Monday, August 17, 2009

SAG uses frightening ruminant imagery to instill fear in travelers.

Caution: You may spit out whatever you are eating somewhere around photo four. You have been warned.

Four countries and seventeen hours later, I arrived to Santiago's spiffy airport and followed the usual hamster wheel to International Police, through the duty free shop and to pick up my luggage. Here, as is lately the case, I was asked on several occasions if I'd declared any food I might be carrying. Yes, I had, I responded (almond butter and grapenuts, if you were wondering).

And the puppies arrived, retrievers in little green SAG (Servicio Agrícola y Ganadero, the agriculture and livestock ministry) vests and they ran hither and yon, and sniffed and sniffed, becoming privy in the process (no doubt) to who among us had brought clean clothing, and who'd packed up their dirty unmentionables for the trip to Chile.

I was sad to see that the pretty dioramas that had previously displayed other seized items from travelers had disappeared, since the last photos I took of these did not really do them justice. Instead, on the last-chance-before-they-fine-your-unmentionable-clad-posterior table were these pretty bookmarks and postcards and things (at least that's how I like to think of them. If you'd like some more backstory on my experiences with SAG you can look for the story of the purloined pecans or of the great garlic debacle in these cleverly color-coded links.

First I'll give a preview of the quickly-nabbed printed matter and then we can go over them one by one. Les tinca? (does that work for you?)

sag lit

Of course I took a copy of each, for future edification, mirth and publication. Thanks SAG! And yes, I have a paper problem, and so many dead relatives that I could blame that on, but this would be unfair, since they cannot defend themselves.

So. Let's start with the one that I feel is clunky and poorly-worded.

sag lit with questionable translation

Sag has trust in you? What are we, a bank? How about "be honest!" or "SAG trusts you" (which is clearly not the case, since they Xray your luggage on the way into the country). Whatever. I don't love this one, but mainly think it's meh, not scorn-worthy, though I wonder why one would bring an apple or grapes into Chile since we produce so many of both, and here's probably where the came from in your country anyway. I'm just so glad they didn't try to depict animal semen, which is also verboten. And goodness I hope I don't get any hits on that.

Moving along to number two, Mr. Apple with his adorable drugstore mask.

sag lit with swine flu hook

This I think is clever, though I question why anyone would bring an apple to Chile. Plus it plays on our exaggerated fear of the swine flu, the poor feverish apple. Don't spread disease to our agricultural products. You know, it's fair. In fact, I'll say it's adorable. Memorable even. Publishable. I'll give it a thumbs' up. Heck, maybe I'll even tweet it, or stumble it, digg it or otherwise tell my friends inside the computer that I approve.

Moving on.

I don't
supposed to
(with a tip of the hat to Matt Logelin, who I read even though I have neither a deceased spouse nor an adorable imp of a child, and he is very famous and fabulous and smart and wow does he ever eat out alot.)


sag lit with ghost cow

So here we have the text, "No extingues nuestra Flora o Fauna Silvestre" (don't wipe out (as in cause to become extinct) our wild flora or fauna).

Okay, point taken. It would be sad if someone rounded up all the pudús and huemules and paico and bailahuén plants and killed them all. Chile is very rich in biodiversity, and this should be protected.

But look at the picture, and tell me what you see. Do you see a cow? as a representation of "wild fauna?" I'm sorry, did I miss something? Are there wild cows in Chile? I'm assuming it's supposed to be the aforementioned pudú, but how many people entering Chile could draw a picture of a pudú or pick one out of a lineup at 5 meters(or manage to see one anywhere but a zoo, which this photo shows I also was unable to manage, this time in Seattle). Also, this cow/tiny deer is either a ghost (which I believe runs afoul of conservative Catholic doctrine which dictates that animals get no afterlife), or has escaped from some kind of cow/pudú-keeping Aladdin's lamp, in which case I would like to ask it for three wishes, the first of which is to please not become the icon of SAG, because it is giving me nightmares.

The reverse side of this postcard has three tiny pictures which look to be a vulture, a flamingo and a box of melons, or perhaps they are pears. I'm trying right now to imagine how one would try to secret a flamingo in their carry-on luggage, though this might be easier than a pudú, as they are substantially more plentiful.

I'm not sure if the SAG website has a place for you to comment on this latest PSA, and I will not link to the apparent creators of this item, since their website (like their creative concept) seems to be under construction.

But there you have it. SAG really, really doesn't want you to mess up the agricultural or livestock-related wealth of the country, or to steal flamingoes. And I'm all for that.

But that floating head? it's just creepy.


Deidre said...

Australia used to have Steve Irwin photo on posters everywhere say it "BE SAFE, DECLARE IT"...terrifying.

Eileen said...

@deidre, let me be the first to come and say that Steve Irwin's face, as the face of Australia makes much more sense than the floating cow/pudú head. But yes, terrifying. And thanks for commenting!

Bystander said...

I don't know how much forbidden fruit (doesn't that sound nice) comes in at the airport, but over land borders it is a huge amount. Why? Because people hate to throw away anything they paid for. Even a lowly apple. Also, when food is cheaper on the other side of the Andes, visitors try to pack a week's groceries into the car. Then they complain about long waits at customs.
I actually saw a pudú right away, although the colouring is interesting. Psychedelic pudús. Neat.

Eileen said...

@ bystander, I wholeheartedly support them controlling the borders any which way they need to. Chile was isolated for so long, and has been mostly free of pests that have destroyed agriculture in other places (as far as I know). But I can also understand why people driving in remote areas (from Tacna into the north of Chile, or across from Esquél to Futaleufú, for example) would want to bring in fruit, seeing as how horribly overpriced (and in the south, in poor condition) it is.

I applaud your pudú sighting. It was nearly 3 in the morning when I saw this, and could hardly make sense of the image at all. Then again, I've never seen one in real life, not even at the zoo, sadly.

Margaret said...

Damn! I WANT one of those Saint Pudú-Cows!! I mean, how cool is that? with his little animita tomb and everything? Can you get more kitchie-cool than that?
But I CAN solve the apple trafficking mystery! Have you noticed how often they give you fresh fruit for breakfast on the plane? I warned a gringa once as she tucked a banana into her pocket- uh-uh! Not in Chile you don't! I wonder if the airlines get a commission on the fines?

Anonymous said...

I've just read also your pecan nut story and unlike some of you commentors suggest about picnics and such I can tell you that they have a bin in the airport where they put the offending items and pour some very posionous looking blue liquid over it to 'destroy' it! I know as I recently was forced to watch this process as I declared a bag of dried cranberries with sunflower seeds and pine nuts as was forced to do to, then to be told that it had to be destroyed as the packet didnt say it was toasted or salted and so the seeds if left could grow!! I had another bag of the same here for a year and it never grew in this time, they have developed more natural ways of producing 'healthy' products but SAG doesnt seem to be aware of this!!! Certainly over the years I have been passing through the airport they are getting stricter.

Eileen said...

wow! cool, anonymous! We heard it here first, poisonous blue liquid is added before they make a stew! (kidding).

Glad you didn't get fined as you declared the items. I wonder where they get the blue liquid, and if it's related to the spray they spray on the liquid holds (and sometimes on your feet) when you come to Chile.

Do you hold the answers to all the mysteries of Chile? where can we come to ask you more questions, because this one has been bugging me for a while!

Anonymous said...

(Anon of earlier) What I forgot to say that the bag I had was open as I had been munching on them during my long trip - I offered to eat them but they wouldnt let me!! So thinking about it maybe only open things get the blue treatment, although there was a very smelly cheese there that could have done with being neutralized!!! As I have never been sprayed on entering Chile cant say if it is the same stuff but I know I wouldnt like to be sprayed with the stuff I saw!!!

Sara said...

I'm still giggling at the floating cow head. They even gave the poor little guy a tombstone. How clever! Now I never want to bring contraband into the country. Nope. I'm not creeped out in the least.

Bystander said...

Actually the pudú looks as if it was sprayed with blue stuff.

Eileen said...

@bystander, well, that certainly would explain it's untimely death.

@sara, be you not so stupid (stole that line from Dooce). Seriously, it's a big fine, and they take away your stuff, your hard-purchased stuff. It's all very sad.

Anonymous said...

La diferencia dista mucho de una vaca a un pudú, si bien es cierto para quien nunca ha visto un pudù podria confundirse... es una lastima que muchos personas nunca han visto uno y lo mas probable es que nunca lo veran porque es una de las especies con mas riesgo de extincion en Chile y por lo mismo el Sag lo usa como simbolo en sus campañas de preservacìon de las especies.

phishlady said...

There was a story in my local Minnesota feed this morning about SAG, and I remembered this post of yours... thought I'd append the Minnesota story for an added bit of color. :) The journalist also thought the images were striking, but didn't seem to notice the floating cow head...