Chile is Not a Third-World Country and other impressions

It’s been a busy few weeks. My dear friend (and fellow anthropologist) Kathleen Skoczen and her son Alex were just here for 3 weeks (I also had the Annual Wines of Chile Awards thrown into the middle for good measure). We crammed a lot into their time here and I’ll be updating the blog with stories and pictures as time permits. She’s written a couple of guest posts, and as soon as I have some pics to go with them, I’ll put those up too.

But let’s start with her two hands-down major impressions: Chile is not a third-world country (contrary what Chileans will insist on telling you) and Chile is the dog paradise of the world (again, despite what Chileans say).

Just a little scratch behind the ears there please! Alex in San Pedro de Atacama 2010

I’m not sure what she expected exactly, but this wasn’t it. Her main point of reference for Latin America is the Dominican Republic, where she has worked on various issues related to health and/or tourism since the mid-80s. She started by building latrines there in the Peace Corps and it has been her key anthropological field site since grad school in the 90s. When I was helping her line up a place to stay before she arrived, she kept saying “as long as there are no bedbugs or fleas, I’ll be just fine.” It turns out she wasn’t kidding. She’s got horror stories about her usual living conditions in the DR, where’s she’s flung scorpions out of her baby’s crib and battled spider infestations that give me the heebie-jeebies even now 18 years later. Fortunately, Santiago has few bugs to speak of, and the apartment she rented on the corner of Merced and MacIver in downtown Santiago turned out to be ideal (well, except for the noise, of course).

Chile is not a Third World Country!

People kept apologizing to her for this “third world country,” and she kept asking me why. “Have Chileans ever SEEN a third world country?” she wondered. Sure, there’s poverty in Chile, there’s no denying that, but we certainly don’t have the wide-spread abject poverty that she has seen in the DR, Mexico, Ecuador, and Africa.

I made a point of showing her a bit of all sides—not the La Dehesa tour that Chileans tend to want to give visitors (honestly, if someone comes from the other side of the world to visit, DON’T take them to La Dehesa unless you live there. We’ve seen it before. Show them something they haven’t seen!).

We pretty much crossed Santiago by car, foot, subway, and bike (ok, I’ll fess, she biked all over town by herself). She saw a pretty wide range of neighborhoods, north, south, east, and west. We ate in restaurants from Las Condes to Plaza Yungay to Chinese in La Florida abajo (or is it Puente Alto at that point?). She was glad her apartment was downtown because it made a great starting point for any possible destination and gave her a sense of the pulse of the city.

We also wandered the hills of Valparaíso, tested the chilly waters of Concón (too cold), explored the shoreline and tide pools of Zapallar, and spent a day meandering through the Cajón de Maipo all the way to the steamy pools of Termas Colina. She and her son spent a week in San Pedro de Atacama, and we spent her final weekend with friends of ours in Corinto, in the heart of Maule. We took the Ramal—Chile’s only surviving local train—to the coast at Constitución, and then strolled along the riverbank up the hills and through the markets and plazas, and then spent the next day (her last)  in Pencahue at a trilla a yegua suelta—a traditional wheat threshing, where horses are made to run over the stalks of wheat to separate the wheat from the shaft—an anthropologist’s delight.

Kathleen Skoczen, Jan 2011. Alex biking in Atacama

Alex Hecimovich exploring the Atacama Desert by bike

She saw a lot. But she didn’t see much of anything she could associate with her concept of Third World.

The rambly wooden houses that line the train tracks pulling in to Concepción are very humble , but as far as we could tell they all had floors and doors and dry roofs. She turned to me and joked, “So this is Chile’s idea of poverty? This is nothing!” And I know she is right. Chileans tend to regard themselves as Europe’s poor cousins instead of Latin America’s wealthy siblings…and that in itself bears some real reflection.

Chile, the Dog Paradise of the World

Like so many other visitors to Chile, Kathleen and Alex got a big kick out of the ubiquitous Chilean street dogs. These were not the mangy, ill-tempered mutts they’re used to seeing in the Dominican Republic: no, Chile’s quiltros are rather good-natured and healthy looking pooches deep-snoozin’ on busy downtown street corners as pedestrians just step over or around them.

Chile has no leash laws. No, wait a minute… It does too! They just aren’t enforced! On their first day they were amazed to see two carabineros (police officers) standing by a lounging rover who rolled onto his back, yawned, and stretched a paw up to them as if to say, “scratch my belly please.”

She laughed at a pair of dogs going at it in the street in front of a bus stop as half a dozen people stood by unphased. And she couldn’t believe it when we told her of seeing traffic stop in all four directions as a pack of dogs followed nature’s urgings in the middle of an intersection. She cracked up and said, “Well no wonder they sleep all day!”

These observations are in no way intended to undermine the need for people to take more responsibility for their pets, but again, to put things into perspective. Just because a dog is on the street does not mean it is unfed and homeless. Most of the dogs running around the busy streets have full, shiny coats, show little sign of hunger, seldom bark, and always responded with tail-wagging joy every time Alex stopped to pet them and scratch behind their ears. Kathleen insists that he was absolutely unable to pass a single dog without stopping to play for a moment. And certainly the sight of a strapping 6’4” (1.95 m) tall blond gringo kid playing with all the dogs in town gave the Chileans who saw him pause for a smile. The dogs certainly loved it!

For more dog-related posts, see:

It’s a Dog’s World
Lost Dogs: Quiltros and Heros
In Search of the Bicentennial Chile Dog (Includes pictures)
Bicentennial Chile Dog: The Winner
Pitbull Free to Roam

I’ll add pictures to this post soon, and now that things have calmed down a bit (vacation season in Chile!) I’ll be able to update more frequently. Stay tuned. Lots of good stuff coming!

44 responses to “Chile is Not a Third-World Country and other impressions

  1. It is great to see that foreign visitors do not see Chile as a third world country. Chile has made great progress in the last 30 plus years, and Chilenos should be proud of what their country has accomplished.
    Memories however are sometimes hard to erase, and for many citizens things must appear to be much the same. Not everyone has the opportunity of travelling abroad and be able to gain a new perspective.
    Having said all this, I still believe that much of the Chilean population has an inferiority complex. And I’m not alone when I make this observation.
    Author Sara Wheeler, “Chile, Travels in a Thin Country” has visited Chile on two occasions, and both were extended stays. In her book she mentions Chileans inferiority complex several times.
    Time will tell and I guess given enough time Chilenos will begin to see them differently and become more confident and proud of Chile’s achievement.

  2. Hi John-In these times it is not even necessary to travel–all it takes is a television to see that Chile has a standard of living that is much higher than many other parts of Latin America, although it may be as you say, that old memories are hard to erase. Chile’s so-called inferiority complex is interesting to observe. The country seems to oscillate between great pride and self-deprecation…an interesting phenomenon to be sure. I haven’t read Sara Wheeler’s book, although I am always leery of anyone who is willing to make sweeping statements after 2 visits. I find that the longer I’m here, the more complex it all becomes… or maybe it’s that I find my self closer and closer to the center and therefore more bound up in it all?

  3. Hi Margaret – On her second trip to Chile, Sara Wheeler spent months travelling the entire country from Arica to the Antarctica. She visited and lived with people I had never heard of. She is a keen observer and she was able to get a pretty accurate picture of Chile and the people’s psyche.
    You are a bit too close to the center, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, it does tend to make it a bit more difficult to keep an objective and impartial perspective.

  4. We stayed with what I see as a middle class family. They earned less than us but had a nicer house. They said over and over “We are the most modern of the South American countries” and “all parents want their sons to be engineers.” So Chile is definately not a third world country.
    Why don’t people ever speak of second world countries? But I’m not even sure it’s that.
    I saw two kinds of lives. One very compatible with a modern European one – teles, computers, fridges, shopping malls with equivalent prices and another life of being told to tip the girl packing your shopping bags with pennies (well the equivalent in pesos) because that was her ‘wage’, market stalls selling vegetables also costing pennies. It seemed like modern technology was valued and the peasant, farming, servant life wasn’t. But I was told the middle class is growing rapidly and wealth is trickling down.
    My son makes a minimum English wage. In Chile he supported an none working wife and they lived in a lovely house (with 5 dogs!) (all rescued strays!) (cost him a fortune in vet bills and dog food) and bought a car. In England they both have to work, so double the wages, but they can only aford a grotty one bedroomed flat to live in.
    I was upset to see disabled people begging, but every country has folk falling through the cracks, and being told “all our kids went to a paying school as public education is not good” but hopefully, with good ideas flying from one place to another on the internet, these things will get sorted.
    Chile reminded me of the Spain of my youth.

  5. @John, you may be right about my being too close to see some things squarely, but I think in large part it has to do with gaining perspective. When I first came to Chile I saw everything in black and white–it was all so clear, but now, nearly 20 years ago, I see so many more shades of gray. Very interesting, actually. I’ll have to look for Sara Wheeler’s work. Thanks for the tip!

  6. @Anne- very interesting comments–you hit on so many issues! I’ve often thought it curious how Chile flip-flops back and forth between apologizing for itself and chest-thumping. (“We are a 3rd world country” one day and “the Swiss of Latin America” the next).
    You also remind me of the surprise I felt when a mother told me that her teen-aged son went to England as an exchange student and she warned him to be judgmental because “they won’t have the lifestyle there that we do.” And it was true–no maids, no private school, far less fresh fruit and vegetables, etc.
    I also have friends who sold everything in the US to move here and now say they could never afford to go back to the States–just couldn’t afford it anymore!

  7. Sorry to gloss over the whole worldliness issue, you took the ramal? It’s my minidream! I’m going to do it soon, too. I even talked about it in that EMOL thing! I really want to get down to that region. It’s funny how it’s easier for me to get across the globe sometimes than just couple of regions away!

  8. I agree with Anne: present-day Chile reminds me too of the Spain of my own youth—in the 1970s—. As a matter of fact, we Chileans expect to acquire a collective standard of living similar to that of present-day Spain or Portugal—with better employment rates, of course—.
    At any rate, I’m glado to hear from a foreigner coming from a wealthy country that Chile does not belong to the Third World. As for dogs, I don’t particularly like them…

  9. @John Carr – I’d be interested in reading Sara Wheeler’s book. Where can I get in Chile?
    ——

    I find myself flip-flopping back and forth on this “third world” issue. I don’t think Chile is a third world country at all, but I always have a counterpoint to the argument that Chile is a developed country. I think a lot of people forget that all of this booming still leaves a lot to be desired when you say “developed”. Chile reminds me a lot of Italy in that it has come a long way and from a tourist’s perspective seems “developed”, but there are still a lot of areas where it needs to catch up, and that’s mainly in the middle-class, which is fundamental in a developing country. Restaurant, clothing, etc prices are high enough (in Santiago, at least) to compare easily to the U.S. (sometimes they are way higher!), but then you look at average income and see a huge disparity between the cost of something and what someone can actually afford to buy on their monthly “sueldo”. I guess in general I think that, yes, Chile is pretty developed but if you also look at how many people are making minimum wage, working 6 days a week and cannot imagine how they get by, especially consdering prices are constantly being raised (metro is at 600 pesos a pop during peak hours now!! that’s difficult for me to stomach).

  10. @Eileen- Yes! We did the Ramal–will write it up soon. We’ve been trying to do it for years. It was fun, but there are definitely some things to know before hand! Let me know if you go before I write it up and I’ll give you the scoop!
    @ Raúl from what I’ve seen of Portugal, I think Chile has already surpassed it. We took the train north from Lisboa and when we crossed the border into Spain it was like Dorothy stepping into Oz- like someone had turned on the technicolor. I was amazed at the stark difference between the two!

  11. @Isabel-good points about “not 3rd world” vs “developed.” I suppose this might be a good time to trot out some real definitions… But any way you look at it, Chile has a large and growing middle class that has a standard of living that is quite good in comparison with many places in the world.
    Anne talked about her son and daughter-in-law struggling to make ends meet in England and I wonder how much of that has to do with the cost of health care and taxes in general. The Chilean government does not seem to worry much about providing a safety net for individuals–that’s what families are for–so those without families not only fall through cracks, but crash on the rocks pretty quickly. I don’t think that’s the case in Europe…

  12. @Isabel – Sorry I am not able to help you regarding a place where you can buy Sara Wheeler’s book in Chile. I live in Canada, and of course here its avilable at most bookstores. Best person to ask is Margaret, since she is a resident ‘Chilena’.

  13. @Iz- I’m not sure whether you can find her here, but she’s available on Amazon. The reviews to her “Travels in a Thin Country” in themselves make for an interesting debate on travel and travel writing. She also seems to have a thing about poles (as in north and south) because she’s written about both.

  14. @Margaret – haha, a thing about poles. That made me laugh out loud here even though I think there must be something to that…what it does to live on either end…

    I’ll check it out on Amazon since I can now download it on my Kindle🙂

  15. oooh! Kindle–Can you download easily in Chile? I checked when they first came out and it wasn’t possible at that point… I could totally be interested in downloading novels and other books that cost more to ship than the cover price!

  16. well…the american antropologist did not find chile as a third world country????yeaaah if you comaper chile with african countries or peru,bolivia etc etcetc..but in chile is lot of poverty still…i live in valpo and i know what im saying..if yougo to the carlos van buren hospital…and you see people waiting for more than 3 hrs to get medical attention..plus soemtimes its 15 people in the emergency room.so inever saw that in oz or nz…….i was workingfor a contractors company in a container terminal for just 30 dollars a day…when the minimum wage in oz and nz is 12 hr…..lus about street dogs in valpo is a plague …dirty street full of dogs shiit……so true chile is getting better..slowly….but about the health public system is sucks…….workers rigths..even worst……

  17. Hi José. You’re right-Chile still has a lot to work on, but she is basing her comments on the Dominican Republic AND on the US–where there is far more poverty than most people here imagine. AND there is no socialized medicine. No insurance? No health care. That’s what Obama is trying to establish…but that’s another story. Anyway, no one is going to claim Chile is a wealthy country, but it definitely has far more to offer than many, perhaps most, in Latin America.
    (And, BTW- 15 people and 3 hours in a hospital waiting room doesn’t seem at all strange to me).
    About the dogs-I’ve got mixed feelings there. And yes, Valpo seems to have far more dogs than Stgo and you really do have to watch where you step (ick)! But again- that is an issue of owner responsibility. Taking care of your animals, having them neutered, and not abandoning them to become strays. Kathleen commented over and over about how friendly the street dogs were here in comparison to the DR, where people would abandon dogs for not being “bravo” (mean) enough. They would beat and half starve them to make them mean and territorial. You certainly don’t see much of that in Chile!

  18. @Jose – Creo entender tu frustacion con el estado de las cosas en Chile. Se ha hecho muchisimo progreso, pero como tu dices, todavia queda mucho que hacer. En cuanto al sistema de medicina, te deberias dar ‘con una piedra en el pecho’. En Estados Unidos la gente pierde todo lo que tienen (incluso la casa) cuando los seguros, que son muy caros, no cubren todos los gastos de medicinas y hospital. En Chile, yo creo que casi a todo nivel, es posible conseguir servicios de salud. El resto se esta haciendo y construyendo rapidamente. Paciencia amigo.

  19. Una buena forma de ver la bipolaridad de la psiquis chilena es en el deporte. Cuando la selección de fútbol gana, aunque sea un partido irrelevante, somos los mejores del planeta, vamos a romper las redes y si ganamos, fue por que les pasamos por encima al oponente.
    Por otro lado, si la selección pierde, es por que son unos vagos, no mojan la camiseta, son malos y siempre lo serán.
    Hay que notar, que en las victorias, “ganamos”, en las derrotas, “ellos perdieron”.
    Lo mismo ocurre entonces con estas aparentes contradicciones al describir el país, se tiende a exagerar lo bueno y lo malo, y el efecto se multiplica cuando se habla con alguien que no es chileno o no vive acá.

  20. Marmo! Tanto tiempo pues! Que gusto verte por aquí de nuevo!
    Excelente tu ejemplo! No puedo sino pensar en el Chino Ríos en ese respecto–era chileno cuando jugaba bien y “necesitaba un siquiatra” cada vez que perdió! Seguro que hay cientos de casos más!

  21. I find that people always want to tell me the third world country bit. Luis and I went as far as to file visa paperwork for him to go to the US but then backed out. We decided that in Chile, his “third-world” country, we can actually have a better, yes better, quality of life than in the US for the time being. He’s got a great job and we can be independent of family. So, it may not be luxury but it’s ours and it’s comfortable.

    I usually respond to Chileans who tell me that that I have been to third-word countries, underdeveloped countries, periphery countries, whatever you want to call them. Chile’s infrastructure and stability is world class in comparison.

  22. Thank you Margaret! I´ve been touring south of Chile with Marmotita, so internet became a distant memory xD.
    I think things are a little more complex than first, second or third world countries; you can find someone poor and miserable in Germany, or someone rich and happy in Bolivia. This reminds me a post in Sara´s blog, somehow connected with this one. Maybe we should see our personal position in all of this, instead of think about countries as categories.
    Chile offers opportunities, as other countries do, and depends on us to take advantage of them; the most developed country in the world, is where I´m the happiest, in my book. (a groundhog´s book, by the way, remember, february 2nd is our day xD)
    Just my opinion.
    And happy and honored to write again in CachandoChile, oh, and having internet again xD

  23. @Marmo! Feliz 125º Día del Marmota (y Marmotita)! (everyone else: Not so inside joke… curious? Discover more about Punxsutawney Phil at:
    http://www.groundhog.org/groundhog-day/about-groundhog-day/
    Hope you enjoyed your trip! I love southern Chile!
    And yes, of course this is a very complex issue. I’ve been giving some thought to a separate post on the 1st vs 3rd world / Developed vs developing issue, but it’s a rather big challenge. Very interesting, but daunting.
    I haven’t seen Sara’s post–do you have the link?

  24. @Sara- sorry! just saw your comment (and read your blog)-first- congrats on your thumbs-up medical report and great news that you’re coming back to Chile! And yes, I agree with you about being able to make a very nice life here in Chile. I’m sure people in the States wonder why in the world C & I stayed here rather than going back to the US, but of course, they haven’t been here. Kathleen (of current post fame) even admitted to me as she left that she agreed that we had a very nice life here and she finally understood why I stayed. Sure, I’d have more luxuries in the US, but I have everything I NEED here, and frankly, quite a bit more of what I WANT.
    So, long story and all… congrats and I’m sure you and Luis will be very happy here!

  25. What a great post and an interesting set of responses. My father-in-law was telling me a while back that Chile is expected to officially transition from a 3rd to a 2nd world country in the next 10 years or so based on the percentage of the population below the poverty line. I agree that on the whole Chile doesn’t appear to be a 3rd world country, in comparison to my own experiences and those of people I know, though you do still see pockets of 3rd world-type conditions.

    It is still too early to tell if Chile has been a wise choice in financial terms for our family-though I am leaning towards “good choice” at least in terms of my career. I am struck by the cost of some things here (expensive), but at the same time, there are other things that, within a similar income range, are affordable here that are impossible in the U.S. (i.e., a nana and vacationing for a month at the coast)

  26. Hi Annje-Yeah, I really wish I felt competent enough in economics to keep the topic going! but I did check the definition of 1st, 2nd, & 3rd world and found I wasn’t far off. 1st is industrialized & developed, 2nd is soviet/Chinese/communist block (Chile certainly ain’t goin’ THERe any time soon), and 3rd, which seems to lump developing and underdeveloped countries. My source (ok, I confess, it’s Wikipedia) says that 1st-3rd world is cold-era non-PC and we should be speaking in terms of development, and the maps actually show Chile on the developed side of developing, so we’re good there.
    With respect to your comment about what’s expensive or not, I remember a conversation with a shoe repair guy many years ago. I marveled at the possibility of getting my favorite boots fixed and told him it would be absurd in the US (cheaper to replace than repair) and he said something very astute. Here in Chile goods are expensive and services are cheap–the opposite of the US–that the US values it’s people and Chile does not. Gulp. But think about it. Whether or not it’s a matter of valuing people, the fact is that here we pay little for labor and a lot for material items!

  27. I think Chile´s path goes somewhere else. Not that it will never be somehow developed, but that it must find its own way to grow.
    The resource exploiting, industrial and technological model was the way to develop a country with some advantages during the 20th century, but today, those spaces are almost full; trying to make cars or technology products entirely in Chile, would put us in race with other countries that have a long years of advantage over us, like China, India or Brazil, and would put us in the situation Argentina faces now, making some of their own cars and computers, but with a heavy and expensive toll on tax payer´s money, and almost zero posibilities of exporting these products (without the internal subsidies, they get too expensive to compete in an international enviroment against cheaper Asian, high quality European or strongly marketed American products).
    On the other hand, Chile´s road to development could use some of the advantages of the country, let´s take for example, the cheaper vegetables. It looks like a 3rd world strategy to depend on them, but if we think a little more, they are easy to produce, cheaper than the equivalent in most other countries, and have the strong advantage of being produced in the oposite season of northern hemisphere countries. If we develop and invest in better quality and quantity, we can introduce gradually more technology and added value to that advantage (why sell just apples, when you can also produce milk, honey, and wheat? Let´s make some pies and sell them) This model can be seen with wine; we could sell just tons of grapes, but someone had the idea of taking advantage of the weather, and started to make wine. Today Chilean wine have good standards, and produces more jobs and money than just selling apples.
    The vegetable part of the model is just a partial idea. The same can apply to lithium (to make car batteries), a wide range of biological technologies (a sub product of making food, like some medicines, better crops, genetical research, and so on), or any other idea that considers who we are and what we have.
    We can´t, and we musn´t try to exploit all our forest just to make paper, killing our other natural resources in the process, or sleep for years waiting the cooper to deplete, or just sit back and depend only on tourism.
    Many countries in the past reached certain levels of development depleting their own natural resources, and then switching to industrial complexes, buying new resources from other countries. We must think in future development and advantages, to find our own place and space to grow.

  28. I would love to see Chile someday. Your writing makes it sound lovely and complex. Often it is too easy for outsiders to write of a nation as third world. That is insulting and ignorant. Each place has its beautiful people, places, culture.

  29. Thanks PharmGirl (love your name!)
    Yes, Chile IS a beautiful place, but since it’s in Latin America and off the beaten path (literally at the ends of the Earth), people just don’t know WHAT to expect of it. I’m glad you find the complexity is present in this blog. It’s never all one way or the other 8and wouldn’t it be boring if it were!). I hope you DO get to Chile one day!

  30. I think a good parameter to know where we are in terms of quality of life is hdi (human development index), Chile is 45th but we must be at least 42nd to have very high human development.

    http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/

  31. Thanks Fernando. Pretty interesting statistics. The same HDR site defines it as a “way of measuring development by combining indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment and income into a composite human development index, the HDI.”
    I was surprised to see some of the countries that outrank Chile, which at 45 is the first Latin American country on the list of 169 countries (Argentina is 46).

  32. I have enjoyed reading your blog about Chile. After having lived in Chile with my Chilean husband for several years now, I agree that Chile should not be classified as a third world country. However, I think that categories such as third, second and first world often do not always accurately depict all levels and stages of development of a country, especially one that is as complex as Chile. I agree that there are things/lifestyles that foreigners from developed countries can have and experience in Chile that they may not be able to have or experience in their country (ie. nannys, month long vacations to the beach, mano de obra barata, cheap food from markets). But also, in my humble opinion, I think that material riches are abundant in Chile and if they were divided more equally, this would increase the level of development by creating a more true middle class. But the path to dividing material goods more equally is complex. It involves wider access to quality educational systems, transparent and functional political systems, equitative taxes, availability of literature/arts/cultural events, an understanding of the impacts of civic responsibility, and enthusiasm for volunteerism. Many of these things are happening in Chile, but at different rates and currently are at different stages of development.

    Chile is a very divided country and that there are areas/neighborhoods that are very developed. It seems that many foreigners from developed countries who live in Chile reside in those neighborhoods. Chile is developed in material aspects, but not as much in terms of social/cultural aspects (ie. tolerance, diversity, universal quality public education, access to opportunities for all despite last name, institutional ties, pitutos) It is possible to live a first world existance in Chile and many foreigners and Chileans do, however much of the mentality is very traditional and doesn’t allow for opportunities for people of all backgrounds to progress. Particularly in Santiago, the urban culture seems very cutthroat and one has to learn to survive in the city- levels of depression are high and people work long hours which many Chileans have expressed are not the most efficient hours worked (they are just there to complete their work hours).

    I think that there are great things about Chile and for the region it has achieved very high hdi stats- however I think in terms of social and cultural development there is much to be done. But that is one of the exciting things about living here- there is much to be done and one can have a great impact. Te felicito por tu blog- thanks for the ideas and discussion!

  33. Hi Lucie-you’ve certainly touched on many very key points here! Good distinction between material goods and mindset. Also related is the value of human labor. Once at a shoe repair shop (yes! non-Chile readers-they DO exist in here!) I commented that shoe repair was essentially unheard of in the US–that it would cost more to repair a shoe than buy a new pair. The guy said (and so very rightly) that it’s because here goods are expensive and services are cheap. Human labor is not highly valued. Of course we like that when we want shoes repaired, but not so much when we are on the receiving end of that equation! So much of this is very deeply ingrained in the culture that it will take generations to change. I still believe, however, that Chile still leads the pack among Latin American countries. Not saying it’s perfect, but definitely far from imperfect!

  34. Agreed about Chile being a leader among Latin American countries. There are many good things. After having lived in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic for several years, Chile seems like a whole different ballgame- both culturally and materially. I miss some things about those ‘tropical’ countries also though despite their being more underdeveloped.

    I also really enjoyed your post about being flexible as an ex-pat- very important life lesson although challenging to undo 30 years of cultural training and socialization. I agree with Kyle- I tend to continue to bang my head- not always so effective, but sometimes feels good in the beginning stages to get the frustration out- but after a while you gotta learn to step through the other door.

  35. Hi Lucie- You lived in the DR too? Then I’m sure you can identify with some of the things Kathleen was saying! (She was in Samaná, BTW, and you?)
    Ah- the Flexibility post! “Flexibility & Creative Thinking: a 10-Step Plan to Intercultural Survival
    And yes, agreed, a bit of good, old-fashioned head banging CAN feel good for a while–until it hurts, of course!

  36. Pingback: Riding the Ramal | Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  37. I am currently in Morocco and have thought of Kathleen’s comments and this post many times. It’s true. Chile is NOT a Third World country…

  38. Gringa enamorá de Chile: en ké mundo está Corinto???????
    (yo quiero leer tu viaje por el ramal de la Carmela de San Rosendo)

  39. I live in Southern Chile four years now, Chile is a poor country. because there is no possibility for poor people to go a good doctor. They live in very poor housing. Chile plays with the statistics of and poor people and it is all nonsense. The weather now is -2 C outside and they live in a house of chipboard, 90% humidity!

  40. You don’t live there how can you say that?

  41. Anyways, this is the comment I posted:

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I appreciate your post but you shouldn’t throw around words like ‘first’ and ‘thrid-world countries’ so loosely and freely, they’re outdated .

    Anyway, Mexico is currently the tenth largest economy of the world and is considered a “newly industrialized ” nation, so in the traditional sense, it’s not really a ‘third-world country” either. I don’t think you’re fair by lumping it with the DR and Ecuador, which are the among the most underdevoloped countries of Latin America. When it comes to Human Development Index and Industrialization, Mexico is closer to Chile (and in the same group with Argentina, Panama (recently) , Brazil) than with the DR and Ecuador.

    Lat.Am. is more of a continuum, not such a conclusive distinction between first world and third countries. For instance, both Panama and Costa Rica, which have historically not been very developed or outstanding countries, are starting to grow and become very developed in the recent years. Check out videos and photos of Panam city, it is amazing and they are expected to continue to grow in the years to come.

    “Chileans tend to regard themselves as Europe’s poor cousins instead of Latin America’s wealthy siblings…and that in itself bears some real reflection.”

    You are very spot on when you say that and honestly, that’s a rather alarming statement there. Chileans seem to have a bit of an identity complex, which perhaps goes hand in hand with their new (undeniably) impressive development. They seem unable to reconcile their past and their roots with the type of country that they strive to be. But Chile is not an “off the boat” nation like the US or Uruguay, they seem to have a lot of trouble with accepting themselves as a mestizo country, and will often exaggerate the recent European immigration (mainly German and British) while downplaying their Amerindian influence. I believe this to be a rather reprehensible situation.

  42. Sorry Veronique! As I’m sure you’ve realized, I have not been much involved in the blog for quite a while now and some things get missed. thanks for writing!

  43. Thank you! For a second I thought I was being deliberately ignored.
    I appreciate the attention. Cheers!

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