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is for a foreigner to comment on how to piss off a Chilean.

This I found out, to no great surprise, when I published this piece on MatadorNetwork, about how to piss off a Chilean. It’s part of a series on how to piss off a person of X nationality, with How to Piss off a German, and how to piss off a Korean already published, and a Dane and a Japanese person forthcoming. They’re humorous little posts about how to raise the hackles of the nationality involved.

Everything was running along smoothly, until BioBio picked up and translated the piece (and sort of recrafted it, in the strangest case of almost-scraping I’ve ever been involved with).

With currently 122 comments on the original, and 85 on the translation/recraft, this is big news. People question my right to say what pisses off Chileans, suggesting that I sat in a café in Bellavista and interviewed people on the spot. Are there cafés in Bellavista? Like real ones, with delicious coffee? Please do tell. People also doubt my intelligence, my perceptiveness and all kinds of other things. They also argue with each other about whether or not I’m right, whether or not they are right, and how good their English is or isn’t. All in good fun.

A reporter contacted me to see if I’d give an interview about the reactions to the piece, and yesterday on the micro (bus), in between listening to the hinchas (football supporters) screaming León, león, león. (Lion, lion, lion, for the team they support) and beating on the bus walls, I thought up a few things I’d say if he gets his story approved in pauta (editorial meeting).

I like the back and forth. I like it that people express themselves, argue with me, with each other. I think it’s great for people to debate a point and get their thoughts out.

The internet is (mostly) democratic. Anyone is free to write a blog and opine, write or otherwise blather about places they have been, would like to go, might someday go, currently, live, etc. Please feel free to blog to your heart’s content about what the truth is about your place. Or sing a song and take a picture. Direct traffic to it, share it with your friends. Take a page from Madonna 80s style and express yourself.

There are many Chiles, and many Santiagos. I live in my personal Santiago, a mostly starshaped blob that includes the places I go, with my home in Santiago centro at the center. I come and go on my schedule, have my friends, ride my bike, skate on my skates, live my life. The experiences I write about are from my perspective. If yours differs vastly, that doesn’t mean either one of us is wrong. It means we live on different planes, come and go at different times, know different people, notice different things.

I didn’t say anything truly nasty or polarizing about how to anger Chileans. I didn’t pit the cuicos against the flaites, the left against the right, the conservative against the liberal. It would have been easy to take cheap shots against any of a number of groups of people, talk about particular moments when I have been struck by what’s on the surface vs. what later reveals itself to be the truth.

In short, I was kind, and in some ways, too kind, because there’s a lot of anger en desarrollo (developing) here, about injustice, inequality, inaccessibility. But to talk about those things is to divide Chile into smaller and smaller pieces, the people who think X and the people who think Y, ad nauseam. I am tired of people drawing lines among Chileans, this us-and-them mentality, this “antes la gente vivía por acá” (people used to live here, where “la gente” means “la gente como yo/nosotros” or people like me/us”. We may all live in different Chiles, but in the end, we all live in the same Chile. I would like to stop ussing and themming.

In fact, I don’t us and them much anymore at all. Not even about me and Chile. I have more of a nosotros-based attitude, because for nearly eight years, I have called this slice of land my home. But the truth is, and what I didn’t say, and maybe just now I’m figuring this out, because I’m still learning, is that the single thing that pisses Chileans off the most is a person speaking her mind.

And the single thing that pisses me off the most is having people tell me I shouldn’t.


oh wait: and here’s a link to that piece I wrote about how to alienate a Chilean. Because apparently that was funnier.