Dances between few and without touching: “El 18”, the great popular party of Chile, in pandemic mode

First modification: 17/09/2020 – 16:42Last modification: 17/09/2020 – 16:41

Santiago (AFP)

Like several Latin American countries, Chile this week commemorates its Independence from Spain without the typical mass celebrations that were the norm before the pandemic and that for many are more important than New Year’s Eve.

The three-day revelries in parks, houses and spaces specially accommodated for the “fondas” or “ramadas” of 18, as they call these parties with food stalls, traditional games and “zapateo de cueca”, the national dance, were suspended throughout the country as a result of the pandemic, which has left almost 440,000 infected and more than 12,000 dead.

Even with several cities in quarantine or in transition to greater openness, some previously massive celebrations will have a new version, mobile or even online.

This is the case of the “Yein Fonda” in Santiago, a ramada founded in 1996 by the renowned rock band Los Tres, which will have a virtual format and includes the payment of an online ticket to enjoy musical groups.

Some city halls in Santiago also organized short and mobile celebrations, on board tourist buses, with live groups of typical music where they distribute empanadas and encourage neighbors to dance without touching, masked and with alcohol gel.

This year the party “has a sense of joy and sadness,” José Orellana, a 50-year-old auto mechanic, a passionate cueca dancer, told AFP who joined a “mobile Ramada” in the Estación Central neighborhood.

In this neighborhood, one of the most populated in the Chilean capital and with an important community of immigrants, especially Haitians, Dominicans and recently Venezuelans, some foreigners were encouraged to learn some dance steps at the foot of the bus that brings the party to sectors residential.

Orellana regrets a year that has been “very hard, which has affected the economic plane, many people have been laid off.”

Dressed in his typical costume from the Chilean countryside, he pleads that “the life we ​​always lead will return very soon, without masks, looking at our faces, greeting us with a hug, a kiss.”

“It is a different celebration because we must not forget that we must take good care of ourselves, because there is only one life and we can have it all our lives,” he concluded before another round of dancing.

– Litmus test in pandemic –

September is for Chileans the month of “national holidays” and the preamble to the southern spring. Traditionally sales increase in all areas, many companies tend to give a bonus for a long holiday and school vacations.

For two decades, in keeping with the boom in the Chilean economy, middle and upper class families reserved this date to travel to the Caribbean or Europe.

But the scenario took a sharp turn and not only because of the pandemic. With the economy in decline, Chile is immersed in a public debate that involves politics and the social, focused on the constitutional plebiscite to be held in October, a week after the first anniversary of a social outbreak that in 2019 shook the foundations of this country.

“We cannot put at risk all these achievements made so far” in the pandemic, launched the Minister of Health, Enrique Paris, on Wednesday when he announced that the 18 deaths in the last day was “the lowest figure in 90 days.”

The authorities seem to hold their breath before this week of testing for the control -now down- of the coronavirus. Epidemiologists and political analysts have said that varying levels of openness this month pose a greater risk to the crucial October 25 referendum.

“In no way what happens this weekend (of National Holidays) can change the subject of the Plebiscite,” stressed the minister.

The call is to celebrate at home, with family groups of no more than 10 people and always with physical distance, masks and hand washing. “We must arrive healthy and leave the festivities for October 26,” say campaigns for the plebiscite on the networks.

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