(Please forgive my internet cafe grammar)
Geography affects humans just as it does any other species. Nothing happens us quite as striking as the morphing beaks of the Galapagos islands but the same similar mechanisms apply.
Crossing the Andes mountains into Chile, this sensation caught me as much by surprise as the cool pacific breeze rolling in off the ocean. Chile and its people are oh so different from their Argentine counterparts. The weather is similar, the geography is similar, the demography is comparable. But I could sense more difference between the Argentines and the Chileans than I could between my ´culture´ and the whole of south america.
Of course, its is a question of perspective, of expectation. But I didn´t think that the geographic frontier of the Andes, the spindly chain of potbellied mountians fondly known as the Cordillera, would have such a socioevolutionary impact.
To boot, the first two days I spent in the beach town of Algarobbo with an old school friend, I found the Chilean accent incomprensible. This was to be expected. I had grown accustomed to the predictable argentine inflections and the hard pronunciation of the Ys and double Ls. But one my first attempt to order Pollo (chicken which is pronounced poyo in chile, posho in argentina) I was met with blank stares and timidity.
The timid thing really struck me too. Most people were equally afraid to speak to me in english and spanish. Waitresses would give me a look that seemed to say ´Que raro´when I tried to order food. As if the mountain boundary locks Chile off as much from the world as from Argentina.
Another side effect of their isolation is an inward looking search for a source of pride that far outstrips that of Argentina. Maybe Argentines just come across a bit more cynical and disillusioned. Chileans are perhaps the most nationalistically sentimental people I have encountered.
You are not going to the South of Chile? Are you crazy? Es muy preciooooso. You can´t come to Chile and not see the South….
I had this conversation about 7 times in a week. The first time was the most tragic because I responded with two major faux pas. First: But I have mountains in my own country. Why do I need to see them here? A response that was met with wide eyed expressions of disbelief, silent diagnoses of insanity, and even the slightest hint at hatred.
Second: But I am going to see the same thing in the South of Argentina.
Now this response is to the best of my knowledge relatively accurate. And although I was met with the same surprise slash disappointment, there seemed to be a grudging acceptance to this logic. Although it would tend to kill the conversation so I started to go along with it.
What else is peculiar about Chileans? Well, they did seem like much bigger alcoholics. The drink more like North Americans than Argentines. But then again, I was living for a week in a discotheque, going to sleep at 7am on the grimy bar floor. That might have given me a minor bias.
And they love their Pisco. And their cigarrettes. But it was mainly the nationalism that struck me. They love for their country: a country entrenched in military dictatorship only 20 years ago, strung out like a string bean at the end of the planet, with a population spread over 4000 kilometers and various latitudes.
Kind of like Canada. But sideways.

One Response to Cordillera

  1. tomás.. says:

    Veri inaccurate post…first, the south of chile it is inded different to the south of argentina, it has lakes volcanoes and another shit, islands and sea..Pacific ocean who also is very difefrent to the atlantic ocean

    second, if you think argentines don’t love their country..then your listenings skills are very defficients..they love their country…they think their country is the best country in the world..they love their european background, and basically feel superior to the rest of southamerica, and even superior to the rest of the world (they think they’re the smarter ones..and “gringos” are just, too naive for them..but anyway i kind of feel the same way too lots of times)s…now, they have their political problems..but they tend to blame it to their corrupted political elite..and they don’t see that they choose them over and over’s a never ending history.

    I feel the chilean are proud of their country..but i feel them more tryng to make your stay more confortable and be friendly..and you just shut up them with “I already know the south of argentina..and it’s the same that the south of chile”.. very rude from your part…. you maybe have to go along with it…

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