Monday, January 10, 2011

Cuico vs. Flaite

One of the first things I learned on my return to Chile is that there are two Chiles. The upper class Chile (cuico) and what is considered the lower class (flaite). Other friends had mentioned that there were two Chiles in Santiago before, but only recently was I exposed to how deep these references run.

I was at lunch with two very good male friends when I said that I was going out with someone later that night. One replied "Just make sure he's ... people like us" half in jest because it's a typical thing you hear, but also half serious.

The two Chile's are divided by who lives on what side of the roundabout that is at the center of the city, known as the "belly button of Chile." If you live on the east side, closest the Andes, you're cuico. Where you went to college, what color your eyes are, what color your hair is, what color your skin is, what you drive, even where you went to high school indicates which of these groups you belong to. (I happily live on the flaite side of town, which I can testify, isn't that bad.)

If you have ojos claros, from the north, live on the east side of Baquedano you're 100% cuico. People from the south, dark eyed, dark hair, went the poorer schools, dark skin (this seems to be an international discriminating factor) you can be (but are not necessarily) considered flaite. Flaite is almost synonymous with the word ghetto.

You can also tell someone's class by their last name. Hearing certain names, instantly you can know what class the person comes from.

There are of course gray areas, but the lines separating class are still very closely follow these distinctions.

On my ride home I watched a Chilean film "Machuca" about two kids who tried to defy these lines during the transition to the Pinochet regime. One kid from the ritzy Vitacura (nicknamed "strawberry face" because of his red hair and freckles) befriends one of the fliate kids in his class. This mixing of classes is seen as socialist and (spoiler alert) the kids from the bad part of town are taken out of school after Pinochet comes to power.

I've embedded the trailer for "Machuca" below.


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