Official Blog of the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Chilean Independence Day Dinner: Bringing the festive spirit from Chile to Madison

Chilean Students Association (CSA)

In the globalized world in which we live today, chances are you already know a Chilean. Here in Madison we meet a few new Chileans every year, and it never stops surprising us. We could never imagine that such a small country (with an area about twice the size of Montana, but less populated than Florida) will have so many “compatriotas” all over the world. The case of Chileans in Madison is different, as the university makes this part of the world very attractive for many Chilean students in different fields. Moreover, a scholarship exists at UW-Madison devoted exclusively to Chilean students. As a result, it should not be surprising to find so many here. However, a significant part of the Madison Chilean community is not comprised of students!

Many Chileans have graduated from UW-Madison (79, according to 2012 statistics by the Wisconsin Alumni Association), and a few have truly left their mark on the community. The legacy of past Chileans is evident in the existence of the Chilean Students Association (CSA), established in 2006, and registered as a student organization at the university in 2010. Starting as a social club for Chileans and any other students interested in Chile, the activities of the CSA have always been much more than getting together for beers. In the words of Anton Aramayo, one of the founders of the CSA, “Our first official activity was ‘What you should know before going to Chile’, a timid and simple presentation in the old Union South to American students preparing their trip to Chile as exchange students.”

Chilean students in Madison, 2007

Following along with the founders’ ideas, the mission of the CSA could be summarized in three main goals:

•            To contribute to the development of the international environment at UW and the enrichment of its social, cultural and intellectual life, organizing activities related to the Chilean culture.

•            To provide a friendly and supportive environment for the Chileans who are members of the UW community.

•            To provide a cultural link to Chile for those graduate and undergraduate students, faculty and staff academically and personally interested in Chile

Every year, we connect with the Chileans who have arrived in Madison to help them and offer guidance in their adjustment. At the same time, we participate in different orientation sessions at the university to attract student members not only from the US but also from other countries.

From the social events the CSA regularly hosts, the celebration of the Chilean Independence Day is by far the most important event of the year. It coincides with the beginning of the semester, making this celebration the equivalent of our kick-off party. Our celebration has traditionally been a large outdoor barbecue, attended by nearly a hundred people. The event not only includes food, but also traditional games, music and dance.

Chilean Independence Day BBQ, 2012

This year, we decided to go further, and take advantage of the resources the University provides to student organizations. Last year, we were awarded the use of a wonderful room in Memorial Union for an event in the 2012 Fall semester, perfect for our Independence Day celebration. Our imagination led us to think of a great formal dinner event, where we could invite University officers, professors, friends and family. The idea sounded spectacular, however, the cost of such a party would be out of our budget. Here is where other University resources come into play.

After months of planning and grant application processes, we were able to secure funds for our dinner, just a few weeks before the event date! LACIS played a significant role in our event, since it became our co-sponsor and co-funder. At the same time, LACIS was extremely supportive during the advertisement stage, featuring our event in their “Noticias de la semana.”

Our Chilean Inedependence Day Dinner, held on September 22nd, 2012, included presentations about the CSA’s role at UW-Madison, a brief introduction to Chile, and a presentation about the current Chilean UW students and alumni. At the same time, we provided some cultural performances with a music group made up of Chilean students who performed several traditional folkloric songs, and a few volunteers that danced the cueca, the national dance of Chile. The menu was tailored for our event, offering choices based on traditional Chilean recipes, such as “ensalada chilena” and “tomaticán.”

Volunteers dancing Cueca, national dance of Chile, at the Independence Day Dinner, 2012

The feedback we received from the attendees during and after the event was extremely positive, highlighting the enthusiasm and energy that we put in all our events. Our own evaluation of the event is also positive, as we saw the enjoyment of the attendees during the dinner.

We are grateful for the support we received that made this event possible. Without the financial support of our three sponsors, the Wisconsin Experience Grant, the Wisconsin Union Directorate Late Night Event Grant, and LACIS, this event would not have been possible. We are also thankful for the help that our volunteers gave us during the event planning, grant application process and execution.

We hope the future brings us more opportunities to share the Chilean culture with you, and we trust the support of LACIS will be extremely valuable in our future endeavors.

The Chilean Students Association is a Registered Student Organization at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and can be reached at