I know I talk not a small amount of negative smack re: Chile’s campaigns. There’s the campaign that urges men not to be violent with their partners that leverages the word maricón. Despite Chilean assurances to the contrary, I feel the campaign is both sexist and homophobic.
However, negative trash talk aside, this new campaign for safe driving in Chile, manejatebien, stopped me in my tracks (or on my bike).
In Chile, and in many Latin American countries, when someone dies in a vehicular accident, the family of the deceased sets up a small shrine (animita). It can be a simple small house-like structure, or even just some ribbons tied to a post. Usually someone will come and spruce it up on the deceased’s birthday, maybe on mother’s day or children’s day, if the person was a mother or a child. Holidays are important times as well, leading to offerings and sprucing. Also, in the case of some animitas, they become shrines for other people as well, sort of “informal” saints, to which people light a candle or say a prayer. In Quebrada de la Plata, a bike and hike area at the end of Av. La Rinconada in Maipú, there is a shrine to a cyclist who died on a descent, and cylists will leave small offerings, even tubes and chains on the animita, in remembrance.
And now back to the manejatebien animitas. What I love about this campaign is that it is clear (at least to anyone from here) that what they’re saying is, there are 1600 people killed in vehicular accidents every year. Don’t become one of the next victims. Drive carefully, be cautious, etc. It also feels like a Chile-specific message, something home-grown and applicable here, not borrowed from some bigger and better-funded country.
Of course, you might argue that leaving burning candles unattended on the street (I took this near my house, but have seen several more around town) is dangerous, and you might also wonder if people will steal the contents of the fake animitas. In truth, yeah, probably and definitely. I saw two denuded little houses not that long ago, and one that had its back turned on the public, though I have seen no urban candle-started fires.
All in all, I have to give kudos for this great campaign, #manéjate, and I really hope it works to keep people safe. Would it work where you live? Or if you live in Chile, does it work for you?
Either I haven’t been out much or it hasn’t reached La Serena yet. Seems like a nice idea, except if you are driving past you might not get the chance to read it.
We have two “animitas” at the entrance to the village where I live. Both, (I believe) were drunk men walking home in the dark, so this would be a good reminder for pedestrians as well.
Well, it might just be in Santiago for all I know right now, and yes, it definitely is aimed at pedestrians, or people who drive and then walk somewhere. You do well to remind me that Santiago is not all of Chile! Maybe we’re the pilot program to see if they can bring it to other regions. Walking on the side of the highway (which I’ve had to do on occasion) definitely freaks me out, even sober.
I love that campaign, I just wish the animitas were a little bit bigger.
And I think you need to have grown up in Chile to really get the maricón campaign, because it’s the first meaning of the word you learn, that’s why it strikes a cord and actually works, because it has more than one meaning deeply ingrained in our brains. It’s a strong word and there are people who will find it offensive, but I don’t find it homophobic in the least and I know a lot of gay people who think the same.
Yes, the animita campaign is great. What I really love about it is that it feels home-grown, not one of those anti-drug campaigns or whatever that comes from gringolandia. Whoever thought of it has my full approval. As for the maricón campaign, I can accept that it’s partially culturally informed and that I just don’t get it, but I know a bunch of gay people that think it’s offensive as well. Anyway, reasonable minds will have to agree to disagree, and also to agree that the animitas campaign is super. Drive safe, and hope to see you in the new year, if not before!
We should totally get together!!!
Have a great 2012 and live it like it’s the last, even though it’s not 😉
Hi Eileen. My name is Veronica, and I’m Chilean. I don’t know if this would make you feel any better, but the word “maricon” does not necessarily mean “gay” in Chile (it can, though, depending on the context). It may mean, and my intention is not to sound “ordinaria,” “fucker” as well (it’s like the word “hueon” that has different meanings depending on context). So I think that even though I agree with the fact that another word could have been used in place of “maricon,” I don’t see this ad as “don’t be gay.” I see it as “don’t be a fucker.” Anyway, that’s my humble opinion.