Santiago de Chile Part I: Memories by Bike

US anthropologist Kathleen Skozcen recently visited Chile for the first time and left with much to remember—and much to think about. She begins sorting through what she saw, heard, learned, experienced, and felt, forming her own memories while reflecting upon the city from the bike lane…

Santiago: Memories that make a city… and a city that makes memories…

Guest Post by Kathleen Skozcen*

I rented a bright green bicycle from Bicicleta Verde on a gorgeous summer day in January, and was they told me to head straight down Av. Las Monjitas and into the heart of the city. Riding a bike in Santiago is enough of a risk without worrying about dogs (more on that in my next post), but I have to say it’s a risk worth taking. Santiago’s neighborhoods are distinct and worth exploring on wheels.

Kathleen Skoczen in Santiago, January 2011

Kathleen Skoczen during her bike ride through Santiago, Jan 2011

Just getting started here–See more! The many paseos, or pedestrian-only streets offer respite from the taxis zooming around you and the less friendly Audis trying to run you down, although these streets, like the sidewalks, are often overflowing with people. Did I say overflowing?

It reminds me of NYC on Black Friday, but here that kind of crowd in Santiago is only a daily lunch hour. As I moved further west, past Plaza de Armas, the distinct neighborhoods and charm of the past reminded me of a rich, colonial history that would probably take years to fully appreciate. The architecture—what has survived the many earthquakes—is precious if seemingly under-appreciated.

Plaza de Armas- Mapuche statue

Sculpture in honor of Chile's Mapuche peoples, Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chile

There is evidence enough of what the earthquakes have claimed, but every now and again, a beautiful old 18th century building has been or is being restored, keeping the past alive and giving it its due.

Not having explored every corner of the capital, it’s hard to imagine anywhere that would capture the romance and detail of the past the way this area does for me.

The ubiquitous graffiti also suggests a richer meaning beyond the entrancing paintings. Winding my way through the neighborhoods became that much slower as I had to capture this mural, then that mural, then the next…. its easy to see why the average Chileno is so much more cultured than most Americans with all this expression going on around them. If graffiti is scribbling on walls–and it is in most of the world–then we have to say that in Chile (at least what I’ve seen), empty walls are canvases and art is a robust form of life. Can you not help but love this place?

Kathleen Skoczen: Santiago graffiti "Vale" Artehaga.com

Santiago Graffiti, January 2011

I rented a bike with the idea of not only seeing the city at a more intimate proximity, but also of making my way down to the Museo de la Memoria y Derechos Humanos. This contemporary building in the midst of colonial South America draws you in immediately. The haunting rocks drowning in water that guard the unyielding chiseled and commanding square block building, the concave concrete that pulls you down was enough, even for those who already knew what was coming, to suggest that this museum would be unlike any other.

Museo de la Memoria, Santiago de Chile

Museo de la Memoria, Santiago de Chile

If the museum’s exterior is meant to jolt you out of your comfort, it is only so that you can brace yourself for the cruel reality of our world. It begins with a global overview of truth commissions, visually and through text, documenting the many horrors that remind us Chile is far from unique in its embattled history. As one takes time to review each of the 30 countries represented, photos put a human face to the victims of such heinous atrocities. Then you can move into the museo and into the history of the Chilean military coup and its aftermath. That the coup (the golpe: root word ‘to hit’) is so well documented that it gives testimony to the fact that this was no popular revolt against a Marxist regime.

Surrounded by carefully presented documents, film footage, photos and memories, we are pulled into a dark chapter of Chilean history. Allende is alive and speaking to us from the past as suddenly as the Junta then explains their motives and justifies their actions, even before the worst of it has begun.

Museo de la Memoria

Museo de la Memoria: Remembering. Santiago de Chile

Gazing occasionally out the window to pull yourself back to the present, you are confronted with a distorted vision of the outside world, covered by gauze, keeping reality blurred, as if to remind you that you have been captured in the past and cannot escape without completing the journey. No third world country would be able to give such a measured, thoughtful, and careful rendition of its past.

A father called to his wife and kids to come and see the document they were looking for—an archive of a victim recorded on a computer screen in a hall with faux candles that are at once burning with memory and crystals lit with electricity and a brilliance that exudes a hope for the future through the careful documentation of the sacrifice all around you. Leaving this family to its own history (was it a father, brother, cousin, neighbor?), I moved on through film footage of family members arguing with soldiers, letters to fathers who would never read them, notes scratched on paper and cloth as final pleas for help. Up you move, from underground to the skyline, out of the dark history and back to the sunlight, and to the completion of the story: the end of the dictatorship, but also a sense of justice and purpose for the victims.

On the top floor, looking out over the Santiago skyline I reflected on the workers who must live in this history day in and day out. How do they manage it? I did not leave exhausted by emotion, however, but renewed and reverent of the Chilean people; you can’t but admire their perseverance and ultimate victory over the evil: oh that my own nation would be so brave.

To be continued…
Leave your comments below and then click here to see Part II: Of Dogs and Men…

Dr. Kathleen Skoczen, PhD, is Chair of the Anthropology Department at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven CT, USA. She has done extensive research on issues of human health as well as tourism, primarily in the Dominican Republic. This was her first visit to Chile.

65 responses to “Santiago de Chile Part I: Memories by Bike

  1. It is so interesting to see Santiago through another lens. I love how she describes it. There have been a few articles (as we have all seen) lately about Santiago, and it’s like this city I don’t even know. Of course, I have just returned recently and have small kids so I don’t get to explore as much as I’d like.

    I love her description of the Museo de la Memoria. I need to go!

    I have to say though, there was a sentence that kind of jumped out and and surprised me a little and then bothered me a little, and I don’t think it is because I am “American” and defensive: “its easy to see why the average Chileno is so much more cultured than most Americans” I guess I was just left wondering who the average chileno is and who most americans are and what “cultured” means…?

  2. Hi Annje. Yes, I have enjoyed seeing Chile through Kathleen’s eyes (and those of her son)…so many things that I have just gotten used to and don’t notice so much any more.
    Good point about the culture question, although I also had a similar impression when I first came. Let’s see if we can get Kathleen to respond!

  3. Fully agree with Annje’s comments. Whether you are a Chileno or a gringo, Kathleen does indeed do a marvelous job of describing the ‘Chilean Scene’. I wouldn’t for one second though pretend to explain what she means by “why the average Chileno is so much more cultured than most Americans”. Having lived in the good old USA and attended university in Ohio, I can only give my two cents. The overall impression a foreign visitor gets after a while is that, in general, most Americans are unaware or uninterested in the world at large. It is not foremost on most of their minds.

    In a recent post, Margaret mentioned a “Skype” meeting between 2 Chilean teenagers and a classroom in Colorado, where one of the questions the Americans students asked was; “So, do you have giraffes in your back yard”? I believe most Chilean students know a lot more about the US than American students will ever know about Chile or any other country.

    There is an expression in Chile that refers to Chilenos loving to engage in discussions about “rearranging the world”. Many Chileans are interested in what goes on outside of their borders. The same can not be said about the population in America.

  4. Hi Annje; Good points, and yes, especially as an anthropologist, it’s problematic to make sweeping generalizations. But a swing through any American city these days reveals little or none of the expressive culture (e.g., art, political commentary, spiritual reflection) I saw in San Pedro, Valparaiso, and Santiago (and on the roads to and from major cities). Indeed, I drive through New Haven daily and witness a much different flavor (broken roads, graffiti that comes in the form of scribbles, etc.) I don’t want to be too political or partisan here, but our politicians are busy blocking investment in public spaces, even as we “reload” at the ballot box and elsewhere to downsize spending on anything but the Pentagon. I am sorry to say, as a world traveler, the U.S. has much to learn about how we might support something other than war-making and corporate profit. And yup, I’ve been to places like Ithaca, Santa Fe, and Madison, Ct., those places are too few and far between to instill a sense of the aesthetic back into the heartland and mainstream of Americana, but here’s hoping that will change!

  5. Hi John- I think you just DID explain what Kathleen meant by her comment! 😉
    And yes, that Skype interview (on our sadly now defunct Santiago Radio program) was pretty eye-opening in a rather sad way… although I’m really hoping the kid was just being a smart ass and not REALLY that dumb!
    But then, on the other hand… if our own president (Piñera, that is) thinks that leopards are in danger of extinction in Chile, it’s not that far-fetched that a high school kid in Colorado might think we have giraffes roaming around in Santiago!

  6. First, let me say, I am NOT at all arguing that people from the US are cultured-more against the idea that somehow the average Chileno is more cultured than the average gringo–and again, not at all arguing that Chileans are not cultured. Because I know lots of people here and there that know very little about very little and lots of people here and there that might surprise you with how much they know about a lot.

    But John, there is a reason kids from Chile know a lot about the US–it is not because they study up on US history in school, it is because the US has a pop culture that is hugely global and it is a world power, for better or for worse, that is scrutinized in the media worldwide. But does watching movies based in the US and listening to music from there mean that Chileans know more about the US? I would argue NO! But it is hardly fair, honestly, to compare that to what US kids know about Chile, specifically, and whether there are giraffes here or not (there are a lot of fantastical beliefs about south america and africa just as there are many fantastical ideas about the US based on pop culture representations). I have met Europeans who have no idea where Chile is!

    Should US kids know more about other countries? That is an unequivocal YES! But let’s compare apples to apples! I mean, compare what US kids and Chilean kids know about India or China… I am afraid we’d all come up a little empty-handed😉

    Kathleen, I agree with a lot of your points and surely I’d lose an argument with a seasoned anthropologist when it comes to what is considered cutural expression and how that is compared and what it means that is expressed in one way in one place and in a different way in another and how those differences are interpreted (and hey, I love political, but this is Peg’s blog). But I am not sure that what politics supports or not is reflected in the cultured-ness of the average citizen.

  7. About those kids acting like a smart ass and being REALLY dumb. Based on my time on this planet, I have found little correlation between intelligence and knowledge. Some of the dumbest people I have met have several college degrees. On the other hand I have run across many who are plain “wise” and sometimes “brilliant” and have little education to show for.

  8. Annjie – Have you ever watched one of those interviews Jay Leno of Tonight show, does on the streets of Los Angeles? He interviews regular off the street Americans to get their opinion on any number of issues. Their lack of knowledge of ANYTHING American is simply unfathomable. Rick Mercer a Canadian comedian from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) did a skit on “phony” Canadian laws and interviewed HARVARD students and college professors. Their answers were not a lot better that those of Jay Leno, Tonight’s show.
    Is this an apple to apples comparison? I don’t know. I’ll let the anthropologists decide.

  9. John, yes, I think we should base our judgements on Jay Leno’s skits. I am sure they are edited to be absolutely representative.

    It is easy, and absolutely tempting to poke fun at Americans for what they don’t know, and often it is justified, but I don’t think you are getting my point.

    and yes, I have seen it, it is hilarious… in fact, I will be showing a clip in one of the classes I am teaching here in Chile.

  10. Annjie – I believe I DO get your point. Americans have a lot work ahead of them when it comes to improving education. Chileans have a full plate also. They are now (I hope) beginning to realize that a great part of the world is watching through things like this blog. And that is good. This is what Chileans have always wanted … that someone out there paid attention.
    We can go on and on about the pros and cons, pluses and minuses. America is and it has the richest most developed country in the history of the universe. Chile is a tiny country beginning to come out of extreme poverty. Can any comparison made be a fair apple to apples?
    I’ll let you be the judge.

  11. See? This is what I love about this blog… interaction, debate, and the opportunity (for me, anyway) to get some new insights into things.
    Annje- none of this “this is Peg’s blog” stuff- I’m just moderating here! Have at it. I love your opinions (which of course does not mean I don’t reserve the right to disagree from time to time!)
    @John, I have to say I’m agreeing with Annje on the Jay Leno thing. They’re going for humor, not doing a scientific or sociological survey.
    I’d also like to take Annje’s pop culture comment a bit farther. Yes, US pop culture is all over the media (social and otherwise), but it’s also all over the news. Why? It’s a big and powerful country. People pay attention. Chile is just not as newsworthy–with perhaps the many, many exceptions in 2010–and the average guy on the street DID take notice of the earthquake and miners and all.
    I also have to say that with teachers like Annje and Kathleen on the job, there are a bunch of students who are going to become a lot more aware in the years to come! So glad there are profs like you guys out there–but we need to clone y’all!

  12. This is Margaret’s blog, so I’ll be short. Here is one of many Rick Mercer’s interviews with Americans.

    Enjoy!

  13. I am not sure that Leno’s editing played a big part on this. If you don’t beliebve me, then watch the Youtube video above. You may change your mind.

  14. Dare I bring up Tiger Mom? I just heard her on the radio. Can we all agree, that Americans can be a bit more humble (is it really the best place on earth?) and that American teenagers sh/could put down their computers or xboxes once in awhile and go to a museum. We simply do not celebrate poets, artists, and authors to the degree they do elsewhere… and if you are a boy interested in this, in the average American high school, it comes at great social cost. There are lots of Americans trying to change this culture, and yup, there are a lot of healthy exceptions, but we can learn a lot about day to day cultural expression from the world from our South American friends. I found Santiago a big inspiration, I totally get why Peg stays even though we miss her terribly! I say this as my son sits nearby playing the piano so well, I’m sure the angels are listening!

  15. Hi, Margaret:
    When did Piñera say that leopards are in danger of extinction in Chile? Maybe he meant “pumas”?
    Piñera and I were classmates in the last year of high school. He was one of the bright fellows, but somewhat petulant (“sobrado”—here’s a new word for your Chilean glossary). He could never commit such a foolish mistake…unless he meant something else—as is frequently the case—.

  16. Good thing Sarah Palin is not reading this, as she may claim that she can hear your son playing,🙂
    I think I can understand why Annjie, as well as many other Americans, may not take well to “sharp and pointy” observations such as the ones discussed on this blog. When you have been the most developed, wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth, it is difficult to suddenly change one’s diet to a daily dose of “humble pie”.

    I this say this without reservation … America faces huge challenges, however they have the will to overcome any obstacles in front of them. I’m confident that once again my great American friends will come out victorious.

  17. Interesting post – it’s always nice to see one’s adopted hometown through a visitor’s eyes. And I’ve just read through all of the comments and found them very interesting as well.

    Kathleen, you mention in your latest comment that American teens could do to step away from technology and see a museum. I don’t disagree, but I also think the same could be said of Chileans. I can’t think of many Chilean friends of mine in their 20s (across social classes) who spend their weekends at Museo de la Memoria. I DO find that young Chileans tend to be more politically involved than my friends of the same age in the US, and things like graffiti and other art forms are very tied to political expression for those people who are particularly interested in politics. I don’t however think that Chilean 20-somethings are more cultured across the board – they may refer to their country as the land of poets, but most of them aren’t actually reading Neruda or Mistral.

  18. Oops, John posted this while I was writing my last comment, and I have to respond!

    I think I can understand why Annjie, as well as many other Americans, may not take well to “sharp and pointy” observations such as the ones discussed on this blog. When you have been the most developed, wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth, it is difficult to suddenly change one’s diet to a daily dose of “humble pie”.

    Personally, I find this a little patronizing, especially when directed at expats. Part of what I learned from moving abroad was that the way I grew up doing things wasn’t necessarily the best way – of course I didn’t think that the US had ALL the answers prior to my move, but I will admit that there were beliefs I held that had never been challenged while I was living in my home country. I now think that a very valuable part of my expat experience has been that opening of my eyes which John’s comment seems to imply I and other US natives have yet to go through. Any disagreement I have with a negative/not 100% glowing observation about the US or the people in it is because I just happen to disagree, not because I am defensive about where I’m from.

  19. Hi Emily – My Apologies to you and to any expat I may have offended. My comments were never meant at expats. By simple virtue of residing in a foreign country, you are more aware that most people who have never travelled abroad. The fact that you are talking about it proves my point even further.
    What I did mean to say is that criticism of “one’s ways” is hard for anybody to accept. As you know, lately the Americans have had their share of criticism, both from abroad and from WITHIN.
    Don’t want to repeat myself, however my comments are meant for those citizens who are still unaware of the world they live in, and blame most of their daily challenges on ‘cheap Chinese imports”.

  20. Wow! See what happens when I step out for a bit! You guys just take off without me… YAY!! Glad to see that! Keep it up! but now to try and get my 2 pesos in…
    @Kathleen… re Tiger Mothers- that’s the book I was telling you about. “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. Heard a review of it on NPR while you were here: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/11/132833376/tiger-mothers-raising-children-the-chinese-way. Complete opposite extreme and we can talk tons about that and different ways of child rearing in the future!
    @everybody– about education in general–I think we could ALL do better. When I first came here I was amazed at how much my Chilean counterparts knew about the arts and history and literature, etc. I mean, I had a Master’s degree and years of work experience; what door was I standing behind when those subjects came up in school? And then it hit me. Those same cultural whizzes had almost no problem solving skills whatsoever. I realized that the difference in education systems was that they had been taught to memorize facts and I had been taught to solve problems. I think what we need is something in the middle!

  21. @Raúl- it’s true. Piñera DID say leopards. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. I’m sure he meant pumas, but he SAID leopards. That’s what happens when he drops the script and starts improvising!
    Interesting that you knew him in school. I have no doubts that he is a very intelligent man, but he sure says some odd things sometimes!
    And thanks for the new vocab word!
    PS: here’s the link to the “lapsus”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRTd7ejbJ-Q

  22. Margaret, please feel to use your arbitration skills here. Emily found my comments a “little patronizing, especially when directed at expats”. I think you know me pretty well by now and if you read my comments you’ll see that I was referring to the American population at large, not to expats in Chile. Your intervention will be greatly appreciated,🙂

  23. Wow. the one thing that stood completely out to me was that same comment: “”the average Chileno is so much more cultured than most Americans”. hmm.
    i copy pasted it for my comment only to realize the rest of you have been going at it already.

    I don’t know that I can agree or disagree, simply because both comparisons mention “average Chilean” and “most Americans” and frankly I’m not sure I can quite comprehend what either of those would be. Truthfully, Jay Leno’s American isn’t the American I know. But they’re out there. I think I’m probably closer to seeing the average Chilean than the average American. At least, I think socially I’m perhaps a little more exposed to an “average Chilean” than perhaps the Providencia/Las Condes crowd that the majority of my gringa friends are surrounded by, and who certainly aren’t representitive of the country as a whole. Anyway, rather than agree or disagree, the statement just kind of took me back. … I suppose my thought was, what could a visitor possibly have done or experienced, or who met, during a visit that brought them to this conclusion? I want to hear that story!

    In my experience, the Chileans I meet tend to know a lot about what they see in American movies, but not much about American culture outside of that. In general, most of my Chileno friends seem to have a world view that sometimes clashes with mine, and was constructed in a very different way than mine as it is very based on stereotypes and tidbits from TV. (This is probably true of the average American too, but that didn’t fly in the social or educational circles I grew up in, where someone who knew more on a subject was bound to correct or critisize you).

    Anyway, while considering my opinion, it reminded me of one of my most recent conversations (with a Chilean). Someone told me they had a new work opportunity abroad. They couldn’t remember the name of the country, but it was one of “those countries where they wear the turbans- but not Jerusalen.” Further in the conversation it was established that the country was “Egipcio'””. Long story short, it turned out to be Singapore.
    I find conversations frequently go like this, where I just have to let things slide.. Jerusalem being a country, confusing the nationality for the country name, the un-P.C.-ness of it all, and finally the fact that somehow Singapore gets stereotyped as a country where people wear turbans…
    And I just sit there with my mouth shut, because people would resent me for correcting and/or making it known that I knew more about it

    Anyway my other question was, like Annje … what does “cultured” mean? Chileans certainly seem to place an importance on certain manners and norms, and education is, in theory, very important. But I don’t see many books being read, most people I know can’t spell correctly (especially the b vs v, and when to start a word or not with H), and interest in “the arts” is confined mostly to Hollywood films… So it would really be interested to see what was observed that made Chileans seem so cultured, and if the source was particularily representative of the norm.

    Margaret – I agree 200% with the cultural difference in education… problem solving vs. memorization.

  24. John, I appreciate the clarification, but since you specifically mentioned Annje, you were referring to at least one expat in your original comment – it was perhaps my mistake to extrapolate that you were talking about all Americans, including expats.

    I do of course agree that many people are quick to defend their ways – it’s happened plenty of times to me as Chileans stumble across my blog, interpret a post as little more than “gringa hates Chile” and leave a comment telling me how wrong I am and how great Chile is.

  25. Great discussion everyone! But I’d say bottom line is that the basic thing we’re debating here is the problem of generalizing. In Kathleen’s defense (because not only do I know her, but because I was with her during much of her time here in Chile and can fill in more of the blanks behind her statements), she’s not giving an “expert opinion” but rather her gut-level reactions to her first encounter with Chile.
    Of course she didn’t have time to meet “most Chileans,” but she met quite a few and had log conversations with several (friends of ours, so of course they were remarkable people—Aww!)
    But she was talking more about what the CITY said about itself. For example, what was quite literally written on the urban landscape–as she said (both in text and comments), she was struck by the ART in Santiago’s street art, graffiti that has no business being mentioned in the same breath as the tags she sees at home, at the street performers–at busy intersections, musicians in subways, plazas, parks, etc. We stumbled onto a free concert at Iglesia San Francisco the night before she left–it was packed to the hilt with all kinds of people from all walks of life… These are things that an outsider notices–things that those of us who have been here a long time have balanced out with other aspects of culture that time and experience have allowed us to develop a broader perspective. Expats–think back to when you first came–weren’t you more than a bit amazed?
    The whole “dumb American” issue is more of the same. The older I get, the more convinced I am that there are all kinds of people in every society. And some are just much louder about publicizing their stupidity. The danger is when others start listening to them–as is the case with certain very vocal political movements…

  26. Not to belabor the point, I humbly want to mention a couple issues. Blogs are great! Where else can so many diverse people with so many different backgrounds have a ‘friendly’ exchange like this one? I believe that by engaging in these discussions we all come out richer.
    I left Chile when I was young man because I loved it. Yes, because I loved all the things that were great about it, but couldn’t stomach the narrow mindedness of so many.

    I love America and Americans, and that is where I found peace and made a many friends.

    Being a bit of an idealist I sometimes get disappointed to see how such a great country is in so much turmoil. It’s hard for me sometimes to watch them self-destruct. Am I being an alarmist? I don’t think so.

    There are huge cracks in the family unit, the health care system is still a mess, corruption in financial institutions is rampant, the education system is failing millions of students, local and state wide infrastructure needs billions for repair and maintenance plus millions of unemployed, to name just a few.
    I hope and pray that your great nation will soon wake up and start on new course of action that will once again make your country one the best and most advanced places on earth.

  27. Hi Matt – Margaret was wondering if we made it to Chile last year. No, we didn’t. I also mentioned to her that the ‘cazuela and empanadas’ still stands. She was hoping that you would decide not to dance on tables. I have no idea what she meant,🙂 LOL.

  28. @Matt – Woops, I messed up. I left the word “invitation” out. You know what I’m referring to. BTW, we all know you DO have an opinion. We also know you are not too shy, so give us your 2 pesos worth on this subject.

  29. John, you are a trouble maker!😉

  30. Who me? I am just an innocent bystander. How in heavens name do you have time to respond? Are you there yet?

  31. No, this is an automated response… I programmed it to say that!😉

  32. Wow! I get gotta get me one those apps!

  33. Very interesting.
    My fellow Chileans reading, if you feel too culturized, remember that 50%+ of our elector voted for Mr Piñera and his marepotos, tusunamis, and a long etcetera.
    An to my estimated American friends, if you think there are not enough strange people in your country, let me remind you of Bush Junior´s re-election, and all the people that follows Sara Palin these days.
    For culture and a lot of good things, both countries have tons of people and facts to show.
    I´ll keep these words “there are all kinds of people in every society”. With 300+ million people, Jay Leno have an easier job in the US than Chile.

  34. @Marmo–we’re on the same wavelength!

  35. You all proved it! American ex-pats know much more about everything than the average chileno! Felicidades.

    Nice description of the Museum.

  36. Hello Margaret,
    This post from your friend let me a certain feeling of uneasiness. Especially when she says (I quote): “…the coup (the golpe: root word ‘to hit’) is so well documented that it gives testimony to the fact that this was no popular revolt against a Marxist regime.”. Of course it was not a marxist regime (and if it were? Did that justifie the horror that was made there?) I was schoked, I must say, with this sentence. Is that the average representation about left democracy in South america that american academics have? If this is the fact, than we have to worry. To resume how I feel by reading this post: I am sorry but I must say I found it naive, quite superficiel, and a bit “paternalist” (for example when your friend says that chilean people are more impregnated with culture because there are so many mural paintings on the wall of the city!).
    Margaret, I like very much your points of view, the way full of humour in which you explain the chilean society, I like your blog and i learn a lot of things, but by reading the post of your friend, I fear there is much way to change the average representation about politic and other culture in the american mentality. Even the one of a so-called “anthropologist”…

  37. Interesting, interesting. We all read the same post by Kathleen Skozcen, but boy did we all come out with a different message out of it! Of course this should come to no surprise to most of us. We all put a different spin on things based on our upbringing, genes, place we now live in, our current state of mind (or mental health,🙂 etc.
    Often times and after reading comments such as the one on this blog, I can only come up with one conclusion, and it comes from the words of a great thinker whose name I do not remember. It goes something like this, and I am paraphrasing, “All I know is that I know nothing and that I’m not too sure about”.
    Bring more of your of friends over Margaret, I find Jay Leno kind of boring,🙂

  38. Come on. I fell from my chair unconscious in despair after reading your friend´s post, Margaret. It´s her opinion, we could disagree or agree in some points, but try to behead her for writing what she thought and to say more or less that America lacks some cultural spots or her point of view about the militar coup d état is overreacting (like Americans do, I must say, in many issues). I would worry if she was some scholar in charge of an embassy or an official report on those subjects, but she is a woman in a bike, writing in a friend´s blog, even if she´s an anthropologist.
    With that kind of reactions, you all just prove her and John right.

  39. Hi Marmo – I don’t know what you mean by “you all just prove her and John right”. I haven’t come close to making any political commentaries. The only comments I’ve made here have to do with how, in general, Americans are much less interested in the world outside of their town, than Chileans. I have come to this conclusion after living in the US for 5 years and then right next to them in Canada for more than 25.
    As to which group is more cultured than the other, we can debate that until the cows come home.

  40. Wow Marmo–you’ve done it again… hit the nail on the head!
    Kathleen wrote her comments (including Part II which I will post today) late one night while on vacation… reflections on things she had seen during a bike ride in a new city. Yes, she’s an anthropologist and that informs her way of thinking about things, but that doesn’t mean that we get everything right on first sight. Nor was this in any way intended to be a formal expert treatise on the subject… just putting some initial thoughts on virtual paper and getting them down as a starting place for further thought.
    The comments have been so very interesting (as always!), and I’m sure these too will help her (and the rest of us) fine tune our way of thinking about these issues…

  41. @Pascale. First-thanks for your comments about the blog in general! I appreciate your comments and input!
    With respect to Kathleen’s post–I can assure you that I know her well and am sure that some of what she wrote has been misinterpreted. She knows full well what the Chilean golpe militar was about. She also knows what the Junta and the Pinochet followers said to justify it. Her comments were intended to underscore the horror of what happened–there is nothing in the comment that would ever imply that she somehow justified the coupe or the atrocities committed in its name.
    If her comments are naive and superficial–maybe so–but again, how profound are our first impressions of a new place while on vacation? The fact that she’s soaking it all in, thinking about it, putting her thoughts on paper and making those ideas public for feedback shows that she is in fact, thinking like an anthropologist, and all the comments discussed here will help put things into a broader perspective.
    Keep ’em coming!

  42. Sheesh… kind of sorry to have started such a polemic! I kind of backed out already–no need to defend myself or my “diet” much less the “american” masses–which was never the point anyway.
    I only hope Kathleen realizes that most of the discussion is actually barely related to her original phrase–it kind of took its own path-blog commentary often takes on a life of its own. I assume we all realize that she is writing reflections/first impressions-whether it turns out to be how we see things or not… I hope she will still write part II and III or how ever many parts there are and that this hasn’t turned her off😉

  43. This debate is getting hotter by the minute. See, global warming is TRUE, 🙂

  44. Margaret, is this Annje (the first coment ) the same ”Annje Unabashed”?

  45. @Lily
    Tip: Click on Annje´s name.

  46. @Lily- Yes, she’s the one and only Annje Unabashed!

  47. Hi Folks: I can’t respond to all these comments (or even find time to read everything… I’m back in the real world working away). I did want to say John I enjoyed your comments very much: the U.S. needs a big piece of humble pie or even better round trip airline tickets to discover that we are not the only place in the world, much less the best place in the world. To Emily, the point I was trying to make is that the average Chilean 20 something doesn’t have to go to a museum, there’s one out his/her front door. It is difficult to say anything about most, average, or anything approximating that in our complex societies separated by class, caste, race, religion, gender, education, and so on, to make any generalizations. But does that make our observations invalid? All my Chilean friends and acquaintances are well educated; I’m biased, there you have it. I have also done bike or walking tours through many capitals or major cities (Paris, Madrid, London, NY, Washington, Quito, Santo Domingo, to name only a few) and Santiaguans… you have the most colorful I’ve seen. Thanks for a great winter break!

  48. Uh, oh. I didn’t mean the “real world” I meant only my real world, where I have to punch a clock and there are no pisco sours. Santiago is very real and relevant, and I’ll never suggest otherwise. Please no offense intended.

  49. Ah, the pisco sours! I’m so glad they are very much a part of my“real world”! I’ll bring you a bottle next time I head north.
    As you know, I also love, love, love Chile’s street art, which is certainly not limited to Santiago–remember all we saw in Valparaíso too! In fact, you didn’t get to see Valpo’s “Museo Abierto,” an open-air museum of large murals painted by some of Chile’s top artists, although frankly, there are plenty of less known (underground) artists that have plenty to say! I’ll be putting more up on the blog as time goes on.
    Thanks for taking the time to share your first impressions… and I’m REALLY glad you came!

  50. @ John Carr. Tis true I have danced on several tables in my time. However due to an unfortunate drunken dancing session with Fred Dexheimer and Grant Phelps (Yes I am naming names here, they are guilty) in Valparaiso in early December I am now permanently crippled and look more like I am a constant dancer of the cueca, which when moving to Diana Ross looks very sad.
    Sorry to anyone reading this and having zero clue as to what a crazy Brit abroad is talking about. Margaret knows all

    By the way someone smarter than me, and an American once said

    “The only Americans one should ever listen to are ones that have lived outside the USA for at least two years”

    I am desperately trying to remember who it was. I’ll get back

  51. I have no idea why that post came up as gategoo!

  52. @Matt I had forgotten about your old gategoo email! I can see what no one else does- you used a different email address, so you must’ve signed in to a WordPress blog with the Gategoo one at some point. Wasn’t here though-it was the first time here, which is why it got held for approval.
    So, I guess I’ve put in enough “service years” that people should really listen to me then, huh?
    And can’t wait to see your Diana Ross Cueca! And have Fred & Grant made amends yet? They owe you!!

  53. You are Pegileaks ! hahaha gategoo was my first ever yahoo account many years ago. I had to get a photo onto my posts and I did it through some site called Gravalax or Gravatar or something. When I signed up I could not use my real name for some reason or other.

    By the way I like what Kathleen writes here. You Anthropologists can write a decent word or two. Whereas us photographers can barely string 5 words together (that make sense anyway)

  54. Margaret, thanks for the answer, I knew it, but I wasn’t sure.
    Marmo, thanks for the tip.
    Annje, I hope you can make the difference in Chilean students, even if you feel you are unprepared, and sorry, but for some reason I can not comment in your blog.

  55. haha “gategoo”, there is some truth to that, that living abroad broadens one’s horizons (though not in all cases), but on the other hand, it is kind of an elitist notion, isn’t it–that one has to live abroad to be smart enough or just the right kind of worldly? Not everyone has that “luxury” of sorts to live abroad. Though, it is interesting, I have friends who have never been abroad, but the poeple I get along with most, have also lived abroad. And along those same lines, some of the Chileans I get along with most, have also been abroad.

    So, is this a yard-stick (or meter-stick) that we are going to measure everyone by, or is it just the litmus test for US gringos?😉

    just stirring the pot, so to speak

  56. Lily, thanks for your comment. I am not sure why you can’t comment on my blog, at least as an anonymous commenter. I am very excited about teaching here and about the courses I am going to teach, I think the under-prepared feeling is just a silly inferiority complex😉

  57. @Annje

    I think they were not being elitist, but suggesting that in the USA there is not much attention paid to anything outside the USA (unless of course it’s a country getting trashed in war)

    I lived in the US for 5 years and amazed that people even think there is anything BUT the USA.
    One example I remember was watching the Olympic games a few years ago. In one race the USA came 5th. The camera was on that person and they got interviewed afterwards. The winner and 2nd and 3rd place were not mentioned

    Am I gonna get trashed for this?

  58. Ah Matt- glad to see you back and expressing your opinion round these parts again!
    Annje, you pot-stirrer you! Keep it up- we don’t want anything to get scorched!
    I’m getting lots of traffic coming in from your blog today BTW!
    On the whole cool points and open-mind cred that (supposedly) comes from living abroad issue–I can assure you that I’ve met plenty of really closed-minded people living abroad and other world souls who have never left Tiny Town, USA.
    And ditto on Annje’s question- does it only apply to those with US passports?

  59. I think it does happen elsewhere, but the USA is top of the pops at parochial thinking, and more to the point parochial broadcasting.
    I like Annje am drawn mostly to those well traveled. Also there are unfortunate sorts who do not have the wealth or nonce to travel. However at 19 I went to France with 60 quid, about 100 dollars. I came back two years later. Having spent time all over Europe (including a 3 month spell in an Italian jail, I was innocent by the way) However I was fluent in French and could harvest grapes, oranges, olives and beetroots. You do not need wads of cash to travel.

  60. Yes, of course it happens elsewhere. Happens here in Chile too… talked to your neighbors lately? People in general have a tendency to think that their own way is the best. Group-think begins with creating and encouraging a “we are the best” mind-set (think family, neighborhood, sports team, school, company, you name it!) Nations draw their people together to form a unit with a sense of pride, heritage, and future.
    European countries are generally small and crossing borders is easy. The US and Canada are all huge countries with much to see and discover (and not many crossable borders within reach), and it is understandable that many people have the attitude of wanting to know their own country before leaving its borders to explore elsewhere. I’ve found myself developing a bit of this with respect to Chile too. Such a great country and I want to see it all–nothing wrong with that…
    But of course the flip side is those who fail to see the validity in someone else’s country/culture/options… and that’s where the danger lies as it breeds intolerance.
    Hm- just had a thought. We always hear about how much Europeans travel internationally. I wonder what percentage of them actually cross an ocean (as in get outside of Europe) to do so? How many go as far as your average gringo needs to go to get beyond their own borders? (And Canada doesn’t count)
    More fuel for the fire!

  61. @Kathleen – What a relief! For a minute I thought I had pushed the envelope just a bit too far. As Margaret says, we are on the same page. Should you be in the Toronto area, I’ll de delighted to break some bread and chat to you over some exquisite cuisine from the many choices available here. Of course the same invitation goes to Margaret.

  62. To Pascale; I’m afraid my comments got lost in your translation. My statement, probably a bit too nuanced in my own brand of sarcasim, is suggesting just that… that the careful documentation in the museum speaks truth to and therefore undermines the official transcript promoted by the perpetrators of the Coup. Your post does, nonetheless, encourage me to better study my Spanish, so I can avoid these kind of misinterpretations. And you don’t have to school me on the horrors of the coup, that was the point of my post(s). I’m sorry you missed the point of it all😦

  63. Ale! Great link to “I know this great little place in Santiago!!! thanks for the heads’ up!

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