Thursday, May 28, 2009

Uptown/Downtown, a study in contrasts in Santiago.

On numerous occasions, we've (and I mean you and I, or the other bloggers that make up my little corner of the world) talked about the contrast between the high and low, the haves and the have nots. Kyle tells her version of the class divide in Chile here, and Peg does something similar (talking about a play she'd seen recently) here. Lots of good stuff in the comments, too. But wait! Don't forget to come back!

My story takes me in one day from one of the poorer and historically most turbulent and unified areas of Santiago, the población (poor neighborhood/slum) La Victoria (link in Spanish) in the comuna (district) of Pedro Aguirre Cerda (PAC) to the VIP floor of the After Office party at Castillo Hidalgo on Cerro Santa Lucia.

When my really nifty neighbor asked me if I'd come and talk to Pamela Jiles, the interviewer on a program called Chiles, I wasn't sure if I'd do it. Not because it's an illegal channel, not because I'm afraid that I look weird on TV (who doesn't), and not even necessarily because she's a pretty controversial figure, and known for being difficult and confrontational. I actually hesitated because even after five years, I worry a little about my Spanish. There. I said it. It's not that I worry about being heard, but about being recorded, heard and reheard. Anyway, you're not going to hear and rehear me, and if you do, you'll find that the recording is terribly sibilant, none of us have a lisp, except the Spaniard, and that's just his accent.

If you've got an hour to kill, enjoy me and my two cointerviewees (topic: immigrants in Chile) together with our presenter, who had a cold, and was fairly lovely to us the whole time, here's where you can watch the whole low-budget video.



you'll see me mostly at the following intervals, if you can't wait to hear what I have to say:

3:14 -7:08
16:27 17:49
26:11 29:25
32:15 35:50
37:50 39:25
41:04 42:21
47:55 49:20
50:00 52:38


I can't be bothered to subtitle the thing, but I assure you that I am utterly charming (the interviewer tells me so toward the end of the interview), and that at 28:44 I do not ask the interviewer if she knows anyone when she asks me if I have a (romantic) partner. At minute 22, we are all laughing because Ms. Jiles asks why the Spaniard was attracted to the población La Victoria, and in Chilean Spanish we use the article before the name of a person as a term of endearment, and one of the camera women (my neighbor) is called Victoria, or in this case "La Victoria," so we're all laughing because perhaps he was attracted to the woman, not the población, and apparently we are all twelve years old.

The guy in the middle is from Nigeria, and is a political asilee from his home country, and has lived in Cuba, Ecuador and a bunch of other Latin American countries.

We bid our farewells and were given books from Le Monde Diplomatique as parting gifts. I was kind of strongarmed into trading my book (on the Mapuche) to a collection of blog entries by Luis Sepúlveda.

After wrapping up the filming, we bussed back to our middle ground of downtown/barrio brasil, neither poor nor wealthy (though parts are variably either or both). I had a couple of hours of work to do, and then I swooped over to the mythical after office party, where observations abounded, money (not mine) flowed and I (this time) wore sensible shoes.

One thing led to another, and my friend and I were soon invited up to the VIP lounge of this event, where we were assured we would be rubbing shoulders with the cream of the crop (Chileans and sympathizers, our host said " son puro ABC1" We quickly discovered that, just as their downstairs brethren do, people were dropping drinks (one on a friend of mine), singing along in English, and dancing in way too small a space. The only difference was the pink wristbands. Oh, and fewer gringos. Maybe the people tended to be a little older. Certainly we were all in better shape for having climbed so very many stairs to get there. But upstairs, downstairs, it was all the same. The same questions, the same failed attempts to dance, the same (WHAT?) 25-28 year-olds chatting me up.

Which just goes to show you, life is pretty much the same wherever you go, it all depends on your attitude, the good people with whom you surround yourself, taking care of each other, and on wearing comfortable shoes. This last one so you can walk on the potholed and or in-progress streets of the población and the cobblestones up to the castle where you can rub shoulders with people who'll ask you repetitive questions that you blogged about a month ago and some of which you were just asked on an illegal television program by a woman too sick to really show her snarky side.

Thank God for small mercies. And Danskos. Definitely Danskos.

Oh, and thanks for your patience. Should I have warned you to grab a cup of coffee first?

9 comments:

Bystander said...

I am going to watch the video tomorrow. Looking forward to it. Pamela Jiles....is she still running for President? Started her campaign in front of the Moneda dressed in military uniform accompanied by a naked model? Not sure what that was all about. Good idea to wear comfortable shoes to the interview though. Running away might have been necessary!

Abby said...

I'm excited to watch the video too, especially after hearing the low-down today. It was great to meet you, and I look forward to Vietnamese food next week sometime.

Bystander said...

I watched the video. You were the clearest speaker. I couldn't pick up a lot of what the Nigerian fellow had to say.

Alright, I admit I am obsessed with detail. Pamela should sit up straight, cold or no cold. The Nigerian's boots...fascinating. A comb for the Spaniard, please.

I still think Pamela is not what you might call tightly rolled, but it was fun to watch. You look good on video. New career looming?

Beverly said...

I watched the highlights (and found myself trying to listen in Swedish ... does that ever happen to you? Not listening in Swedish, of course, but trying to pick Spanish out of language you don't understand.)

Anyway, you look and sound great, though I understand only about ten words of spoken Spanish!

KC said...

ahahaha... I definitely decided to make a pot of coffee about half way through!

speaking of coffee, Mayorga (and me!) are waiting for you whenever you pass through this swampland!

Tobal said...

Pamela estaba verdaderamente enferma o cansada, creo, porque de lo contrario te habría crucificado por tus observaciones sobre lo política y económicamente estable del país (mostrando sus pensamientos al respecto...ella es comunista). No te apretó mayormente en esos puntos, andaba dulce Pamela.

Tu español es muy claro, sólo el típico acento estadounidense...acá en el sur se ve mucho más el alemán, que es bastante menos pulcro y más torpe o fuerte.

El chico español me sorprendió, porque realmente sabía muy poco sobre diversos temas :S

Eileen said...

Gracias Tobal, en realidad yo sé que lo saqué muuuuuy barato con ella. Sigo insistiendo que Chile es mas estable de muchos de nuestros vecinos. Donde me habría mandado ella? Bolivia? Venezuela? Ecuador?(donde viví por un tiempo corto), que ha tenido casi mas presidentes que años desde que empezó la democracia. Me quiso crucificar por ser gringa. Al final no lo hizo. Capaz que esté muy arrepentida de no haber podido. Quien sabe.
En cuanto al diagnosis de "tipico accento gringo," disputo un poco, ya que hay una variedad muy grande de "accentos gringos," igual como hay muchos accentos latinos cuando Uds. hablan ingles, dependiendo del lugar de origen.

Gracias por comentar!

Tobal said...

Bueno en Bolivia el diagnóstico es similar en cuanto a presidentes y, actualmente, la estadía de Evo Morales da para un análisis eterno. Basta con resaltar el decreto de la semana pasada, según el cual puede expropiar sin pago alguno a cualquier opositor político, así que sin comentarios sobre los vecinos. En Argentina el desorden es similar, la potencia sudamericana que deberían ser por peso geopolítico y capital humano siempre se ve amagada por su poca seriedad...coincido contigo, pero digamos que Jiles tiene otro enfoque para las cosas, así que podría haberte dado con todo, pero no lo hizo.

Sobre el acento, tienes razón, si hablan en inglés son bastante diferentes los acentos de distintos lugares de EEUU, pero al hablar en español, encuentro que lo hacen de manera similar.

Y el tema central, uptown-downtown, no es necesariamente así en todos los lugares del país. Si bien es la tendencia chilena el enviar a la gente más pobre hacia la periferia, existen ciudades con distribuciones "mixtas", sin segregación del espacio físico pero, obviamente, con otras barreras invisibles.

Según entiendo todas las políticas de gobierno conducen a revertir esta tendencia de enviar a los pobres a la periferia, por un motivo práctico: si los ubicas más lejos, tienes que construir infraestructura asociada como hospitales, centros comerciales, supermercados, servicios públicos varios, en vez de aprovechar los existentes. Eso sale más caro.

Creo que he escrito demasiado.

Eileen said...

Tobal,

No encuentro que escribiste demasiado. Tengo mucho que aprender sobre tu Chile, sobre todos los Chiles. Yo apenas conozco el mio, y lo intento describir y vivir lo mas honesto posible. Cada quien tiene su proprio lente a través de lo cual vemos el mundo. Igual a la fotografía, intento mostrar lo que veo, nada mas, y nada menos.

No te voy a discutir en cuanto a accentos gringos, pero algún día haré grabaciones de unos gringos hablando español y se distinguirán varios accentos. O tal vez no. Se te interesa escuchar como suenan los hispanohablantes de varios paises (y tambien gente de muchos mas idiomas), te sugiero que veas http://accent.gmu.edu/ donde hay grabaciones de personas diciendo los mismos frases (que se suponen que representan todos los sonidos de ingles). Hay 67 ejemplos de hablantes nativos de español (entre ellos, uno supuestamente chileno que no suena como ningún chileno que he escuchado hablando ingles). Aquí van todos de los hispanohablantes http://accent.gmu.edu/searchsaa.php.