Origin, history | Origen, historia | Origem, história
The practice of “Bailes Chinos” stretches mainly from what is known as the Norte Chico to the Central Region of Chile. This element is made up of five fully differentiated musical, choreographic–dance, and singing styles. Each style corresponds to an ecological niche that is determined by hydrographic basins and mountain chains. Local populations maintain close ties and communication channels that allow the existence of a shared style and practice of “Baile Chino” (for example, the devotional nature, the types of musical instruments, their role in the festivity, among others), which are expressed as a network of ceremonial processes. Each style is named after the valley or basin where it is most relevant.
Styles from north to south:
a) Atacama (Copiapó and Huasco);
b) Andacollo (Elqui and Limarí);
c) Choapa (Combarbalá and Quilimarí)
d) Petorca (Longotoma, Petorca, La Ligua)
e) Aconcagua (Aconcagua, Limache Basin)
“Bailes Chinos” are brotherhoods related to the practice of worshiping religious images during popular Catholic celebrations, which take place in the context of commemoration festivities. The first “Baile Chino” emerged in Andacollo in 1585, and has continued ever since.
A “Baile Chino” is usually a self–organised rural expression that represents the religious devotion of a community in a participatory and open manner. It is expressed through collective dances consisting of jumps and flexing movements of the legs, to the rhythm of isometric instrumental music that is played with drums and flutes of pre–Columbian origin. Additionally, through the singing of memorised or improvised “coplas” (rhyming couplets) –which vary according to each area– participants tell holy stories and address religious and faith issues. The music, the dance choreographies, and the art of singing the “coplas,” have been conveyed from generation to generation up to the present, keeping the spirit of each “Baile Chino” alive.
Precisely, these aspects and some elements of internal organisation are what communities themselves have considered as suitable for safeguarding. Particularly, if it is taken into account that “Bailes Chinos” are a form of representative and self–organised popular religiosity of the communities, which recognise in this practice an expression of devotion and religious fervour that are unique and inherent to local history and memory.