La Cueca is the national dance of Chile and was established as such on September 18th 1979. The dance is zoomorphic, meaning the dance represents animal forms, in this case it is the courting between a rooster and a hen.


There are many debates on the exact origin of La Cueca, however there are two beliefs most accepted by soceity today. The first theory is that a new style of music, Fandango, appeared in Spain and spread to the Americas. The Fandango first arrived in Peru where it was renamed the Zamba in 1810. The Zamba was shortly after renamed the Zamucueca and spread to Chile between the years 1824 and 1825. The Zamucueca was popularized very quickly in Chile and was renamed from the Zamucueca to the Cueca in the year 1870. As the
zamacueca.gif Cueca's popularity spread, the rest of the world began to recognize the name of the new dance as well, resulting in what we know today to be La Cueca Chilena.

The other theory which was popularized by the historian Benjamen Vicuna Mackenna was that La Cueca is a dance influenced by African Culture. He believed that the word "Cueca" came from the Bantu word "Zamuclueca". Zamuclueca translates to the time when a hen stops laying eggs and looks for a male rooster to mate with, which is what La Cueca portrays when it is danced.


La Cueca is a combination of 6/8 and 3/4 timing played simultaneously and the song is divided into three sections. These sections are called the Cuarteta, the Sequidilla, and the Remate. The Cuarteta and Sequidilla both last twenty four measures and the Remate is only four measures long. The most common instruments used for La Cueca are: the guitar, accordion, and percussion. However depending on the region instruments can vary from brass to vocals. With the exception of Cueca from the North, all variations of La Cueca contain lyrics.

Variations of La Cueca:

There are four main variations of La Cueca. These types are called: Cueca From the North, Cueca From the Central Region, Urban Cueca (Also known as Brava or Cora), and La Cueca Chilota. Cueca From the North contains no lyrics and most commonly uses brass instruments for the song. Cueca From the Central Region uses the guitar, accordion, and percussion for music. Cueca From the Central Region is considered to be the most common Cueca that will be seen in Chile. The Urban Cueca appeared in the 1860's and was usually danced in bars and prisons. Finally, La Cueca Chilota is very similar to the Cueca From the Central region, except the song is longer because the Seguidilla is repeated. La Cueca Chilota is also puts greater emphasis on the lyrics of the song.


The clothing worn for La Cueca is considered traditional Chilean vestiments and slightly resembles western wear. The man wears a sombrero and a shirt with a poncho over it. He wears boots with spurs and occasionally will wear a jacket. The woman wears a floral dress with an apron over it. Both dancers carry handkerchiefs and hold them over their head when dancing to resemble the crest of the rooster or the feathers of the hen.

The dance in total lasts a little over a minute, but it is a fixed choreography that breaks down into eleven parts with some repetition. The first three parts are the "Invitation", the "Pass", and the "First Front" this is when the man invites the woman to dance (Invitation)
and they parade around the dance floor (Pass), they then will stop in the center of the dance floor and face each other (First Front). The couple then does the "Initial Turn" where they circle each other whilst twirling their handkerchiefs above their heads until they return to their spot. Next in the dance is the "Escobillado", this is when the man and woman both walk in a half circle formation, meeting at the top and the bottom of circle whilst crossing their legs and dragging their feet. The man who portrays the rooster here is supposed to be pursuing the woman, while the woman, portraying the hen, is evasive. Next comes the "First Turn", here the musicians will shout "Vuelta!" which means turn in Spanish. The dancers will pass each other in an "S" formation, each dancer going to their partners spot. The couple then repeats the "Escobillado" and the "First Turn", this time the couple is supposed to dance stronger and faster as the tempo of the song increases. The next part of the song, the "Zapateo" where both dancers stomp the ground, the man is supposed to stomp fiercely while the woman is supposed to stomp more softly. The last two parts of the dance, the "Closing in Turn" and the "Final" The man and woman begin to circle each other, coming closer to one another with each step with their handkerchiefs spinning above their heads until they end in the center of the dance floor together (Closing in Turn), the couple finally stays together in the middle of the dance floor until the music finishes (Final).


La Cueca is commonly danced on national holidays in Chile. The 18th of September or the day of the first meeting of the national government of Chile (also known as Ramadas) Is one of the holidays where La Cueca is always danced. However La Cueca can be danced under almost any circumstance, such as birthdays, religious holidays such as La Semana Santa or La Navidad, or any other festivals.


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