebration
Fiestas Patrias might be celebrated in different ways across Chile, but one thing is common; each Chilean household proudly hoists their flags high, all day long.
It rivals Christmas in terms of importance
Chilean people consider their national holiday to be as important as, if not more than, Christmas.
It’s a time for travel
Since many people visit family during this time, it is estimated that about two million people travel over this holiday.
Why We Love Chile’s Independence Day
It's an opportunity to learn Chilean history
This holiday represents an official severing of ties between Chile and the Spanish Empire and showcases the resilience of the Chilean spirit in all its glory.
Not that we need a reason to party, but it helps
Imagine all your best holidays rolled into one, add in some country pride, mix in lots of partying, dancing, and food, and you get Fiestas Patrias! A whole week of fun and celebration makes this arguably the coolest holiday period ever.
We can feast on traditional cuisine
Chileans go all out for Fiestas Patrias and this includes their meals. Various parties and celebrations boast different delicious dishes like ‘sopaipillas’ (fried disks of Andean squash and flour), and ‘anticuchos’ (meat skewers).
Independence Day dates