Thursday, January 27, 2011

Photo "reveal" and open for more discussion.

Thanks to everyone who participated, peeped, tweeted or commented about the photo. What am I talking about? This entry, and the following photos.

The woman, is in fact, selling orange juice. She has a shopping cart and a juice squeezer and oranges, and a trash bag at her feet. Five years ago this shopping cart/juicer phenomenon was almost unknown. I'm not sure when it first came up, maybe about three years ago. It's new, but has taken hold, and considering all the other stuff that's sold on the street (fried sopaipillas, fried egg rolls, etc), I feel like it's a pretty good addition to the street-food scene.

I have no way of knowing if that is her child or not. I had assumed it was, but a number of you wondered if the child was or was not hers. I also don't know if it's a boy or a girl, or why he/she is so warmly dressed. I was wearing a sundress and breaking out in a sweat. There is no second child in the carriage, and the child was pulling the newspaper out of the carriage sheet by sheet.

I had not noticed that the child was on the other side of that metal partition. We do not generally have a crippling fear of kidnapping here, so it didn't seem strange to me that the child was not closer to the woman selling juice.

People who work independently often wear aprons or what we call cotones, which are button-up smocks over their clothes. The guy who sells sandwiches outside of the Registro Civil near my house wears a white cotón every day, so her wearing an apron did not surprise me. Plus it could have pockets for her to easily keep change in without sticking her hands in and out of her pants pockets, which might get juicy.

The question was asked about whether this was her main job or a supplement. Again, I have no way of knowing this. Given the time of day and how hard it would be to safely store all of her items and drop off her child elsewhere before getting to work (very unusual are the jobs where you don't have to be at work before 10 or 12, including at the mall), I'd guess it's her main gig.

I was also surprised to see her costly items, and have never seen anyone use a pack and play on the street before. I also wondered who dropped her off in the morning, and if that person would come and pick her up later, or drop off more oranges. Does she work for herself, or is there a middle-man who takes care of the orange procurement, and other associated tasks. Does he/she take a cut? Does she make enough to live on? Does she have more kids elsewhere? Does the kid like orange juice? What will she do when he/she gets bigger? These are the main questions that ran through my mind.

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And now if you'll accompany me, we can address the 64 million peso question (that's only $128,000 if you were wondering). The Peruvian question.

Is she Peruvian? Why do we care? Before answering this question, you have to know that in Chile, the word Peruvian (peruano) is heavy. It's loaded. Rather than being a simple description, like Irish or Belgian or Canadian, it comes off as an accusation. There is a history of strife between the two countries, based on land grabs and wars and treaties. But the Peruvian question is not based in history. It is based in the present.

Presently, there are many Peruvians who have come to Chile, specifically to Santiago. A bit of a "little Lima" (pequeña Lima) has developed on the north side of the cathedral at the Plaza de Armas. Snacks like Sublime (a chocolate bar) and drinks like InkaCola are sold at the many internet cafés and locutorios (telephone offices) that advertise low rates for calling Perú. Fresh food, from papas rellenas (stuffed potatoes) and chicken and rice and a thin pudding called mazamorra morada (made of purple corn) eaten as dessert are prepared off site, and sold in disposable containers which people tuck into, standing in groups, talking, smiling, laughing until long after dark. Late at night, when the street-eating is over, shuttle pull up and call out the names of various parts of the city that people might be going home to.

So what's the problem? The problem is that Chile is Chlie, and Peru is Peru. Chile has enjoyed a fairly strong economy for some time, and while Peru has a moneyed elite, much of which lives in Lima and sends their kids to school in the United States for a year, or for college (their school year coincides with the northern hemisphere's, unlike that in Chile, which is opposite, the year starting in March and ending in December), well, some of the rest of Peru has their sights set differently.

It's probably quite a bit like any country A with immigrant B situation. The people fron country A learn to have negative associations with immigrant B's culture (in this case, "too much noise, too much mess, music, ideas, etc."), and begin to blame immigrant B for economic hardship "they take all the jobs, they work harder than Chileans, they live 10 in a small apartment, there's no way I can compete!" And the unsettling feeling that the mother country is less yours than it was when there were fewer people from country B sending their kids to your kids' school, etc.

It is long and complicated. I am not a sociologist. But I am an immigrant here, and I think I (and many of my gringa commenters, friends, readers, etc.) are just vaguely assimmilating the idea that word Peruvian is (especially in English) taken to mean anything other than "a person from Peru." We resist anti-Peruvian sentiment, reject xenophobia. When we say that the woman is probably Peruvian (as I was originally going to say, before I opened the photo to comments instead), I mean: the law of averages dictates that she is from Peru, as I have bought juice on the street a number of times, and the person that sold it to me (for 500 pesos, about a dollar) was Peruvian in every case, or at least had a Peruvian accent, though I did not ask to see her national ID card.

There's so much more to say, statistics to give (I heard a dato recently that five years ago there were fewer than 150,000 immigrants in Chile, and now there are more than 300,000 (on Radio Futuro, don't have a print/web source at the moment). This Wikipedia article says that there are 85,000 Peruvians living in Santiago. Out of a population of about 6 million, for about 14%. For people used to living in a fairly monocultural place, it represents a change.

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The important part for me here is the difference between saying what you know, and saying what you suspect. I don't know if it's her child. I don't know if she has another job. I don't know how much money she makes, or where she lives, or if she's from Peru. All I know is that I saw something curious on my way to a work meeting the other day, and I took a picture. What is true is what is evident. Everything else is conjecture. Thanks to the fine folks at MatadorNetwork for encouraging my thought process and a critical eye towards what I see and what I communicate.

Coming soon: much less heady and fun-to-read topics, silly pictures and other tomfoolery.

5 comments:

Sarsparilla said...

I'd like not to be causing a bad atmosphere or dissent. I just don't want my list of interesting thoughtful chilean blogs to get any smaller!

I should state my own hand - half my family are peruvian, and I've never heard any anti-chileno sentiment from anyone in Peru. I have, however, heard anti-bolivian sentiments - but nothing on the scale I have seen online against peruvians, which in my experience seems to originate in chilean people's attitudes and sentiments.

Because of this social context, I value all the more highly those chilean blogs I read that strive not to reaffirm interpretations of peruvian people as poor or culturally impoverished, or stupid, when they are none of these things.

I know that a lot of south american attitudes to race are different from western attitudes. But I think western attitudes towards cultural tolerance are good ones, and something we can all try to export as expats in our host countries.

Thanks for a considered response. I hope I haven't caused a row.

Anonymous said...

Los peruanos estan obsesionados con chile, siempre quieren ganarnos en todo. Es algo asi como el sentimiento que nosotros les tenemos a los argentinos...
Para la parada militar, en las noticias peruanas hacen recuento de todos los tanques, aviones, etc que tiene chile, y siempre lo ven como una amenaza... ridiculo??
Yo no creo que los chilenos les tengamos tanto odio.. tampoco creo que sean estupidos o poco educados.. pero la verdad es que los inmigrantes peruanos que llegan a chile no son los que se fueron a estudiar al extranjero ni los mas educados.
Y la verdad es que si ya la gente odia a los flaites/borrachos chilenos utilizando los edificios del centro de baño... MAS molesta cuando no son chilenos....
Yo no tengo ningun resentimiento hacia los peruanos, si me apareciera un curriculum de un peruano en mi trabajo que tuviese mas aptitudes que un chileno, lo haria contratar altiro. Mi molestia es mas hacia TODOS los flaites, sean del pais que sean.
Los peruanos vendiendo juguito, me parecen bastante emprendedores... eso no existia en chile, y yo creo que en el verano les debe ir harto bien. al final todos tratamos de salir adelante como podemos... Pero por favor siempre cumpliendo con la ley y sin flaiterias. All I ask.

Margaret said...

Great idea for stimulating conversation Eileen! You have a great eye for this kind of thing--keep it up!

Anonymous said...

I think my post is interesting because.. I have always seen this difference:

1) Ask a Peruvian.. Is Perú ready for a war with Chile?
a) No. El perú se esta arriesgando con el problema de La Haya y no ha pensado en las consecuencias.
b) SI. Los chilenos tienen mas armas pero no tienen el entrenamiento militar de los peruanos, chilenos de la "#$%%$# vengan nomas que los haremos mierda.

2) Ask a Chilean.. Is Chile ready for a war with Perú?
a)Y porqué nos vamos a guerra wn???????
b) Obvio.. los hacemos mierda....... pero pk vamos a guerra?
Truth is. Peru is always thinking about war with Chile... have you read cablegate? US is always telling peru.. chile "no esta ni ahi" with a war with u.. could ur goverment focus on serious issues-

US is always telling Chile.. Chile u are our ally! we will give u whatever u want if u fix ur copyright legislation.
It's peru that hates chile, not chile that hates peru..

Anonymous said...

and this is how it will really go in chile:
HAYA GIVES XXXXX MORE SEA TO PERU
1) Right Wing Chileans - They think they're gonna be as rich as chileans with XXXX more sea. HAHA STUPID PERUVIANS.
2) Left Wing Chileans - Oh Well, Land Belongs To Everybody So They should use it.
3) Centre Chileans: Oh.. Theyve got more lsnd.. Ok... That sucks.
4) Pescadores in the Zone:
Lets do/make a Strike, we need to be compensated because of this loose of land.
5) Chileans all over the country: They need to be compensated for this goverment failure to keep the land.
ten days.......
6) Chileans all over the country:
Protests are going bad, flaites have taken over.
Lets stop them, it's not like ARICA is losing THAT much, whatever I dont care just stop the flaites.
7) Chile Goes Back To Normal.
8) Peru Is Wasting Millions of Their Giant Public Debt Trying to equal Chile Weapons.
:)