Chekeitha's Guestbook

29th June 2012

Wow... Chekeitha, we are experiencing so many similar things! And you could be my daughter!! ha haa ha! The more I read your blog, the more I realize how far from my roots I\'ve actually grown. How deeply I have integrated into the American culture now -where I can identify with a \"foreign\" girl visiting the country in which I was originally born. Because, that\'s what I think the issue is here, the issue we share even though you are from here but you\'re there, and I am from there but I\'m here... funny, huh? See, I was just the other day talking to another Chilean friend of mine who lives in New York, about the same subject: safety in the streets in Chile. She thinks the reason we both fear being out late at night is because we are... well, there\'s no gentler way to put it... OLD! Ha haa ha! Ouch! She says \"Remember when we were 18 and we used to be out so late at night, sometimes we\'d see the sun come up? Remember we\'d be all the way up the coast (we\'re both from Vina) in Con-con or even further, and we\'d be waiting for -what seemed like- hours for a bus to appear?\" Now we\'re in our mid-fifties and we \"shake in our booties\" when we think about being out late at night in Chile. When she heard I was planning to go visit Chile in Sept. she advised me to wait a couple of more months so I could have my husband accompany me...\" Yeap... and the following night I read your blog... I think feeling unsafe being out late at night in Chile has to do with being, one, a foreigner, and two, older. In your case, it\'s obviously the first... ha haa! I have nieces close to your age and they give me heart attacks when I visit because they go out when I\'m ready to go to bed, and they take buses, colectivos and travel distances to reach a party, club, friend\'s houses, etc. and usually, by themselves. I think Chilean girls are used to it. They know no different because that\'s the environment in which they grew up and where they continue to live. But, of course, they do try to minimize the risk by NOT going to meet people at 1:00 am at Muelle Baron... ha haa ha! And, yes, here in Raleigh, I don\'t have to worry about keeping my purse tight against me because... you\'re right! I\'m in car! I\'m not exposed to people on the street. Just like you, here I go anywhere I want to go without giving it a thought simply because I get in my car and... drive there! In Chile, as a woman, you are 100% exposed when you rely on public transportation. It\'s a way of life there and girls already know the rules so you\'re at a disadvantage. As far as \"needing men\" to protect you, well, I think it\'s more of an issue of what I just said: Chilean girls already know the rules and you don\'t, that\'s why they feel you would be more in need of a \"male bodyguard\". That\'s why people suggest this to you. It\'s not like all girls need a male to accompany them everywhere -only the ones who -for one reason or another- are going to be out late or in areas that might be \"iffy\". Having said that, I agree that it\'s grating that you lose your independance after dark, but truth is, it all depends on where you are/go. Things have always been a bit more \"iffy\" in Valpo. (no matter what time of the day, really) than in Vina del Mar (my old hunting grounds... ha haa ha!). No offense intended -part of my family lives there. Be safe and remember where you are -not here! But don\'t let those safety measures (and common sense) stop you from enjoying this great experience that will most likely remain with you the rest of your life. Just enjoy it SAFELY! Best to you, Lucy
10th June 2012

I love rereading this entry. It always makes me giggle hysterically.
10th June 2012

sewer face
this entire chapter reminded me of my failed compliments lol. Also, if anyone ever called me gordita, I might sock them!
13th June 2012

Haha Heather! I would smack them FOR you! :D
3rd June 2012

Yes, it is a cultural thing but...
First, let me say I enjoyed reading your blog. I just stumbled into it but then couldn't stop. I found very interesting what you say about your host brother and that "Don't ask, just follow" mentality. Something similar happened to me last time I was in Chile. Now, let me give you some background so you can understand... I was born in Chile but now live in the US for almost 30 yrs. so I carry with me a strange mixture of both, the country where I grew up and the country where I became an adult and is now "home". I don't go to Chile very often but one of those visits I met up with an old friend who I used to work with. I had not seen her in like 15 yrs... We're both married now and she has a grown child. Her and her husband were incredibly welcoming and kind that first time. Then they invited me (well, splitting the expenses) to go to Argentina (Mendoza) with them, and that's when the trouble started... Same thing that your host brother did... but this time it was HER! She would just dictate where we'd go or would just start walking and expect me to follow. It was us three plus another female friend of theirs. That friend followed without question but it grated on me to be told what to do. I'm used to -even w/my husband- to ask if someone wants to go where I want to go AND be asked same. At first, same as you, I didn't say anything because I took it as their desire to show me around and I didn't want to be rude, but after standing around for LONG time waiting for her to try on shoes I had no interest on, I decided it was enough! I politely said I'd be going across the street to look at some stores, could we meet down at the corner in a few? OMG... the looke she gave me...!! They went on ahead but something had shifted and later on silences were longer and it was uncomfortable but no one said anything. The next day, the silent treatment continued so I went for it and spoke up. I told them what was bothering me, that I was not used to following people without being asked if I wanted to, that I was old enough now to make my own desitions and while I appreciated their good intentions, I felt the problem was an issue of "different life styles/culture" She got very upset and I felt like they (her husband and friend) kind of ganged up on me. She said I had changed and things were not done like that in Chile... that where one went, all followed. I said my problem with that was that the "one" was her and why did I have to follow her in particular... at what moment was she elected leader of the pack? To end the story, things didn't end well. We wrapped up our trip, went home -me back to my parent's house in another town- eventually left Chile and back to my own home in NC and I never saw her again. She has written to me a few times, but never touched the subject. She just writes polite, short notes saying she's my friend and loves me and blah, blah, blah. I reply same way... but I KNOW in my heart that my independant style is not well received in Chile -by men or women alike- because they see me as a guest in THEIR country so they "know better" what is good for me. In other words, it comes from a good place but still rubs me the wrong way and I'm not willing to change my ways to make them feel better so now I speak up at the first sign of "attempt at dominance" I encounter there... ha haa haa! If you wait, you're in for some very uncomfortable times...
From Blog: Just Say It
4th June 2012

Oh my goodness that is crazy! I was literally leaning into my computer while reading your comment. I never considered that that could apply for Chilean women too! My mouth dropped open. I was expecting you to say that her husband turned into a boss master. What an awkward trip that must have been! It's astounding how similar both of our experiences are with that. It's good that you stood up for yourself and spoke your mind about the situation. We independent ones have to make a statement!
From Blog: Just Say It
20th May 2012

Hello. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your travelblog on your studies in chile (though not much of your actual studies have been talked about ;) ). I'm of Chilean origin but grew up in the US since I was less than two years old, but have maintained strong cultural ties to Chile and visit every few years (april '11 and jan '12 most recently), mostly to Santiago. It is always of added interest to read blogs by students of east asian or african decent since their experiences are often slightly different in chile than the "typical" gringos who go to chile. You have some very interesting insights and I'm glad you devoted a post to share your experiences in Chile and relate them to your life in the US. As an undergraduate, I did my study abroad in Madagascar, so I went through some of the same things you did as a Chilean in Africa (I have green eyes and olive toned, to the locals I was just some European and I was always asked if I was French or German, and I DO NOT look northern european, so this was funny to me) but in reverse (plus I'm male, but that didn't stop the female attention). It's not so much that chileans are not racist (because they certainly are, and fairly xenophobic, especially about Peruvian immigrants), but you are correct in assessing your exoticness makes you attractive to chileans in a way a Mexican or Italian student would not be. At the same time, black women are also associated with sex workers in Chile (not that you are, because you're obviously american), especially afro-colombians, afro-peruvians, and afro-brazilians. in latin american folklore and collective history, there is the stereotype of the sensual mulatta. this is true in brazililan and french culture as well (a latin-thing then). as i'm sure you've noticed from chilean TV and advertisements, there is a preference for european features, especially northern european features. there are certainly many chileans who embody these features, but they are maybe 5% of the population (yet they make up most faces you see in the media). This is not unlike your observations of black women in the US (the preference for that light or "mixed" look, and lack of women with very strong black african features). but try talking about that to chileans, and they often don't understand what the problem is. the chilean writer isabel allende wrote, in her book "my invented country" (you should read it when you come back to the US, you will have an appreciation for her insights on Chile after having spent so much time there), a woman can have the face of an iguana in chile, but if she's blonde, men will still think she's beautiful. regarding the preference of european-like features in India and other places, I have no doubt that european colonialism and American popular media have contributed to the preference for lighter skinned people in film and media. However, it's not quite as simple as that. Historically (meaning pre-20th century and pre-european colonialism), in China, India, the Middle East, and medieval Europe, there has ALWAYS been a preference for lighter-skinned women. With the exception of India, this is not because of some racist ideology. Someone who was lighter skinned meant they were not out toiling in the fields under the sun. It was a status thing (like those nasty-ass long nails on some ghetto women). It meant you were not a peasant but were someone who had the luxury of being sheltered in-doors, and didn't do toiling work. This is the same reason many east Asian women still avoid the sun (in Los Angeles, driving through chinatown, you see many women walking around with umbrellas on a sunny day for this reason). In midieval spanish literature, the fair and pale women was the noblewoman of songs and poetry, while the darkskinned woman embodied the peasants and the countryside. In India, the caste system has its origins in separating the invading Aryans (not to be confuses with Hitler's nazi german "aryans") from Central Asia (the name for the country of Iran is derived from Aryan) from the original very dark-skinned inhabitants of the subcontient. people of higher casts are often a light tan to a light brown, while those of lower castes are usually dark brown to black in tone. Lighter skin is still associated with higher social class in India for this reason, in addition to the "toiling in the fields" stigma of being dark. I'm sure british colonialism and euro-american media has compounded this, but it has always been there. In any case, i didn't mean to get all nerd on you. I just wanted to point out that there has been a preference to lighter skin for far longer than the US has existed. This does not mean your insights are completely incorrect, because they are not. You hit the nail on the head for just about everything you said. Just that it is a little more complicated than simple American racism and prefernece for whiteness. When you leave the US and reflect on American history, the history of genocide against the natives, slavery, and racism is almost impossible to believe. What I mean is, it's hard to believe a country calling itself the land, "with liberty and justice for all" has had such a hypocritical and fucked up history when it comes to its ideals. In any case, I hope you enjoy your remaining time in chile. You may want to check out the website for "oro negro" (black gold), which is a site dedicated to promoting the history and culture of afro-chileans. do a quick search for "oro negro" and "chile" and it'll come up right away. saludos.--Pablo Riquelme. Baltimore MD.
23rd May 2012

I really enjoyed your comment on my blog Pablo. It was HIGHLY insightful and comments are always welcomed and well...exciting! I had heard about whiter skin being "in style" historically because it meant that the woman didn't have to work. Kind of like why being really fat used to be in style. It meant the woman wasn't starving like the rest and was therefore also a sign of higher status. I had never considered that the lighter skin preference could also be an effect of European colonization but now that I think about it, I totally agree. You seem very knowledgeable on the subject. And thanks for the tip on "oro negro". I will definitely have to check it out.

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