“Your blog would go down well here. Tolerance is much needed”
– is one of the comments I received after yesterday’s blog post. For the first time, I ruffled a few feathers, as I knew I would. To be fair, that is the intention of this blog – to bring awareness and humanity to the reality of Santiago life – and unfortunately the truth isn’t always English classes, pisco sours and delicious sopaipillas. Although it can seem like the easiest option at the time, burying ones head in the sand does not actually make much substantial difference.
Without ill-intention (though it certainly seemed like it!), one reader incredulously asked “what are you doing living there? I really can’t believe someone would choose to live in that situation”. I suppose that brings me to points 31 and 32 on my 50 Things To Expect post. Basically, not all gringos fall on their feet here. Having a child (restricted time) along with Santiago’s high living costs and lack of job opportunities (I don’t speak Spanish fluently) means that my options are limited. Combined further with the fact that mi amor is a) from here, b) owns a house here, c) works here, d) has family here, e) is not wealthy and it all makes perfect sense.
What is the name of my blog? It’s “Querida Recoleta” – my Dear Recoleta. I genuinely like living here. There is more character here than in the east, the people are friendlier than in downtown, the transport links are excellent (better than Nunoa) and I’ve been here over two years so I know my way around well. We know everyone and everyone knows us. Luis can get home safely when he finishes returning the taxi to his father at night and he can get to work quickly when he starts in the bus at 5am. People smile at us in the street, help us when we need it, the facilities are excellent (like Thai Chi or Cappoeira? There’s classes), and on holidays, this place is for the community.
I also genuinely feel safe here, despite what you may think from my blogs. In the day, flaites leave me alone and address me as Tia, and I don’t do much wondering around at night time. If anything happens the police arrive instantly, and when there is a commotion it doesn’t involve us. Every blog post so far I have tried to show people a world beyond their prejudices, because to be fair, that is rife here and it does go both ways (I’m battling that too with Organizacion Ojos Abiertos). My view is clearer than most because I study social anthropology and for the past three years I have specifically looked at class in Santiago.
My goal has always been to write about my experiences in Chile – the good and the bad. Any reader will see that I have tried to capture its beauty and the reality of its existence for locals. This is the home of Luis, his family and his friends and this place is good enough for them. I’m also not the only gringo living in a place such as this, but I do appear the only person writing about it in English. There are stories to be told here because Santiago is much, much more than what people see in the Plaza de Armas or Providencia or Lo Barnechea, and millions of Santiaguinos call barrios like Recoleta home. And to be fair where I live it’s not even that bad. But we are lucky, some people need urgent help and it’s a spiral of mis content.
Emilio has spent the majority of his life here thus making him Recoletano. My family is my home and they are here. So everytime someone takes a shot at these people without really knowing them, they are also aiming at me. No change will ever come from this. #queridarecoleta
NOTE: if you have family or friends in Recoleta in need of support or assistance please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Organizacion Ojos Abiertos may be able to help. I also offer FREE English language tuition to anyone who wants it and doesn’t have the means to pay.