Chilean folklore - Folclore de Chile

The huaso and the washerwoman , by Mauricio Rugendas .

Folklore of Chile is understood as the set of crafts , dances , jokes , customs , stories , oral histories , legends , music , proverbs , superstitions and others, common to a specific population, including the traditions of said culture, subculture or social group that occur throughout the national territory, as well as the study of these subjects.

Due to the cultural and demographic characteristics of that country, it is the result of the mixing of European elements with indigenous elements during the period of La Colonia . Due to cultural and historical reasons, cultural expressions vary notoriously in different areas of the country, for this reason four large areas in the country are classified and distinguished: North, Central , South and Southern Zones .

The northern area is characterized by various cultural manifestations that combine the influence of the Andean indigenous peoples with that of the Hispanic conquerors and slaves, to which is added the importance of religious festivities and traditions, highlighting the diabladas and the Fiesta de La Tirana .

The central zone is mainly identified with the rural traditions of the Chilean countryside and the so-called Huasa culture, which mainly extends between the regions of Coquimbo and Biobío . As the majority of the Chilean population is concentrated in this geographical region, it is traditionally considered the main cultural identity of the country and is externalized in mid-September, during the celebration of National Holidays. The folklore of the central zone of Chile is predominantly Spanish roots, which is manifested in its music (cuecas, tonadas, payas, the latter of exclusively Spanish origin), the musical instruments used ( guitars , harps , accordion), the oral tradition (sayings, stories, poetry) and the clothing used (which in the huasos is mainly of Andalusian origin). All of the above is explained by the fact that indigenous peoples and their ancestral culture disappeared from the Central Zone of Chile at the beginning of the 18th century .

In the southern zone, Mapuche culture and hacienda traditions dominate La Araucanía , while German influence is predominant in the vicinity of Valdivia , Osorno and Llanquihue . On the other hand, in the Chiloé archipelago a culture with its own mythology was generated, originated by the syncretism of indigenous and Spanish beliefs.

The southern zone has generated its own identity influenced by immigrants, both from Chiloé and the center of the country, as well as from the former Yugoslavia , and the culture of the gauchos, which in Magallanes is characterized by a marked regionalism. [ 1 ]

The cultural identity of Easter Island is unique due to the development of a Polynesian culture from time immemorial completely isolated for several centuries.

In 2007 , the government established August 22 as "National Folklore Day". [ 2 ] However, since 2008, the same government has observed this anniversary on October 4. [ 3 ] [ 4 ]

Study of folklore in Chile

Rodolfo Lenz in 1915.

The study of folklore in Chile was developed in a systematic way since the end of the s. XIX, mainly due to the German influence of authors such as Herder or the Brothers Grimm. In this work of compiling the popular traditions of the Chilean people and of the original peoples, they stood out in a fundamental way, not only in the study of national folklore, but also in Latin America, among others, Ramón Laval, Julio Vicuña, Rodolfo Lenz, José Toribio Medina, Tomás Guevara, Félix de Augusta, Aukanaw. Together they generated an important documentary and critical corpus around oral literature (stories, poetry, sayings, etc.), autochthonous languages, regional dialects, and peasant and indigenous customs. They published, mainly during the first decades of the s. XX, linguistic and philological studies, dictionaries,

In 1909, at the initiative of Ramón Laval, Julio Vicuña Cifuentes and the Chilean naturalized German scholar and linguist Rodolfo Lenz , the Chilean Folklore Society was founded, the first of its kind in America, which two years later would merge with the newly created Society Chilean of History and Geography . [ 5 ]

Contribution to the folklore of Carahue , Ramón Laval Alvial, 1916.

Rodolfo Lenz, a Chilean naturalized German linguist , philologist , lexicographer and folklorist , was since his arrival in the country in 1890, a fundamental piece for his pioneering work in the study of Chilean Castilian, Mapudungun, popular poetry and folklore. It is considered today as one of the highest authorities in the knowledge of Mapudungun of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the same year, 1893, he published his article Beiträge zur Kenntnis des Amerikanospanischen ('Contribution for the knowledge of the Spanish of America'). [ 6 ]In that work, Lenz, after analyzing the demographic evolution and Chilean cultural history, described the phonological systems of the Mapuche language and those of Chilean Spanish, pointing out more than ten features that, in his opinion, distinguish Chilean Spanish from the rest. of the Spanish dialects, and which are the result of the influence of the substrate on the Spanish spoken in that country. In addition, he composed an etymological Dictionary of Chilean voices derived from indigenous languages (1905-1910). [ 7 ] In the field of Chilean folklore it was also his pioneering work, publishing in 1894 the first known work on the Popular Liraand stimulating the formation of a team of young folklorists who constituted the first generation in the studies on popular cultures. Among his disciples, Ramón Laval Alvial and Julio Vicuña Cifuentes stood out , who compiled in the first two decades of the 20th century a valuable material on magical and religious traditions of the popular sectors, ballads , popular poetry, riddles, sayings, myths and traditional legends . Lenz is also responsible for the Collection of Popular Poetry of the 19th Century and the important article "On Popular Poetry", printed in Santiago de Chile in 1919. The influence of his principles and methods in Pedagogy reached all branches of the investigation.

Ramón Laval was also one of the preponderant Chilean folklorists of the early 20th century. His was noted for the detailed field work he did in rural areas such as Carahue , [ 8 ] located in southern Chile, and for the erudition with which he compared different manifestations of popular culture with their European equivalents. His works include: From Latin in Chilean folklore (1910), Prayers, spells and spells (1910), Chilean tales of never ending (1910), Contribution to the folklore of Carahue (1916), Traditions, legends and stories collected from the oral tradition of Carahue (1920),Chilean Paremiology (1923), Popular Stories in Chile (1923) and Tales of Pedro Urdemales (1925), among others. [ 9 ] [ 8 ]

Traditional music and dances of Chile

The cueca ( Mauricio Rugendas , 1843).

According to the Journal of my residence in Chile in 1822 of Maria Graham , composer and researcher Pablo Garrido notes that "[i] n the house Cotapos where [the English writer] stayed in Santiago, [Graham saw] dance minuet , alemanda , cuadrilla , spanish dances and when ; the when and the zamba on a walk to Ñuñoa; the bell (dance alone, by a man) in a farm in Angostura de Paine, and the homeland to a group of peasant girls in Melipilla ». [ 10 ]

For his part, the Chilean musician and composer of the time José Zapiola Cortés listed several dances in his memoirs Memories of thirty years (1810-1840) (1872):

The dances that we have not known; but what we have heard about in our childhood are, paspié , rigodon , etc. We have known the minuet , the alemanda , the contradanza , the rin , the churre , a kind of gavota , the waltz , the gavota and the groups introduced in Chile in 1819. As solo dances, the fandango and the cachucha , danced i sung for the first time by officers and troops of the Talaveras battalion .
Regarding chicoteo dancesWe remember that in the years 1812 and 1813 the zamba and the grandfather were the most popular; both were Peruvians.
San Martin, with his army, 1817, brought us the cielito , the pericón , the sajuriana and the when , a kind of minuet
Since then, until ten or twelve years ago, Lima provided us with its innumerable and varied zamacuecas , remarkable and uninjurious for their music, which uselessly try to imitate each other. The specialty of that music consists particularly in the rhythm and placement of its own accents, whose character is unknown to us, because it cannot be written with the common figures of music.
The gavota, French dance, between two people, [...] was very fashionable from the year 1823 to the 28 or 30 [...] ( original spelling ). [ 11 ]

The most important festivals in the countryside of the central area are the rodeo and the grape harvest .

Dances of the Central Zone

The zamacueca ( Manuel Antonio Caro , 1873).
Chilean huaso dress.

In the central area of ​​the country, the folkloric expressions were strongly influenced by the Spanish colonization and there settled certain traditional dances that persist to this day. The cueca , consecrated as a national folk dance, is practiced in this area assiduously, much more than in all other regions, with the greatest penetration in the different socioeconomic and educational strata.

Other dances worthy of mention due to their traditional representation, although very limited to a few rural localities, are the cat , the jota , the mazamorra, the mazurca , the pequén, the porteña, the resfalosa , the chime, the sajuriana and the little hat. Also the protagonists of this area are the scampering, the polkas and the waltzes , which although they became folkloric later than the previous ones, currently live in fields and cities.

In these regions, the presence of folklore cannot be ignored, through dances, in the recreation rooms and in the most daily celebrations, such as baptisms, birthdays, weddings, funerals, onomastics. Also, in request and thanks in times of harvest, planting work, harvest, house construction, among others.

For much of its history, Chile did not have an official dance due to the heterogeneity of its traditional dances. The cueca was officially established as the national dance of Chile on November 6 , 1979 . [ 12 ]

Zamacueca class at the end of the 19th century.

There are different types of cuecas: Cueca brava ; Chilota cueca ; Comic cueca ; Creole cueca ; Long cueca ; Cueca nortina ; Cueca porteña ; or the stolen Cueca .

Musical instruments used in the folklore of the central zone:

  • Guitar (chordophone) . The most widespread of musical instruments both in Chile and in all Spanish-speaking countries, as a transcription of the Greek Kithara. The Spanish had six simple strings. The primitive, in Chile, had six double strings. Its wooden case with a circular mouth in the center and a fretted neck are one of the characteristics of today's guitar. No musical instrument is played as much as the guitar, followed by the accordion and different types of rattles.
  • Couple of huasos dancing.
    Harp (chordophone) . It is a folk and classical instrument, spread during the last century. Its expansion site was between Aconcagua and Ñuble, currently it is used mostly by folk groups. It is almost triangular and consists of three fundamental elements: the resonance box, the column and the bracket or pegbox that keeps the stringing in tension on the box. It has between 36 and 37 strings. They exist in portable size made by expert craftsmen. There are smaller harps (harpín), but with the influence of the Paraguayan harp (preferred by artisan manufacture in design and sound) today the Chilean harp and harpoons have practically disappeared.
  • Guitarrón (chordophone) . The Chilean Guitarrón is a composite multi-chord that has 25 strings, grouped in five main orders on the fretboard and four secondary monochord orders, outside of it, called diablitos. It has a length of strings that ranges between 46 and 64 centimeters, shaped like a fluted guitar, a rectilinear mirror plane and a traction bridge, with volute-shaped wings, next to which two ornaments called daggers characteristically appear. Studies make it possible to ensure that the origin of this instrument is Chilean, a product of the ingenuity of the Chilean people. It is used basically in the Song to the Poet .
  • Charrango (chordophone) . It is a typical instrument of Chilean folklore. It is a board one meter or more long, thirty-five or forty-five centimeters wide, with a fixed string of very thin steel wire, which is stretched by means of two glass bottles, corn crowns or stones that are placed in both extremes; Once the necessary tension is achieved, two pieces of wood or nails are placed to prevent the bottles from running and losing their harmony. It is played with a metal gauntlet wound with wire. From this instrument comes the word "charranguear" used in the field to refer to the little mastery of the guitar or the execution of it. Its geographical dispersion includes an area that extends from Valparaíso to the south.
  • Pandero (idiophone) . The tambourine is made with a hexagonal frame, to which a very thin patch or leather is riveted on one of its sides. Openwork is made on the sides of the frame where brass or bronze plates are placed, in semi-concave shapes for greater sound. The head cover is smeared with castile fish or beef fat to offer resistance to the thumb during rubbing and to achieve better vibration of the instrument.
  • Torment (idiophone) . The parlor torment was a little box 12 inches long by 8 inches wide and 4 to 6 inches high, with four folding legs. Its upper deck was made up of a series of loose slats engaged in a kind of flange so that they would not come off. To allow greater loudness, it had no lower cover. Inside it was attached a kind of metal rattles and was struck on top of the deck with a drumstick. The current torment, used in chinganas and ramadas, is larger. It measures between 50 to 60 centimeters in length by about 35 to 45 centimeters in width.
  • Cacharaina (idiophone) . It is a donkey or mule jaw in which the molars and premolars are released. The surface of the jaw is painted and drawn with eye-catching themes like flowers, leaves, etc. Its form of execution is similar to the tropical Güiro, that is, brushing the teeth with a stick to produce the sound. But its most frequent form is to grip the jaw with a hand grasped at the widest part, thereby producing a better instrument resonance. In some parts of the country it is Carretilla, on Easter Island it is called Kahuaha.

Music and dances of the South Zone

The south of Chile is rainy and the predominant traditional activities are agriculture and livestock. The dances and songs of the Mapuche people mainly have a religious function and are practiced during the guillatún . In many places in the southern area, the characteristics of local folklore have been lost and the dances and songs of areas located in their vicinity are emulated. In many places, the cueca in the manner of the central zone has displaced all other dances.

The Germans who immigrated to the provinces of Valdivia , Osorno and Llanquihue introduced the accordion , especially the chromatic or button accordion , which later spread to the entire south of the country and was integrated into existing music.

On the coast of the province of Osorno there are huilliche dances , sung in chesungun (the local dialect of Mapudungun ), such as the Sajurian and the cueca huilliche. The most common instruments of festive music are the bass drum, the guitar and the bandio .

In the Archipelago of Chiloé , folklore also has particular characteristics, since many Spanish traditions were maintained with few changes and others were mixed with the Huilliches, giving rise to new forms of expression. During the Chilean War of Independence , in which Chiloé remained faithful to the Crown, royalist soldiers introduced dances such as chocolate or pericón to the islands, which later became pericona. Apart from the festive dances, parades are played during religious festivals, always accompanied by guitars, drums and accordions.

Among the dances of Chiloé are: chocolate; the sky ; the chilota cueca ; the ship ; the pericona (from Llaullao, from Cucao, male, from Calen); the rim ; the sirilla ; the rear ; the sajuria ; the chilote waltz .

Dances of the Austral Zone

In these lands who dominates is the gaucho and his dances, which are traditional from the province of Palena in the X Region of Los Lagos to Tierra del Fuego . These are:

  • Ranchera : derived from the mazurka (a rhythm of Polish origin). In dance form, the pair perform overshoots to 3/4 time. Choreographically they mark the figure of a wheel or an ellipse, interrupted at intervals, according to the changes of speeds or refrains of the subject.
  • Waltz : the waltz dance( sic , with final e) practiced in the eastern part of Aisén (Coyhaique and surroundings), differs from the waltz ( European , Chilote , Peruvian , etc.) because the steps are shorter, although it saves a lot of similarity in the turns and in the body posture of the dancers.
  • Creole polka : the author has observed two different modalities of executing it: one very lively, with long strides (similar to the Argentine and Mexican versions) and the other very sober (similar to the passage to a Buenos Aires milonga, but it differs in the turns and adds some figures of the pasodoble).
  • Pasodoble : Spanish dance, binary time signature, derived from the march. In musical accompaniment, when there is more than one guitar, the aim is to imitate the chords of the Spanish instruments.
  • Chamamé : rhythm derived from the pot chamamé (slow), a native of Corrientes , in northern Argentina. The dance en el paso differs from that practiced in Corrientes and other Argentine provinces.

Typical dances of Easter Island

On Easter Island, traditional costumes include the haku huru-huru (feather costume) and the haku kakaka (banana fiber costume), which are worn in traditional festivals and folkloric performances. The sarong , which is a printed fabric garment, is widely used on the island, although it corresponds to a recent addition from Tahiti .

On Easter Island you can see both religious and festive dances. The typical dances are:

Among the musical instruments used, the guitar , the water stick and the drum stand out .

Chilean folk music

Violeta Parra , Chilean folklorist.

Chilean folk music is characterized by the mixture of traditional aboriginal sounds with those brought from Spain . The cueca , a national dance since 1979, [ 13 ] is a good example of this: it has its own characteristics depending on the area of ​​the country in which it is performed.

The most traditional folklore [ 14 ] has been performed over time by various artists, highlighting some such as Margot Loyola , Nicanor Molinare and groups such as Los de Ramón and Los Huasos Quincheros . Since the early 1960s, with the so-called Neofolklore , [ 15 ] and especially during the 1970s, with the so-called Nueva Canción Chilena , [ 16 ]There was a resurgence of folk music, with artists investigating the musical origins of their country and composing and performing their own themes inspired by these investigations. Musicians such as Víctor Jara , Patricio Manns , Violeta Parra and groups such as Illapu , Inti-Illimani , Los Jaivas stand out from this movement . Quilapayún and. Nutuayn Mapu . Different dance groups have also been in charge of spreading and keeping alive the Chilean musical heritage, such as the Bafona ( National Folkloric Ballet , 1965) [ 17 ] and the Bafochi (Ballet Folclórico de Chile , 1987). [ 18 ]

Native or aboriginal music

Native or aboriginal music is called folklore made and played by certain cultural ethnic groups of the country. In Chile , there is a clear example of the Mapuches, for whom music was used for religious or healing purposes (in rituals such as machitún ). Aboriginal music is the only one originating only from the first American cultures; It is not music originating in Europe, like the rest, after the discovery and conquest of America. Even so, it must be remembered that the influence coming from Spain in this period notably determined most of the instruments adopted, such as the guitar , the accordion , etc.

Oral literary tradition

Popular and folkloric traditions associated with oral literature (poetry, stories, riddles, myths, legends, etc.) are extremely rich and vary according to geographical areas. Therefore, those of Creole or mestizo origin are distinguished, which are generically known as "Chilean", or referring to geographical particularisms such as the Chilota or Huasa tradition, and those of indigenous origin such as the Mapuche or Selk'nam traditions, among others.

Legends, mythology and fantastic stories

El Trauco , famous character from Chiloe mythology.

The Chilean mythology is the name given to designate the set of mythologies and legends made up of many different traditions within the territory of Chile that belong to all the legends and South American mythology . It is characterized by having adopted a multitude of myths and legends of the beliefs of the indigenous peoples of the Chilean territory and others of European origin , mainly from the Spanish colonizers.

This variety of sources of belief has in some cases caused syncretism or the fusion of different beings, coming from these diverse mythological origins, which has complemented and differentiated Chilean mythology.

Likewise, the differences in landscapes and climates present in the Chilean territory have configured defined geographical areas that have experienced different historical circumstances, which has favored the appearance of different and new beliefs and myths that have enriched the mythology of this territory.

Popular poetry

Interpreting Chilean guitarrón.

It is called Canto a lo Poeta to an ancient musical and literary tradition of Chile , framed within popular poetry , and which is fully in force.

In the Chilean folklore of the Central Valley of Chile existed until the middle of the twentieth century , a rigorous division of poetry and popular music based on the sex of the interpreter, holding each branch its own arguments, metric, singing and instruments: [ 19 ]

  • The singers represent the female branch and were dedicated to cultivating short musical forms, notably the tune and the cueca , as well as the polka and the waltz . The compositions are then usually eight-syllable quatrains and the accompaniment is with the harp and the guitar . The themes of these pieces used to be light, happy, but with a subtle denunciation, disappointment or irony if more attention is paid.
  • The singers were dedicated to the composition and declamation of longer pieces, composed in tenths , being their themes or foundations the romance (epic), the serious lyric and the repentista song. The accompaniment was given by the guitarrón and the rabel . This branch is what constitutes the Song to the Poet , within which the two great divisions are distinguished in turn: the Song to the Human and the Song to the Divine . Of course, this phenomenon makes us sink the roots of this genre in the Middle Ages, in the art of troubadours and troubadours.

This form of versification arrived in the Colony and spread throughout America. In Chile we find in that period the verses of the priests López, Morán and Oteiza (Dominicans), which they used to comment on situations of daily life and humor. We also find the verses of Captain Mujica.

Within the Canto a lo Humano, there is what in the Southern Cone is known as paya or payada, a musical poetic art belonging to the Hispanic culture, in which a person, the payador , improvises a rhyming recitation accompanied by a guitar . When the payada is a duet, it is called "counterpoint" and takes the form of a sung duel, in which each payador must answer the payada questions of his opponent, and then go on to ask in the same way. These payadas in duet usually last hours, sometimes days, and end when one of the singers does not immediately answer the question of his contestant.

It is an art related to the versolarismo Basque , the regueifa Galician , the trovo alpujarreño and repentismo Cuban . This type of "dialectical discussion" follows a pattern that has been present in a great number of cultures, and is part of the Asian tradition , Greek and Roman cultures, and the history of the Muslim Mediterranean . [ 20 ]

The paya is a very popular art in the Central Zone of Chile and is a very important part of the peasant or huasa culture . The most used stanzas are the quatrain and the tenth . It was persecuted by the authorities during the 19th century , and its lyrics became known as the "popular lira."

In the 1950s , Santos Rubio , the blind popular singer, brought payas to record companies; During the following years, records and cassettes with recordings of payadores meetings were published. During the 1990s , on Radio Umbral , a weekly show of payas was maintained where payadores Pedro Yáñez and Eduardo Peralta responded to the proposals and challenges that the public asked them by telephone.

Meetings of payadores organized by some municipalities or social institutions are regularly held where payadores from all over the country participate. These activities keep this art alive for the new generations.

Liborio Salgado is the Chilean payador par excellence; It is said that he played with the devil , a legend that is repeated in other Latin American countries: in Argentina a similar anecdote is attributed to Santos Vega , and in Colombia to Francisco Moscote.

In Chilean Patagonia, the gaucho culture is present and paya in the style of Argentina and Uruguay.


  2. ^ Ministry of Education of Chile (August 4, 2007), "Decree 207: Institutes national folklore day" , Library of the National Congress of Chile , consulted on October 29, 2011 .
  5. Chilean Society of History and Geography, founded in 1839
  6. ^ Lenz, Rodolfo. 1893. "Beiträge zur Kenntnis des Amerikanospanischen." Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie 17.188-214. There is a version in Spanish: "For the knowledge of the Spanish of America," in Chilean Studies (Biblioteca de Dialectología Hispanoamericana, 6). Buenos Aires: Institute of Philology, 1940.
  7. ^ Lenz, Rodolfo. Etymological dictionary of Chilean voices derived from indigenous American languages. Santiago: University of Chile, 1910. 1026 p. Location: Chilean Section 10; (1148-25) System no .: 17569
  8. a b Ramón a. Laval (Santiago de Chile, 1969). "The bibliography of bibliographies" . Retrieved July 29, 2014 .
  9. Wonderful Books (The stories of Pedro Urdemales)
  10. ^ Garrido, Pablo (1976). Biography of the cueca (PDF) . Santiago de Chile: Editorial Nascimento . Retrieved July 14, 2015 .
  11. ^ Zapiola, José (1872). «First part - Chapter V Music, theater and dance». Memory of thirty years (1810-1840) (1st edition). Santiago de Chile: The Independent Printing Office . pp. 59-133.
  12. Ministry General Secretariat of Government (November 6, 1979), "Decree 23: Declares the cueca dance national of Chile" , Library of the National Congress of Chile , consulted on March 1, 2011 .
  13. Ministry General Secretariat of Government (MSGG) (November 6, 1979). "Decree 23 of 1979 of the Ministry General Secretariat of Government" (HTML) . Retrieved March 1, 2011 .
  14. ^ "Folklore" (PHP) . 2008. Archived from the original on August 11, 2011 . Retrieved April 9, 2011 .
  15. ^ "Neofolklore" (PHP) . 2008. Archived from the original on August 11, 2011 . Retrieved April 9, 2011 .
  16. ^ «New Chilean song» (PHP) . 2008. Archived from the original on August 11, 2011 . Retrieved April 9, 2011 .
  17. ^ «40 years of BAFONA» (HTM) . 2005 . Retrieved April 22, 2011 .
  18. Ballet Folclórico de Chile , BAFOCHI (s / f). «Ballet» (PHP) (in Spanish and English) . Archived from the original on December 4, 2010 . Retrieved April 22, 2011 .
  19. Lenz, 1894.
  20. ^ Fernández Manzano, R .; and others (1992): El trovo de la Alpujarra . Andalusia: Andalusian Music Documentation Center, 1992, p. 27

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