Consider this your invitation to attend the Festival de Jineteadas y Tradiciones of Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez, which takes place the third weekend in January each year. The main event is gaucho style rodeo, called jineteada, when brave riders attempt to stay on hot-tempered, untamed horses for as long as they can. Expert riders from Chile, Brazil and Argentina compete in the events, seeking the recognition of their peers and spectators, with the hope of being the best bronc rider of the event.
They show up in ALL their gaucho attire ready to show off their riding skills in this test of wills.
Not all of them are able to hold on, but absolutely every attempt is a true display of skill and tenacity and a fascinating glimpse of this longtime tradition. The play-by-play action is described by Patagonian style sports casters, called “payadores”, who wittingly improvise music and poetic verse to recount the action of the riders as their horses buck and leap, celebrating their resilience if they manage to hold on for eight eternal seconds and condoling them if they fall. Their style of music is called Milonga and both riders and spectators love to watch them work.
There are lots of other traditions and customs celebrated during the festival.
For example, you can count on a huge community asado, which is the equivalent of a cook-out but in this case, lamb is spit-roasted over the coals of a bonfire. For a festival such as this, you can expect to see 15 or 20 lambs slowly cooking throughout the day. Waiting around nearby is a good idea because, as soon as the asado is ready, you can bet it will disappear!
Other activities include traditional rural farm games like “Taba” and “Truco”, which are popular among the gauchos because they provide opportunities to bet, cheat and lie. The game Taba has been played since the colonization of Aysén and during festivals, it is as popular as ever. It is sort of like horseshoes but instead, two players take turns tossing a cow’s knuckle bone (the taba) across the playing area. Points are awarded or deducted according to the way in which it falls. Spectators and players take part in the betting and there are all kinds of traditional customs and shouts. You can bet on yourself, for or against your opponent, or basically on any other aspect. But, you aren’t really playing if you aren’t betting, so pay attention and learn the chants!
The game of Truco originates traditionally from Valencia and is very popular in many South American countries, having arrived with the conquistadors. It is a game of speculation, lies, and betting that uses Spanish playing cards, and if you didn’t grow up playing, it is almost impossible to learn or understand. If you have the opportunity to watch people playing and check out the poker faces and banter among the players, some of them are very funny!
When the day finally ends, the fiesta moves to the town’s school gym, where there’s a gigantic community dance that includes everyone (babies, kids, moms and dads and even grandparents are on the floor). You’ll get to listen to the rhythms of regional and national bands and learn local dances like chamamé, cumbia, paso doble, waltzes, and the Chilean national dance, la Cueca.
The Celebration Continues!
Summer is a time of celebration throughout the region of Aysén, with festivals and celebrations almost every week. It’s an excellent opportunity to experience local culture celebrating small-town heritage. Some of the most popular festivals include:
- “La Trilla como lo hacía mi abuelo” is a pioneer festival in Puerto Ibáñez held the last week of February each year to honor traditional horse-powered methods for threshing and flour-making. It is organized by a group of locals and offers the opportunity to celebrate this pioneer custom, listen to excellent folk music, and try out traditional foods.
- “La Fiesta del Arreo de Bahía
- Murta” revives the traditional customs of herders and wranglers in a festival which includes demonstrations of herding and castrating animals, sheep shearing, asados, and dances. Truco, Taba and Rayuela are some of the local betting games you’ll see and in typical Patagonian style, they continue the festival indoors at night at the town’s school gym, where musical groups liven up the dances.
- In Puerto Río Tranquilo the “Encuentro de Acordeón y Guitarra”, held the second weekend in February each year, gathers regional artists to celebrate traditional music of Patagonia. As one of the first traditional festivals of the region (13+ years and running), it has a long history and a loyal following.