Country Profile: Chile
When I think back, the earliest memory that comes to mind is playing in the street outside my house when I was about five years old. Someone was playing outside with an old soccer ball, and, one by one, kids started pouring out of the houses in the street to join him.
My brother and I were the first to come out, as it was our front gates which were used as the goal. There was a wide range of kids who played together, from five-year-olds to fifteen-year-olds. As a general rule, the better players were always the captains. They got to choose their team players.
As I was one of the youngest in the squad, I was always picked towards the end … but never last! I remember that because I was so proud to be picked over some older kids in the street that I really used to rub it in. (Just like all over the world, kids can be pretty mean!) Like most street games, our soccer games often ended up in a fight or in flight—as we ran from parents, from owners of cars we’d dented, or from people whose windows we’d broken.
I’m telling you this story so you can form a picture in your mind of the happy, mischievous, and competitive children playing in the streets. For me, this is a great picture of what Chilean people are like: friendly, competitive, and very cheeky.
Life in Chile, as in most parts of the world, is not easy, but everyone makes the most of it. Money is one of the biggest worries in an average family but most definitely not the most important thing. From the time we are little, we are taught the importance of family values, respect, schooling and self worth. Everyone in the house does their bit, and most of the time this makes a very peaceful and smooth-running household.
Weekdays in Chile are similar to how they are everywhere. People are either at their jobs or working at home while the children are at school studying.
One area where Chilean life is a bit different is in our mealtimes. We have four meals a day instead of three. Breakfast or desayuno is, just like in other places, an important meal early in the morning. Traditionally, lunch or almuerzo is the main meal of the day. This is probably the equivalent of dinner in European society, although this is quickly changing due to working commitments and children being at school at this hour. Now, what Europeans call dinner or once (around 6:00pm) is becoming the main meal in the day, while traditionally it used to be a cup of tea with cake or biscuits, a very light meal. Finally, supper or cena (around 9pm) is a late night meal in case you are still hungry.
Food is very important aspect of Chilean culture. My father used to do barbeques or asados almost every weekend when he and his friends got together. It was a big part of our lives. Our families used to mingle together for the meal, then the kids would go their way to start playing and the adults… well, I’m not completely sure what they would get up to, but I can imagine more eating and very likely the consumption of various delicious Chilean beverages including our national pisco and vino tinto.
Often, it seems to me that in Chile, if we are not either working or studying, we are either resting or having fun, such as planning parties, getting together with family and friends, or playing sports.
Our national sport is the Chilean rodeo. Chilean cowboys or huasos put their amazing horsemanship skills to the test. The most skilled rider will win the championship, which is fought for in a media luna, a half moon-shaped arena made to look like a corral.
You will not find this type of sport in the middle of a city. Chilean rodeo is a sport played in the more rural parts of the country. If you ever travel to Chile, ask around to see if you can visit one of the competitions. It is a fantastic experience filled with music, drink, and festivities.
Apart from rodeo, the most played sport in Chile—as in most of South America—is soccer. Wherever you go, you will see people playing the game in the street, in the local park or professionally in stadiums. Chileans pride themselves on their Selección Chilena, or Chilean national team.
If you ever want to travel to Chile and experience something different, I would recommend arranging your trip for Las Fiestas Patrias, the Chilean Independence Day on the 18th of September. You will experience a week-long party full of traditional foods, dances, and sports, including the rodeos. You’ll also get to sample a special alcoholic beverage brewed specially for this time of year called chicha.
There are many games and competitions that run during this time, like climbing the pole, horse races, and dancing competitions, where you’ll get to see our national dance, La Cueca. Today, although I no longer live in my native country, whenever I visit home I try to schedule my visit to coincide with our Fiestas Patrias. It’s a great way to celebrate home.