Culture of Chile

Culture of Chile
Picture of a huaso and a country girl in a wheatfield

The culture of Chile is one of a relatively homogeneous society where historically its geographical isolation and remoteness has played a key role. Since colonial times the Chilean culture has been a mix of Spanish colonial elements and indigenous (essentially Mapuche) culture.

Traditional Chilean culture is of rural and agrarian origin, where horsemen, the Huasos of Central Chile, are the most emblematic symbol. While Chile has a geographically diverse territory, the lifestyle of the Central Chile has not been possible everywhere and different customs exists towards the north and south of Chile. Additionally, while some regions of Chile have very strong indigenous heritage, such as Araucanía Region, Easter Island and Arica y Parinacota Region, some regions lacks considerable indigenous communities and a few other regions have noteworthy non-Spanish European immigrant heritage. The mainstream Chilean culture that emanates from the historical core of central Chile is of predominant mediterranean climate (as reflected in the food), rural criollo and mestizo origin.

Media coverage has since the 1990s shown the existence of youth subcultures in the major cities, particularly Santiago.


National identity

The term Chilenidad describes the Chilean National identity.

Hernán Godoy describes the psychological characteristics of the Chilean, and hence part of the Chilean national identity, with following words: roto, madness, sober, serious, prudent, sense of humor, great fear to the ridicule, servile, cruel, and lack of foresight among other qualities. Jorge Larraín criticized these older descriptions as "overgeneralized abstractions" impossible to apply to a whole nation.[1]

Cultural expressions

Music of Chile

Chilean huaso singing
Nobel Laureate Gabriela Mistral

The national dance is the cueca (short for zamacueca) and first appeared in 1824. Another form of traditional Chilean song, though not a dance, is the tonada. Arising from music imported by the Spanish colonists, it is distinguished from the cueca by an intermediate melodic section and a more prominent melody. The cueca was promoted by the Pinochet regime in the 1970s and 1980s for political reasons to promote Chilean nationalism, cultural pride and conservative patriotic fervor.

In the period starting from 1930 to 1970 appears a rebirth in the interest and popularity in folk music in Chile carried out initially by groups such as Los Cuatro Huasos, who took folk songs from the Chilean country and arranged them vocally and with musical instruments. They gave several recitals in Chile and in Latinoamerica that contributed with its diffusion. Later appeared other groups such as Los de Ramon, Los Huasos Quincheros, Los Cuatro Cuartos and others who continued with this diffusion. Also appeared several Chilean folk composers such as Raul de Ramon, Margot Loyola, Luis Aguirre Pinto, Violeta Parra, Víctor Jara and others that carried out folk investigation and composed folk music that is still sung up to day.

In the mid-1960s native musical forms were revitalized by the Parra family with the Nueva Canción Chilena, which became associated with political activism and reformers like Chilean socialist Salvador Allende and his Popular Unity government. Violeta Parra, Víctor Jara, Los Jaivas, Inti-Illimani, Illapu and Quilapayún are performers of this music. During the military rule in the 1970s, all forms of public expression contrary to the junta were repressed, and protest songs, which were played and circulated in a clandestine manner. In the late 1980s and after the return of democracy in the 1990s, new musical bands like La Ley, Los Tres and Los Prisioneros, began to appear, and the rise of heavy metal and alternative rock there. Even 1970s Chilean rock bands like the Los Ángeles Negros regained popularity across Latin America.

Chilean literature

The first Condorito comics collection, published in Chile in 1955

Chile's most famous contributions to literature have come from Nobel Prize poets Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral, whose homes and birthplaces are now museums that attract literary pilgrims to Chile. Neruda's Heights of Machu Picchu, Canto General and the autobiographical Memoirs are widely available in English, however Mistral's works are harder to find.

Contemporary Chilean authors have earned an international reputation in the literary world. The most famous is novelist Isabel Allende, whose House of the Spirits, Of Love and Shadows, and Eva Luna have all been international bestsellers. She is the niece of president Salvador Allende.[citation needed]

The increasingly popular Luis Sepúlveda has written stylish short novels like The Old Man Who Read Love Stories, and combines travel writing with imaginative fiction in Full Circle: a South American Journey.

José Donoso's novel Curfew recalls the latter days of the recent military dictatorship, while Antonio Skármeta's novel Burning Patience (drawing on Neruda's life as a Chilean icon) was the inspiration for the Oscar-winning Italian film, Il Postino (The Postman).

Chilean fine and visual arts

Established in 1849 in the University of Chile, the Chilean Academy of Painting has helped foster fine painting and inspire young artists. Roberto Matta, a twentieth century painter, is a world known artist who used abstract and surrealist technique in his work. Carlos Sotomayor (1911-1988) is considered one of the main exponents of cubism from South America. Camilo Mori (1896-1973) was the founder of the Group Montparnasse. Claudio Bravo (1936-2011) was a hyperrealist who lived and worked in Morocco since 1972.

Sculpture has also been prominent in Chile’s culture. Nineteenth century sculptor Rebeca Matte (1875-1929) was the first Chilean woman to embrace the art. She was commissioned to produce a piece by the government of Chile as a gift to the government of Brazil which she called “Icarus and Daedalus” (United in Glory and Peace). In 1930, her husband donated a bronze copy to the Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago which is recognized as a leading masterpiece. Matte also created a battle monument as a tribute to the heroes of Concepcion. In the twentieth century Marta Colvin (1907-1995) gained international status by exhibiting her work in cities around the world.

Chilean cuisine

Paila marina.

Chilean cuisine rests on the variety of products due to Chile's geographical condition and seaborne nature. The cuisine arose from the fusion of traditional indigenous ingredients with Spanish culture and traditions. Further European immigration also brought with them various styles and traditions in cooking heavily influencing the cuisine of Chile such as the Italians and Germans. In the 20th century French cuisine marked an important turning point influencing culinary methods and creating a type of Criollo style that has been implemented now in Chilean cooking. British cooking influences include the onces or tea breaks usually taken in the afternoon among Chileans of all classes and backgrounds. Many Chilean recipes are enhanced and accompanied by wine and Pisco, a type of grape brandy produced in Chile as well a drink in Peru. Throughout Chile each region spanning from north to south contain a variety of culinary recipes special to each location.

Film production in Chile

Domestic film production in Chile is still small but dynamic, it has been steadily growing since 1990 and the country now produces about 20 motion pictures annually. Important filmmakers include: Raul Ruiz (Palomita blanca), Miguel Littin (El chacal de Nahueltoro), Silvio Caiozzi (Julio comienza en julio), and Andrés Wood with (Machuca). Other entertainment includes radio and television with TVN (Television Nacional de Chile) owned but not paid by the government but funding comes from commercial sponsors by private companies and media productions.

Sports in Chile

The most popular and widely followed sport in Chile, and practiced by Chileans from all economic backgrounds, it is the one sport that appeals to both young and old that is the most accessible. Federación de Fútbol de Chile is the governing body of "fútbol" in Chile. Practices such as "baby fútbol" which is a street level scrimmage match is played on areas made of concrete. Located throughout Chile are football stadiums such as Estadio Nacional de Chile located in Santiago and where the final of the 1962 World Cup was held. Chile was banned in FIFA participation in the early 1990s due to a faked player injury on the field during a 1989 playoff game and could not appear in the 1990 and 1994 World Cup events as a result.

Chile practices a host of sporting events and because of its geographical location that is situated between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Skiing and snowboarding are done in between those two locations. With more than 4 thousand kilometers (2500 mi) of mountains, Chile is known internationally as one of the world's best skiing destinations and the best of South America. This recognition is based on the excellent quality of the slopes, a top-level infrastructure, a beautiful landscape, accessibility and proximity to urban centers. Santiago de Chile is interested in hosting the Winter Olympics in the future, destined to be the first site in the southern hemisphere.

The main ski centers are located in Central Chile right in the middle of the Andes, at heights that vary from 2400 meters (7872 ft) up to 3000 meters (9840 ft) above sea level. These centers are the ones with the biggest skiing surfaces as well as the best supporting infrastructure. The centers of Southern Chile are located at lower altitudes and most of them are on volcano slopes. The scenery is normally spectacular, some passing beautiful forests and some with breathtaking panoramic views.[2]

Chile is a great surfing destination, and from the Northern region to the Central region there are many beaches with the right conditions for the sport. It is practically possible to surf all year round except for the middle of the winter (July and August) when weather conditions are non-conducive to surfing. The water temperature fluctuates between 10º and 20°C (50º and 68°F).

In northern Chile, the waves are smaller, but very forceful and between Arica and Iquique, tubes are common. The temperature of the water fluctuates between 15º and 20°C (59º and 68°F). Due to the difficult conditions of the Atacama Desert, there are many unexplored, quiet beaches in this area. In the Central Region the water is a little bit colder, and there are steeper shores and bigger waves.[2]

In addition to football/soccer, basketball is particularly popular in southern Chile where it as an indoor sport which can be played all year round despite Southern Chile's cold and rainy winters. The NCBAOC is the official league. It stands for the National Chile Basketball Association of Chile. Other sports in Chile include golf, polo, tennis, rugby, field hockey and even an ice hockey team, as the sport was introduced to Chile by northern Europeans.

Chilean rodeo, is unique to Chile.

Rodeo is the second most popular sport (following soccer) in Chile. It was declared the national sport in 1962. It has since thrived, especially in the more rural areas of the country. Chilean rodeo is different from the rodeo found in North America. In Chilean rodeo, a team (called a collera) consisting of two riders (called Huasos) and two horses rides laps around an arena trying to stop a calf, pinning him against massive cushions. Points are earned for every time the steer is properly driven around the corral, with deductions for faults. Rodeos are conducted in a crescent-shaped corral called a medialuna.

Comparisons and relations with other cultures

As a Latin American nation, Chile will display similarities with both neighboring and Hispanic cultures. However, the Chilean people shown a more Europeanized and western outlook and culture than Peru and Bolivia, but Chile is less than that of Argentina and Uruguay. Chileans are apparently castizo in contrast to more indigenous demographics Bolivia and Paraguay where 95% of its people also speak the Guarani language.

Chilean popular culture have influenced and shows more affinity with what is typically perceived as South American one, such as football, asado barbecue and the Nueva Canción musical movement. There are some characteristics of Chile with distant cultures in Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia were noted in modern anthropology, in part of 19th century trans-migrations of Chileans and other Latin Americans. South Americans, like Chile, are strongly nationalistic and loyal to their nation they live in.

Chile marginally shares together with Peru a larger Quechua and Spanish colonial heritage, as well the majority of Chileans like Peruvians have a degree of indigenous (with Peru, the Incas) ancestry, but one where, in contrast to Peru, the European element dominates. But, Chileans with the "Gothic" myth by Nicolas Palacios, the country would be construed to descended from Anglo-Germanic/Celtic stock like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to some extent, in the southern hemisphere, where some former European colonies were transplanted.

See also


  1. ^ Larraín, Jorge. Identidad chilena. 2001. Editorial LOM.
  2. ^ a b Chile Activities: Skiing

External links

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