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Chilean Spanish is rife with slang nearly unintelligible outside of its narrow confines. It’s been called the most difficult Spanish, the slangiest Spanish. Even Chileans speak with pride of their children with beautiful diction and vocabulary because the nana (nanny/maid) is Peruvian. Which is a whole nother blog post on culture and classism and discrimination, but no time, I’m late, I’m late! (and channeling the white rabbit from Alicia en en País de las Maravillas (Alice in Wonderland).

And so what there’s time for today is to examine one word, a real Spanish word, but with a Chilean twist. It’s timely, and I even have bibliographical references. Today’s word is encargo.

The Real Academía Española (RAE) online dictionary here tells me that encargar is to encomendar, poner algo al cuidado de alguien (put someone in charge, to put something under the care of another). Fair enough.

But the deliciously hilarious book I picked up for 2 luka (2,000 pesos, around $3.50) in Valparaíso has a more Chilean view of the situation. According to the Diccionario Histérico de Chile by Fernando Venegas, an encargo is the following:

Atestigua los muchos resabios provincianos de Chile el que nadie puede viajar sin que lo jodan con encargos.

(The many wise inhabitants of Chile confirm that no one can travel out of the country without being screwed by encargos, i.e. request to bring back crap upon crap.)

An encargo is, plainly put wouldyoumindpickingupjustthisonething (breath) itsjustthatinChileyoucan’tfindit/them (breath) and it’s for my uncle/cousin/niece/me and please?

Travel back and forth between not Chile and Chile enough times and you’ll be asked to bring back this and that. On the one hand, this is valuable space in my restricted luggage allotment that could be taken up by Grapenuts and pants that fit the gringo posterior (or at least this gringa’s posterior). On the other hand, I routinely bring back books, toys, food, techie doohickeys, bikeparts, lotion and other goodies that for some reason it’s more convenient (for the requester) that they are purchased in the states. I’ve even had carepackages shipped to my mother’s house by gringo parents to bring back luxuries such as crystal deodorant and other goodies to their Chile-dwelling progeny.

Why do I do it? First of all, it is an unspoken rule that we all do it. One in eleven Chileans has been out of the country (even one time), and you can walk to Argentina from a lot of the country (it’s a steep walk, but fueled by the Grapenuts and outfitted in the properly-fitting pants, you’d hardly notice). I write and speak from a position of privilege. I shouldn’t be a jerk. In addition, people only ask you to bring something back if they have a certain level of friendship with you. So in a strange way, it’s a privilege to poke around stores you’d never go to, buying products you never use, just to bring a smile to a friend’s face.

Plus then you have a reason to get taken out to coffee multiple times upon your return. And we all know how much I like coffee. Look for me in NY starting the 15th of Nov. Wheeee!