When I was a kid, if I called my sister “stupid” or my brother “ugly” or whatever, my parents would make me say seven nice things about the other as a consequence.
I must confess that sometimes I give Chile a pretty hard time. I’ve been really frustrated for the past month or so, and I think I owe it to Chile to say seven nice things.
Here are some reasons I love you, Chile.
7. Almacenes or corner stores:
In most neighborhoods, you can buy fresh bread daily by walking to an almacén within five minutes of your house. The owner, who will probably call you mi hija, usually runs the almacén out of part of his or her house. We have three of these within a five-minute walk of our house.
Almacenes are much preferable to a convenience store or gas station on the corner, which is what we typically have in the States. And the funny thing about those is that they frequently aren’t really “around the corner.” And nothing, nothing, is fresh there. What up, food deserts!
On a related note…
I love the fruit Chile has to offer. Of course, for those of you from warmer climes, maybe this isn’t so impressive. I’ve spoken with Colombians that feel Chile has a small and expensive selection of fruits and veggies. But for a Vermonter, this selection is phenomenal.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, you can buy fresh produce at the weekly ferias that happen on a weekly basis in most neighborhoods. Some highlights for me: lúcuma, chirimoya, avocado, strawberries and all of the exotic fruits I mentioned in this post.
5. Political discussion:
While the US has tabooed socialism and communism as the most “un-American” things you could possibly discuss, Chile is a highly capitalist state whose next president will probably be socialist Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet is running for the Nueva Mayoría, a political coalition that includes parties such as the Socialist Party, Christian Democrats, the Social Democrat Radical Party, and the Communist Party.
In the US, the moment someone begins to talk about something like socialism, a forcefield of caution begins to flicker up around the listener. Even if the listener is a young, educated, liberal, the fear is there: is this person a nut job?
4. People are affectionate.
I know that in other places in the world, particularly other parts of Latin America, Chileans are considered cold and distant. But for a gringa, the people are much warmer and more affectionate than the typical Usonian.
This makes some gringos uncomfortable. However, I am in constant need of physical contact, and so it helps that it’s perfectly natural to touch someone’s arm during conversation or hug and kiss a person in greeting. Back home, I’m notorious for invading people’s personal bubbles; here, I’m considered to not be as awkward as other cold gringos.
3. Chilean poets:
What more do you want to hear? It’s the land of the poets—such as Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, Pablo de Rokha, Vicente Huidobro, Nicanor Parra, to name a few whom everyone should know.
Go read them. And check out my posts on Neruda’s houses.
2. It is beautiful.
I know I complain endlessly about life in the city—the smog and the lack of green and the ugly buildings—but Chile is much more than Santiago. It is one of the countries with the most diverse, rich, and breathtaking landscapes in the world: the desert, the beaches, the forests, the lakes, the mountains, the strange and otherworldly Patagonian terrain, even down to Antarctica. Unparalleled, in my mind.
And along with the diversity of terrain comes an explosion of endemic flora and fauna. Seriously, there are almost three thousand plants unique to Chile.
Finally, and most importantly,
1. Its people:
Where to start with this vibrant and quirky people that I’ve so come to love? The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Chileans is their humor.
There’s something inherent to the rapid fire Chilean Spanish that lends itself to humor. Chilean Spanish is full of opportunities for double entendre and dripping with character. On top of that, when telling stories, my husband’s family showcases a range of the human voice that rivals that of Mariah Carey. That kind of expression is simply funny.
Chileans are quick to laugh at almost anything—even things they probably shouldn’t laugh about, like the numbing terror of living through the golpe militar and subsequent torture and disappearances. Or talking about living in extreme poverty and becoming malnourished. In these situations, Chileans use laughter as a way of connecting with others, a way of being able to express difficult times and be assured that life goes on.
In less serious occasions, Chileans are equally ready for a laugh. This morning, for example, I was waiting to make a transfer in the metro. Since it was rush hour, there was a huge mob of us waiting for the next train, which was very slow to come. As it approached, metro workers told us to step back, as the train was going to another station. Several people started to jokingly boo the worker, as if it were her fault, and then the majority of us began to laugh at the situation. Granted, sometimes people really get angry with workers, but that wasn’t the case today.
So Chile, I’m sorry
…for calling you stupid, ugly, and hopeless at times; there are many things that make you special, and many things that I can learn from you.
Alright, readers; what do you appreciate about Chile?