A lot can be said in the standard 140 Twitter characters, but Chile saw a political career crash and burn this week in just 35 characters. One now-famous word—reguleque—was all it took to finally put Ximena Ossandon on the bench for good.
Reguleque (reh-goo-LEH-kay): (adj/adv) From “regular,” which in Spanish does not mean “average” as it does in English, but rather “poor” (See Beware the Fake False Cognates). Adding the “eque” suffix adds further emphasis, so something that is reguleque is REALLY not very good. Example: Es un profe reguleque. (He’s a pretty so-so teacher)…
Here’s an example that’s ringing a bell in Chile this week:
“Mi pega la he hecho bastante bien, ahora la paga es bastante reguleque!! Sniff”
(I’ve done my job quite well, although the pay is not very good!! Sniff.
(Tweet sent by @ximenaossandon on Tuesday, December 28, 2010).
If you’ve seen the Chilean news in the last day or two, you know where this is going. If not, settle in… you’re going to love this one. If you’re a Spanish-speaking Twitterer, go ahead and do a search on reguleque—you’ll find plenty going on.
Ximena Ossandón, Vice President—no wait—that’s now former Vice President of the JUNJI (Junta Nacional de Jardines Infantiles / National Board of Day Care Centers), has been a controversial figure in the Piñera government pretty much since day 1. She made her debut in the media circles by provoking a debate on separation of church and state the day she showed up toting a big statue of the Virgin Mary to put in the garden in front of this governmental agency. That might be overlooked in a highly Catholic country, but the real problem seems to begin whenever she opens her mouth.
When the issue of extending the hours of state-run day care centers came up in June, she responded that JUNJI would first investigate whether that was truly necessary, because:
“… day care should never replace the mother or the family. When the mother can be with her child, she should, but when a mother decides to leave her child in one of our day care centers so she can go out drinking, or to the beach, or to have coffee with a friend—that’s what we need to prevent, because there is no study in the world that says that a child is better off in an institution than with his or her family.”
I’m serious. She really said that. It did not go over well. How many working mothers are “sacando la mugre” (working their asses off, to be blunt) to make ends meet, and she’s accusing them of being irresponsible drunken beach bunnies?
She found her way back into the news over and over again this year with one controversial statement or accusation after another, but her rip-roaring race to disaster took a leap toward the finish line recently when she opened a Twitter account.
On Tuesday she sent out a tweet complaining that her salary of $3,729,923 pesos per month (approximately US$100,000 per year) was “reguleque”…
In a country where minimum wage for a 44-hour work week is $172,000 pesos per month (just US$4,300 per year) where the children who attend the JUNJI day care centers come from families that often bring in less than that, and where the university-trained day-care workers who look after those kids earn somewhere in the range of $200,000–$500,000 per month (US$5000–12,500 per year), Ms. Ossandon’s idea of “reguleque” is an insult to the vast majority of the people who live in this country.
You know what hit the fan…
It went viral. It was all over Twitter, Facebook, and the news within the hour. “Reguleque” became the word of the day.
It was the last straw, and not even her powerful friends in the party (Renovación Nacional) could–or would–save her now. And by 6PM, this ultra-conservative-polemical-from-day-one-right-wing-Opus-Dei-mother-of-nine was housebound once again.
And by then end of the evening, her Twitter account had been shut down. I bet she lost her TV privileges too.
What’s to be taken from this:
Much about Chilean society can be drawn from Ximena Ossandon’s short-lived career and its self-sabotaged full-on 2.0 social media Twittercide. In fact, the material is so rich it not only lends itself to multiple posts, but really deserves and entire book. Not a tell-all gossipy book (although that would be rich), but an in-depth cultural analysis of the Ximena Ossandon phenomenon. She’s not alone, of course, but rather the current most visible representation of her social class and religion.
I’ll just throw out a few aspects that come immediately to mind to get the ball rolling. Please–and I really mean PLEASE–feel free to comment on these or raise additional issues…
* First and foremost, this entire experience hammers home the vast social differences between those in positions of privilege and power and those who are, well, basically, everyone else.
* What is “reguleque” for a privileged few is beyond the wildest dreams of the majority.
* The fact that a highly unqualified person was appointed to a position of authority makes clear that Chile is still far from being a meritocracy.
* I can’t help but wonder how, after making her famous comment about mothers being with their children, who is home with HER nine children?
* And while we’re at it, how is it that someone who berated women for supposedly abusing the system by drinking coffee with friends is spending her work day on TWITTER?