Independence Day is celebrated every 18 September. It commemorates the day in 1810 that Chile took its first step towards independence from Spain.
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Like many other countries, Chile’s declaration of independence led to years of war, until true independence was achieved on 12 February 1818.
Chile was a small, isolated part of the Spanish Empire. The country was ruled by a governor who was appointed by the King. The governor answered to the Viceroy in Buenos Aires, but, in 1808, Governor Francisco Antonio Garcia Carrasco was involved in a conspiracy to steal goods from the British whaling ship, Scorpion, when it arrived in Chile to sell smuggled cloth.
During the robbery, the captain of the ship and others on board were killed. The scandal deposed Garcia Carrasco as governor, sending him into hiding at his Concepcion hacienda. The corrupt act fueled the desire for Chile to become independent from Spain.
Fight for Independence
Chile looked to the United States who had recently gained independence from Britain while Simon Bolivar, Francisco de Miranda and others were succeeding in gaining independence for several other South American countries.
In 1808, Spain invaded France and Portugal with Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, taking the Spanish throne. King Charles IV and his heir, Ferdinand VII were taken prisoner. This led to chaos in the colonies as even those loyal to the Spanish crown were reluctant to send taxes to a government controlled by France.
In 1810, Argentina deposed the Viceroy, leading Governor Garcia Carassco to attempt to arrest two Argentinians who were fighting for independence. He also tried to arrest Chilean patriot, Bernardo de Vera Pintado, in order to send the prisoners to Peru where a Viceroy appointed by Spain still held power.
Patriots took to the streets and demanded an open town hall to determine the fate of the prisoners. Garcia Carrasco stepped down in July 1810 and, at the town hall, Count Mateo de Toro y Zambrano, was elected to serve as governor.
On 18 September 1810, a meeting was held to determine Chile’s future. The decision was made to follow in Argentina’s footsteps and create an independent government, but one that remained loyal to Ferdinand VII. The declaration led to ten years of violent battle before independence was recognised globally.
Celebrations and Traditions
Fiestas patrias, or national parties, are held throughout Chile to celebrate Independence Day. Celebrations begin in early September and can last for several weeks. Traditional food and dance as well as reenactments and parades are held throughout the country. The national rodeo finals are held in Rancagua and there is a kite festival in Antofagasta.
The celebration is an expression of Chilean culture and traditions. Many people dance the cueca, visit fondas, or tents, and enjoy traditional Chilean barbecue. Catholics celebrate with a religious ceremony known as “Te Deum Ecumenico de Fiestas Patras”, a tradition that has existed since 1811.