Another of Chile’s unique cultural assets has been added to the World Heritage List: the expressive “Bailes Chinos”, performed on religious occasions for the veneration of saints in northern Chile for more than 400 years. The dances meld two ancient influences: that of the Spanish conquistadores, with their music and their traditions of joining holy fraternities (“cofradías”), and the dances and rites of the native Quechua inhabitants. Over the course of time a unique tradition of celebratory dance arose, adapted by inhabitants of the north as their very own cultural heritage. While the name “Bailes Chinos” means “Chinese Dances” in Spanish, the dances have nothing to do with China: “chino” is also the Quechua word for “servant”, and the dancers are meant to be the servants of the Virgin Mary.
Today in central and northern Chile there are about 60 “cofradías”, who mark religious holidays by dressing in colourful clothing, then dancing with the wild leaps and jumps of the “Bailes”. With the addition of the “Bailes Chinos”, Chile is proud to now have seven entries on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
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