Chile’s alternative news weekly, The Clinic (firme al pueblo, por supuesto) is a master at attention-grabbing and deliciously irreverent headlines that require a very good understanding not only of Chilean Spanish, but of Chile’s current events. If you’re a foreigner here in Chile, make a point of regularly checking out the covers at your local newsstand—and give yourself a big pat on the back if you get the headlines—it’s a sure sign you’re making progress on your cultural and linguistic Chilensis.
English humor seems to be more language-based than Spanish is. A lot is based on puns, which aren’t very frequent in Spanish, but they do come up from time to time, and The Clinic is one of the best sources for finding them. I spotted this cover a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t resist a giggle. Continue reading →
Ever spun a top? A real one made of wood, wrapped in string, and thrown to make it spin? In Chile it’s called a “trompo” and is popular with men of all ages…and certainly not as easy as it looks!
A spinning "trompo" or top at a typical Chilean fonda
The sense of Chilenidad—Chile’s national identity—the collection of all that makes up a spirit of being Chilean—is composed of many different aspects, one of which is games, and one of the oldest is the trompo, a simple wooden cone-shaped yet rounded toy with a metal tip that is thrown so that it spins upright. Once you get the basic tossing down, you start with tricks, such as picking it up to spin on the palm of your hand or even throwing it so that it lands—spinning—in your hand without ever having touched the ground. Continue reading →
Chilenidad. What a great word. It means “Chileanness,” and Chileans take it very seriously indeed. And September, the month of Independence Day on September 18 (also taken very seriously) AKA “El Dieciocho” and Fiestas Patrias (ditto) and especially this one, the 200th 18th, makes for some pretty good reasons to think just exactly what Chilenidad is all about.
A small Andean town deep in the Elqui Valley prepares for "18" with Chilean flag banners
Cuasimodo… you’re thinking Hunchback of Notre Dame, right? (and I bet you’re spelling it with a Q, but that would be Latin, and I’m thinking in Spanish here)… Any idea WHY the Victor Hugo character was called Quasimodo? Continue reading →
Chile has a thing about its dogs, especially its quiltros!
Dog representing Central Chile on mural outside old Diego Portales building on Alameda
Love ’em–or not–they’re part of the national culture and landscape and will have their place in the limelight during Chile’s 2010 Bicentennial celebrations.
Remember the government-sponsored search for the Bicentennial Chile Dog ? The National Mutt photo competition? Pitching for the perfectly pictorial pooch project? The hunt for the Quiltro del Bicentenario? Well the results are in and the winners declared.
The judges (members of the Bicentennial Commission, the Photographic Heritage Corporation, and several photographers) poured over the 700 photos of canine candidates to find just the one that represented the concept of “quiltro” in Chile, guided by the DRAE definition: a dog of mixed breed… and have found their mutt of the hour:
And the winner is…… Cachupín!
1st Prize: "Si para ser felices" by Oscar Fuentes, Chillán
Oscar Fuentes of Chillán won first prize (a Nikon Reflex Digital Camera d-40 w/ 18-55 lens) with his image “Si para ser felices” of a dog he calls “Cachupín” and its master, both of whom appear a bit down and out, but the judges appreciated the shot for the story it seems to relay: the pup’s cocked head and perked ears showing attention to his master, who appears to be counting change, while the dog waits patiently for a bit of attention. Fuentes explains that “the dog is not observing the money, but rather the intentions of being fed… and his only means of payment are faithfulness, happiness, and in cases like this one, the enormous need for companionship.” He goes on to say that “among the many facets of this particular chapter in our culture, it is important to emphasize this other side of the exacerbated contempt of street dogs.”
Like the photo?
Is this a shot that should represent Chile and Chileans in its bicentennial hour of glory?
Should we be celebrating its street dogs?
Should Chile be spending money on this kind of project?
Got something else on your mind?
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La Cueca is cool.
Forget the whole huaso bit and the women in the silly square dance type dresses, we’re talking la Cueca urbana, la Cueca brava… la Cueca CHORA!
Quilombo Ediciones 2009
After years of having gym class-style dancing shoved down their throats at any and every cultural event, there’s a quickly growing movement among Chileans to take back the “real” cueca. The cueca that always existed.
The cueca that the “rotos chilenos” proudly danced in the chinganas, fondas, and ramadas where people from the city and the port went to let their hair down, swill some chicha, hoist a few pipeños, sing a bit, and dance a lot. And that dance was the cueca. A dance that can take flirting to the edge of social mores—without touching—and that when done well, eye-to-eye and with just the right whisk of the pañuelo, turn of the head, tilt of the hip, and stomp of the foot, can bring a flush to the cheeks and set the heart aflutter.
The problem is that until just recently, that spirit of the pueblo cuequero was all but lost, buried under a 1960s wave of imported rock and then appropriated (and toned down) by the military right in the 1970s-80s in an attempt to impose, instill, and imbue “true national values” with an official and state-sanctioned version that involves a manly poncho-wearing huaso patrón who flirts with and wins over a demure and oddly dressed woman called a “china”… Yeah… exactly… No wonder no one I know ever wanted anything to do with it!
La cueca chora, step by step. Illustration by Alberto Montt
But there’s been a movement of late to take back Chile. To take pride in the real Chile. To take a stand and raise the pañuelo.
¡Éjale compadre!, put those hands together chiquillos, clap-clap, clap-clap, and tiki tiki tiki…
Get a guitar, a pandero (tambourine), and a voice and you’re good to go.
Find an accordion and there are definitely some hot times ahead. And there you are…. The cueca is hot and Chile is cool! ¡Chile es choro and la cueca es más chora aún !
Okay, so there’s a lot more to be said about how I feel about Chile in general and the cueca in particular… but all this has been a long-winded wind-up to the real topic of this post, a new book on how to dance the cueca chora.
Araucaria Rojas, daughter of the Gran Guaripola himself Dióscoro Rojas (drawing a blank? You’ve got homework: go study up at the Guachacas web site) and who is now finishing up a degree in history, just launched her book “Piernal de Cueca Chora” a guide to everything you need to hold your own amongst the choros, from the color of your pañuelo to just how high to hike your skirt. ‘Piernal,’ in case you’re wondering, is one of those words invented by necessity because a ‘manual’ refers to something done with the hands, but in this case it’s the legs (piernas) following all the steps that are so explicitly described in words and images (illustrator Alberto Montt of “Dosis Diario” fame weighs in with his signature style). Cousin Camila Rojas edited the book for her newly-formed publishing company Quilombo Edicionesand came up with some pretty clever touches like resolving the twisted spine problem (English books write the title down one side of the spine and Spanish books, the other) by wrapping the book—along with a nifty stamped pañuelo—in a box that allowed her to print the spine in both directions! (¡Bien hecho Camila!).
Chilean journalist /Guachaca Queen Mónica Pérez
The Santiago launch was held last night (Sept 1) at the 100% chileno bar Piojera (could there ever have been any other option?) with a dedication by the paternal Guaripola and the reigning royal Guachacas Queen Mónica Pérez and King Ricarte Soto, among others, followed by a few patitas de cueca, and a healthy round of terremotos and pichanga. Be sure to check out Eileen’s bearshapedsphere version of the evening—she can even show you food & drink pictures because by that time I was much too busy sipping and munching to take pictures. An excellent way to kick of this month of fiestas a la chilena!
19 Responses to Santiago de Chile Part II: Of Dogs and Men…
Margaret – You are a blogaholic and I enjoy every minute of it. My understanding was that “you would not be able to post as often this week”, and here you are, blogging away.
Well, technically it’s Kathleen doing the work (and on the firing line) right now!
Oh the dogs.
My personal take on the matter is:
1.- We are lazy about it. If it doesn´t affect us directly, we´ll have 100 other things to think or do before worring about street dogs that don´t belong to us in the first place.
2.- Should we control EVERY animal that shares space with us? Should we sterilize and/or provide shelter the pigeons, rats, flies, cats or anything that live around us? This obsession with controlling somehow everything around us is sick. I´ve been in other countries, without any dog in sight on the streets. Those cities are clean, but I´ve also seen how most cats and dogs live there, and I don´t like it. Castrated, in cages, or forever confined inside little yards, to be ignored and left alone, until their masters remember them for some reason. (Of course, there are a lot of people that love their pets too, but what I described first is sadly acceptable and also somehow expected).
3.- Can´t we just share the space we took by force from nature? Is the only acceptable place for an animal a cage or the meat display of a supermarket?
4.- If those dogs, that are everywhere, are fat and seem happy, is because they have food, (and now you can call me crazy) so they are helping somehow to recycle part of OUR OWN waste of energy and resources, that otherwise would end up in a pile of trash.
5.- I´ve read that in some places in NorthAmerica, my fellow groundhogs are poisoned and killed like a plage, for eating flowers in some old lady´s yard. If that´s the right way to deal with animals around us, I don´t want it.
6.- Those dogs have a function that you can only understand after spending a few months or so in Chile. They are everyone´s and no one´s pet. They can belong to a street, or a yard, or a plaza, and live their lives peacefully there.
7.- If we had the same population of stray dogs and cats, but sick and aggresive, then I would understand there´s something really wrong in all of this.
Being a city groundhog myself, this subject gets personal xD
Wow Marmo! (have you noticed how often I start a response with “Wow Marmo”?) I see this really hit home, but rest assured that I have neither seen nor heard of any plans for attempting to control urban groundhogs in Chile!
Your opinions are very interesting… and you KNOW there are plenty of dog lovers out there who are going to call you out on them!
Personally, I’m on the fence. For me the bottom line is responsibility. People need to take responsibility for their pets…and that also means taking responsibility for any pups or kittens (or marmotitas) that result from “nature’s way” need to be cared for and not just dumped on the street or worse.
They also need to be responsible for any damage they do–whether that is biting someone or tearing the trash apart–if your dog did it, you need to take care of it.
That said, I love that there are fat & happy dogs on the street that coexist with people… and I loved the whole idea of the Bicentennial Quiltro as something that Chileans (granted no all) identify with.
What’s everyone else think?
I agree, if you do own a dog, you have to anwer for what it does. Strangely enough (I don´t know if in Santiago they have the same “culture”) but dogs here in Temuco rarely destroy the trash bags or cans. They seem to do pretty well from restaurants and groceries leftovers. Maybe helps that meat and milk are way cheaper here (I was talking to my dad a few days ago, he lives in Santiago and said that filete or lomo, I can´t remember, cost around 8 lucas there, meanwhile the same cut can be found at 4,5 lucas here in Temuco).
I think that the dog population somehow self regulates; there are plenty of food, but even if they reproduce, I´ve never seen in any city that they breed to the point of have dozens of hungry dogs around, I think they should have a self regulated system (as animals, they are naturally balanced in that way) to not get pass the point of sustainability.
I’ve seen dogs trashing the trash more times than I want to remember–but people throughout Chile tend to put their trash in high baskets or hang it from high hooks so the dogs can’t get at it. It may have to do with food, but I think it’s also related to canine curiosity.
I also think that many of those dogs really do have homes to go to as the sun goes down (or comes up, as the case may be).
I’m not so sure about the self-regulating theory. The dogs are not left to their own devices in the wild, but co-existing with humans who interrupt their ability to self-regulate. Furthermore, there are places outside of Santiago that people go to dump their unwanted dogs, and it is an incredible (and scary) experience to go through there even in a car (and I shudder to think of anyone trying it on a bike!)
I guess I’m just looking for a happy medium!
I tend to agree with Marmo’s take on this issue when he talks about controlling things. I personally think that, particularly in North America, we have gone nuts! For example, here in Canada it feels there is very little one can do that DOES NOT violate some bylaw, city regulation, or human right code. In an effort to create a more orderly society we have gone overboard and have overregulated everything.
We cannot control humans to the extent that society would like to see. I don’t think I am alone when I feel like screaming: “please leave me alone” and stop complaining. I just want to go back to Chile, buy a small piece of land in the middle of nowhere, raise chickens, and hopefully NOT violate anybody’s space or rights.
In Malawi you will be arrested for passing wind, (Malawi Government Proposes Fart Ban) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/04/malawi-bill-proposes-fart_n_818674.html
Give me a break!!! and leave those happy Chilean dogs alone.
Well I´m not an expert on the matter, and caould be wrong, but stray dogs in Chile are different in many ways to those I´ve seen in Mexico and Peru. At least here in the south, we never see them have demographic explotions. It´s true that people interfere with them all their lives, but I don´t think they ask for permission or advice whether to reproduce or not, and yet, there they are, fat and lazy, waiting for the green light to cross on a corner, behaving better than some humans.
Hahahah, John Carr, you would be a wonderful groundhog!
I am a groundhog! The picture you see of me has been carefully photoshopped to resemble a human being.
@John- good point about governmental regulations–there are always 2 sides–while they take care of you on one hand, but they do it by placing limits on your freedom…now THERE’S a topic I have a lot to say about (note to self: write up THAT post!)
@Marmo- So what do you think is happening differently here than in Perú and Mexico–AND, as Kathleen has mentioned, in the D.R.? Kathleen attributes it to something in Chilean culture. Makes sense to me…!
Help us stop Big Brotherism, PLEASE. It is stifling all of our lives! Let’s hear what you have to say, soon. It may help lower my blood pressure.
hajaja- no, sorry, it’ll probably RAISE your BP. I probably haven’t written it yet so it doesn’t raise MINE!
Sounds like there may be fireworks coming up here.
I have no idea of what could be different here. And is something across all Chile, dogs are 99% friendly.
Maybe Peruvians and Mexicans use more chili in their foods, so that ends up affecting their dogs, xD
haha- as in the revenge of the chili dog? Naw- I’m sticking with culture and how people feel about and treat animals! As in the place of animals in the culture…
Any else have ideas?
Oh, the dogs. I’m a bit torn on the dogs. I lived in in Pirque, near Puente Alto and dogs were often dumped out on the road. They hung out around the trash dumpster and looked far from well fed. Everyone around already had several dogs and the strays kept coming. It was really sad to me-here we have a couple dog parks which I could not possibly explain to a Chilean. Also, on the road to cajon de maipo, many, many stray dogs, sadly looking for the car that left or might pick them up. And pregnant females, often no more than puppies themselves-and people are generally against spaying and especially neutering. There are many dogs that aren’t dangerous-indeed look like Tramp but there are others who have mauled folks.
As much as I hate unnecessary laws, they need some. Vaccination, spaying, neutering, licenses.
But the dogs all disappeared. No idea what happened but I would guess it’s not good. And since you can’t tell which are pets, I would guess some roaming pets disappeared too. Different municipalities are different-I heard of one that actually has a dog pound type facility.
One last note-I was raised in a rural area in 1950s Montana-before all the laws. And if your pet roamed, it was quite legal for a neighbor to shoot it. Probably still is, but people keep their pets home. Things change. If people don’t behave responsibly on their own, then we have more (many times stupid) laws.
Many of the street dogs were real cute and smart. I would like to see adoption encouraged and identifying collars for all pets. And spaying and neutering.
Yes, Laura, when I mentioned the dumping grounds for dogs, I was specifically thinking of the area between Pirque and El Cajón del Maipo. Both sad and scary out there! And volunteers take enormous bags of dog food out there just so they don’t starve to death. No one can convince me that this is better than neutering. Each animal should be a wanted pet, not some burden to dump on the side of the road… who DOES that kind of thing?
Dog and animal consciousness, (is there such a term?) are part of the evolution of a society. Here is an example that Laura mentions, “I was raised in a rural area in 1950s Montana-before all the laws. And if your pet roamed, it was quite legal for a neighbor to shoot it”. I am not aware of any state in the US where shooting animals is still permitted.
It is easy for Americans or anyone else to take their current values and try to ‘export’ them to another country without taking into consideration that that other country has not reached the same level of development or evolution.
Many foreign visitors who arrive from a more advanced society will find fault with many aspects of Chilean society. However, as Annjie mentioned, it will put things in perspective when we make ‘apple to apples comparisons’ and realize that, as recently as the late 70’s, Chile was truly a third world country. “Rome wasn’t built in a day”
John- I bet it’s pretty common to shoot an errant dog in the Chilean countryside too. Part of protecting your own animals. That pretty much looks like apples and apples to me.
But the real discussion has more to do with urban culture, and this isn’t about exporting anyone’s laws to Chile or even about whether or not Chile is 3rd world (not this post anyway). But rather a reflection about (1) how/why it is that in Chile (unlike elsewhere) so many dogs share the public space with relatively little friction, and (2, which came up in the comments) the contradictory flip side of this laissez-faire-live-and-let-live attitude that results in so many abandoned dogs left to fend for themselves in certain sectors just outside the city.
Obviously other countries have dealt with the roaming dog & irresponsible owner problems by creating pet control laws. Chile needs to (1) decide if it has a problem (there seems to be some internal debate on this), and (2) what it’s solutions will be.
The bottom line in any peaceful society is respect and responsibility. Spontaneous social norms are the first step toward instilling culturally defined standards in the members of said society, and then laws are created as recourse to enforcing those standards. So in the end, it’s a matter of defining the place of dogs in Chile’s urban culture, getting people to agree on that role, and making them responsible for their actions in order to respect the rights of others.
Hmmm- I’m thinking out loud here… am I convincing you?