Monday, January 18, 2010

Chile, Day 22

Stay away from El Mismo...

I have to say, I’m thrilled to be leaving Santiago. Not thrilled to be leaving Chile, as I basically liked it, but Santiago…get me out of here and get me out of here fast.

I’m leaving Santiago more or less with the same kind of ridiculous encounter that I had in my first hour here when a belligerent drunk took a swing at me as I was trying to photograph a building. Tonight, the owner of a restaurant where I went to eat, El Mismo (511 Monjitas Street), which is a “local” establishment more or less next door to my hotel, asked me where I was from. I said, “Estados Unidos.” He scowled and replied that in Chile people call my country, “Putos Unidos.” I didn’t know what this meant, but by his demeanor I immediately wondered if he was insulting me. Not that I’m paranoid, but he didn’t seem very pleased that I was there. This feeling was reinforced when the man, who at 50-something should have known better, kind of dropped my food on the table and wouldn’t respond to my waves or calls of “Señor” to get the bill, even though we were twenty feet from each other and no one else was there. When I got back to the hotel I looked up the word “puto” and found that it means “homosexual,” but in a more derogatory way.

So I went downstairs and mentioned this to the hotel manager, who speaks English. He told me that in Chile the United States is often call “Estados Juntos,” and "juntos" is synonymous with "unidos." However, the restaurant owner didn’t use the word “Estados” in his response. Also, even though my Spanish is bad, I can definitely distinguish between a Spanish “j”-sound and a “p”-sound. I can also tell when there is or is not an “n” in a word. And since I’d never heard the word “puto” before, it’s an odd coincidence that this is what I remembered and then looked up. But the kicker is that he was rude. Also, not surprisingly, his food wasn’t very good.

So I’ll put up a photo of his restaurant along with the address so that anyone who happens to be in Santiago and staying in the vicinity of Mosqueto and Monjitas in the El Centro district – for example, at the Andes Hostel or Hotel Ciudad de Vitoria, which are a stone’s throw away from the restaurant – doesn’t support his business.

Like I said, I’m happy to be leaving Santiago. I’m sure Santiago has many nice people – millions, in fact – but I have had too many bad experiences with rude people in this city to leave with positive memories. Chiloe I loved. But Santiago…

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  1. Hi, you were quiet there for a while, so I thought you went off to focus on other amazing projects. I see you are now down in SA, and I have some catching up to do. I cannot wait - just a quick peak at the posts and pictures told me, I'd better hunker down with a great cup of coffee and settle in for a treat.

    Hope all is well with you.

  2. What the manager gave you was well intended bs. The other translation is wrong as well...

    puta = whore
    puto = literally would mean male whore, but the context in which it is used is more akin to the use of "motherf***er" in english. So there...

    There is a fair amount of anti americanism in the lower chilean classes, which of course can be directly attributed to US foreign policy (specially that one little CIA-backed incident on 9/11/73).

    You'll have to give Chile another try, you really missed out on some of the best spots (even in some of the towns you visited).


  3. OysterCulture: Well, I did focus on other projects for awhile. But then I got itchy to travel. So now I'm scratching that itch and feel much better. :) Thanks for your comment, and I hope everything is great with you, too!

    Jan: Thanks for the explanation. I don't think the manager's words were well-intended at all, actually. There's simply no need for that kind of thing, though of course I have to expect it will happen sometimes when traveling and meeting different people. That's just how things are. I understand the anti-American feelings in South America, and many other parts of the world, too, unfortunately. I just wish people would try to make a distinction between the U.S. government and me. Those who travel abroad are generally interested in the countries and cultures they visit, and I find it cowardly and low to insult someone who doesn't have the ability to communicate back. And yes, perhaps I'll have to give Chile another try. Although I planned my trip well in advance, I feel like I should have done a lot more with the opportunities I had. Oh well. Live and learn!

  4. puto in Chile usually means a strong expletive
    but not homosexual as in argentina or other nearby countries

    not a nice thing to say regardless

    I tend to find Santiago offers such diferent experiences to those who arrive with a guidebook in their hands versus those who fall in with local friends. it's amazing that such a large city is still ill equipped for tourism and newcomers

    better the south!

  5. AWB: I'm sure it's true what you say about travelers' differing experiences in Santiago. I actually met some extremely nice people from Santiago outside of Chile, which only made my experiences there harder to understand. But that's how it goes sometimes when you travel. Living there for a year would give me a better sense of the culture and people. I'm convinced that Santiago offered a much richer experience than I was able to find; I just got a little lost along the way. And yes -- I enjoyed being in the south quite a bit! Thanks for your comment.