As one of my students put it, it’s spring and the women have started peeling off their clothes as the weather has increased. There are certain things that draw more male attention here in Chile, and one of them, unsurprisingly, is skin.
That settles it then—let the season for piropos begin!
Piropos; piropear: cat calls or pick up lines; to cat call.
Guapa, hermosa, preciosa, maravillosa, linda, bonita: These are all words that are used to say beautiful or pretty. They can be used in many variations to modify the meaning. For example, adding superlative with –ísima. Here are some other uses:
- Ay, !qué hermosa! (How beautiful!)
- Qué lindos ojos tiene. (What pretty eyes you have.)
- ¡Super preciosa! ¡La cosa más maravillosa que he visto en mi vida! (Super beautiful! The most marvelous thing I’ve seen in my life!
- Rica la torta. (The cake’s delicious. They say this about you, just to be clear.)
- ¡Qué bombón!
Another typical piropo is the “Hello” adorned with compliments and dripping with suggestiveness:
- Buenos días, señorita. (Good morning, miss. But trust me, there’s a big difference between how a polite concierge may say this and… well, not so polite people.)
- Hola, mi amorcito. (Hello, my love.)
- Hola, mi reina. (Hello, my queen.)
Sound effects are an essential part of piropos. This can range anywhere from:
- Whistling to
- Incredibly loud kiss noises to
- Honking (sometimes with excitable car horns) to
- Making words sound longer. You can do this by simply yelling “ooooh” at the end of a word (for example: ¡Ricaooooo!) or by adding “eh” (“Super linda, eh.”)
Finally, remember that piropos can also be pick up lines.
- Tantas curvas y yo sin frenos (“So many curves, and I’m without breaks.”)
If you’re interested in hearing more Chilean pick up lines… that are totally inappropriate… check out the video Mejores Piropos Chilenos.
Oppression or Appreciation?
There are many reasons piropos might make you uncomfortable or unsafe. Something about someone older than my father breathing “riiica” into my ear as he passes me on the street simply gives me the heebie jeebies.
Still, many people argue that there is no harm in piropos, that it is a form of showing appreciation for women.
Well, it depends on your definition of women. If you define a woman as a body and not as an individual, I suppose this is a way to show appreciation. More specifically, you’re expressing a sexually charged judgment of her body.
I recently went to our church for a father-daughter dinner, which I knew would give me more perspective on gender here in Chile. Sure enough, during a competition of several father-daughter pairs to see who knew each other the best, I heard the message that women are valued for their bodies and beauty while men are seen more as individuals.
The first question was for the fathers:
What part of her body does your daughter think is most beautiful?
The second question was for the daughters:
What does your father think is his greatest virtue?
I know this doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but it is in these subtleties that we learn how to understand ourselves as gendered beings. For example, I learned that Chilean men are all expected to be hardworking and easily angered (trabajador y enojón).
And taking it back to piropos, I’ve noticed that the second attention-grabber to get the piropos going is exactly what two out of the three daughters said was their most beautiful part: HAIR.
If I wear my hair down I get many more piropos than if my hair is up and I walk down the same road at the same time of the day in the same outfit.
What do you think of cat calls? I would love to hear others’ stories and opinions.