On numerous occasions, we’ve (and I mean you and I, or the other bloggers that make up my little corner of the world) talked about the contrast between the high and low, the haves and the have nots. Kyle tells her version of the class divide in Chile here, and Peg does something similar (talking about a play she’d seen recently) here. Lots of good stuff in the comments, too. But wait! Don’t forget to come back!
My story takes me in one day from one of the poorer and historically most turbulent and unified areas of Santiago, the población (poor neighborhood/slum) La Victoria (link in Spanish) in the comuna (district) of Pedro Aguirre Cerda (PAC) to the VIP floor of the After Office party at Castillo Hidalgo on Cerro Santa Lucia.
When my really nifty neighbor asked me if I’d come and talk to Pamela Jiles, the interviewer on a program called Chiles, I wasn’t sure if I’d do it. Not because it’s an illegal channel, not because I’m afraid that I look weird on TV (who doesn’t), and not even necessarily because she’s a pretty controversial figure, and known for being difficult and confrontational. I actually hesitated because even after five years, I worry a little about my Spanish. There. I said it. It’s not that I worry about being heard, but about being recorded, heard and reheard. Anyway, you’re not going to hear and rehear me, and if you do, you’ll find that the recording is terribly sibilant, none of us have a lisp, except the Spaniard, and that’s just his accent.
If you’ve got an hour to kill, enjoy me and my two cointerviewees (topic: immigrants in Chile) together with our presenter, who had a cold, and was fairly lovely to us the whole time, here’s where you can watch the whole low-budget video.
you’ll see me mostly at the following intervals, if you can’t wait to hear what I have to say:
I can’t be bothered to subtitle the thing, but I assure you that I am utterly charming (the interviewer tells me so toward the end of the interview), and that at 28:44 I do not ask the interviewer if she knows anyone when she asks me if I have a (romantic) partner. At minute 22, we are all laughing because Ms. Jiles asks why the Spaniard was attracted to the población La Victoria, and in Chilean Spanish we use the article before the name of a person as a term of endearment, and one of the camera women (my neighbor) is called Victoria, or in this case “La Victoria,” so we’re all laughing because perhaps he was attracted to the woman, not the población, and apparently we are all twelve years old.
The guy in the middle is from Nigeria, and is a political asilee from his home country, and has lived in Cuba, Ecuador and a bunch of other Latin American countries.
We bid our farewells and were given books from Le Monde Diplomatique as parting gifts. I was kind of strongarmed into trading my book (on the Mapuche) to a collection of blog entries by Luis Sepúlveda.
After wrapping up the filming, we bussed back to our middle ground of downtown/barrio brasil, neither poor nor wealthy (though parts are variably either or both). I had a couple of hours of work to do, and then I swooped over to the mythical after office party, where observations abounded, money (not mine) flowed and I (this time) wore sensible shoes.
One thing led to another, and my friend and I were soon invited up to the VIP lounge of this event, where we were assured we would be rubbing shoulders with the cream of the crop (Chileans and sympathizers, our host said “ son puro ABC1” We quickly discovered that, just as their downstairs brethren do, people were dropping drinks (one on a friend of mine), singing along in English, and dancing in way too small a space. The only difference was the pink wristbands. Oh, and fewer gringos. Maybe the people tended to be a little older. Certainly we were all in better shape for having climbed so very many stairs to get there. But upstairs, downstairs, it was all the same. The same questions, the same failed attempts to dance, the same (WHAT?) 25-28 year-olds chatting me up.
Which just goes to show you, life is pretty much the same wherever you go, it all depends on your attitude, the good people with whom you surround yourself, taking care of each other, and on wearing comfortable shoes. This last one so you can walk on the potholed and or in-progress streets of the población and the cobblestones up to the castle where you can rub shoulders with people who’ll ask you repetitive questions that you blogged about a month ago and some of which you were just asked on an illegal television program by a woman too sick to really show her snarky side.
Thank God for small mercies. And Danskos. Definitely Danskos.
Oh, and thanks for your patience. Should I have warned you to grab a cup of coffee first?