Tag Archives: street

Chile: It’s a Dog’s World

I like dogs well enough. Don’t have one; might someday, but for now, I’m happy to let more enthusiastic others feed, bathe, and sterilize them. Oops. I forgot. Touchy subject. My gringa is showing… Chilean dogs seem to have some kind of constitutional right to fulfill their biological destiny, and most pet owners feel that it is cruel to “fix” an animal before it has had the chance to procreate at least once. The result: far more cats and dogs than people who want to care for them. And that means a lot of strays… or at least it seems like there are a lot of strays.

This pack of 7 or 8 neighborhood dogs run past my window several times a day

This pack of 7 or 8 neighborhood dogs run past my window several times a day

Leash lawsif they exist, I’ve never been able to tell are not enforced. Dogs are allowed to “go out and play,” snooze when they’re tired, and come home when they get hungry. The streets are full of dogs just hanging out, having a good time, and generally not bothering anyone. It makes sense. Dogs that are cooped up all day go crazy when they manage to break loose for a while. The unfamiliar lack of restraintno owner, no leash, no fences, no rules, no holds barredmakes them do strange things. They jump, they bark, they bite. They abandon the civility imposed upon them in the human world they inhabit. Their natural instincts return and they act, well, like animals.

Cats and dogs often wander in and out of casual restaurants

Cats and dogs often wander in and out of casual restaurants

Chileans seem to have another kind of relationship with animals. It’s a live-and-let-live laissez faire attitude that endows domestic animals with the same apparent right to share public space as birds, squirrels (which, by the way, don’t exist in Chile), and, of course, humans. Chilean dogs are often free to come and go as they please, and as a result, really don’t seem to care much about what anyone else is doing, and vice versa. Dogs are an extremely common sight on busy city streets and parks. Even the Plaza de la Constitución, in front of La Moneda, the presidential palace, is full of dogssome with collars (i.e. owners), some withoutthat spend the entire day playing in the park and rarely seem to notice the hordes of tourists or uniformed officers or speech-making dignitaries or marching protesters or snuggling couples who want to share their space.

Let sleeping dogs lie--wherever they want!

Let sleeping dogs lie--wherever they want!

When I first came here I was struck by the number of “dead dogs” on busy sidewalks. Later I discovered they weren’t dead at all, just sleeping. They doze wherever they want, and if that means in the middle of a busy sidewalk, no problem, everyone just steps around them, mindful to let sleeping dogs lie.

As an even more extreme example of humans respecting canine rights, recently, while out for an evening walk in a quiet coastal town, a dog in heat with a large number of “suitors” managed to stop traffic while the drivers waited for the dogs to finish their business and move out of the road. (It’s a dog’s world, I tell ya!)

By the way… the stereotypical dog’s name in Chile? Not Rover, or Spot, or Fido (have you ever really known one of those?)… The quintessential Chilean dog’s name is Bobby! (pronounced BO-bee)

If reincarnation turns out to be the way things work out and I get to choose, I’m coming back as a Chilean dog!

For more Cachando Chile posts on dogs, see:


Driving Tips, Chilean Style (Manejar, a la chilena)

The topic is drivingagain… But this time it’s not my opinion, but rather a tongue-in-cheek look at Chilean driving styles written by Chilean journalist Marcela Recabarren and translated from the February 7, 2009 edition of Paula magazine (page 81). It’s always interesting to have some insight into what Chileans think about themselves.

Nuevamente el tema se trata de los modos de conducir de los chilenos, pero esta vez no es opinión mía. Se trata de unas observaciones de la periodista Marcela Recabarren, publicadas en la revista Paula. Ver la versión original en el primer comentario abajo.

Driving behaviors that show just how far we are from living a civilized lifestyle:
1. You’re in a traffic jam and someone signals that they want to change lanes.
Response: speed up so they can’t move in.

2. The driver in front of you lets another car slide in ahead of him.
Response: blow your horn in protest against the jerk that lets others cut ahead.

3. You try to change lanes, but no one lets you in.
Response: swear at the idiots who won’t let you in, although they can’t hear you because your window is rolled up.

4. You see a car with a “Student Driver” sign.
Response: speed past with your foot to the floor so that she understands how to really drive.

5. A pedestrian attempts to cross the street at a crosswalk and no one lets him pass.
Response: stop and let them cross, just to make yourself feel good. The effect will last all day, although you continue to practically run over every other pedestrian you see.

Men at Work / Hombres trabajando

There’s nothing particularly unusual about seeing stuff hanging from trees in Santiago. In fact, a jacket, a backpack, and maybe a thermos are a sign that someone’s at work…

  • For Spanish, use the translation tool on the top right of the page…

Santiago is full of informal jobs: car attendants, band-aid vendors,  knife sharpeners, and paper hander-outers, to name just a few. Future posts will cover a host of unusual ways that people make a living here in Chile, but today’s topic refers to an aspect that is so common that most people don’t even see it: personal belongings hanging from a tree mean that someone has staked out that territory and will be working there that day.

Men at work, Santiago Chile

Men at work, Santiago Chile

This picture was taken in a residential-transition-to-commercial sector of Providencia (a Santiago neighborhood).  The man in yellow is a human parking meter, paid by the municipal government to keep track of how long cars are parked there and make sure they pay their due rate. On the tree we see his jacket and thermos, a yellow bag full of who knows what, and just to the right (and above the thermos) a stack of parking slips impaled on a nail. An empty Pepsi can dangles from another nail and will probably be recycled for cash at the end of the day. He spends the entire day there taking care of traffic on that block.

This is actually a fairly new job. Until recently, most parking was technically free, and cars were “cared for” by voluntary attendants who laid claim to certain blocks and “took care of your car” for tips. Some ask for payment up front, especially in areas with a nightlife and the attendants might want to go home before the owners come back. There are plenty of stories about pushy hustlers in Bellavista who demand payment up front and defiant drivers who defend their right to free parking and return to find their car scratched up. Moral of the story: pay up or park somewhere else…

Fewer informal parking attendants are seen in commercial areas these days because the municipalities have caught on to the fact that there’s considerable money to be made… it’s even enough to make you miss the old days when “park for a tip” was the norm!