I’ve been trying to get friends and colleagues in Chile to do some guest posts for this blog, or even just send in the occasional vignette of life in the country. On the occasion of last month’s controversial National Socioeconomic Characterization (CASEN) survey, which claimed a decrease in poverty from 2009 to 2011, here’s a report by Lezak Shallat:
These two guys outside my house today, maybe drunks, maybe bums, maybe just hard luck, but certainly hungry enough to be scouring the trash. One had a Calvin Klein bag with a beer can and some copper wires (bring a pretty penny, I believe) inside. The other had just found an artichoke and was chowing it down. (Also happy about some cold mashed potatoes, but more happy with the artichoke, which he recognized as being pricey). As I walked past, they asked me for change and instead I flashed them a big smile, like, “hey, I recognize your humanity but not your hunger, and continued on my way. Then I remembered that I had just seen a TV spot for Hogar de Cristo, where the passersby do just that (instead of “really” supporting social change by donating monthly…) . But it made me turn back. I asked them if I could take their photo, “to show my friends that there really is poverty in Chile”, as I put it. And they interrupted to specify, “hunger in Chile,” adding “don´t put it on Internet, or if you do, put it on YouTube”, And I pulled out a $1000 peso bill )about 2 bucks), to which the one guy said “great, we will split it” (good buddies, these guys), which seemed so ridiculous that I pulled out another.
Its sad. For all its growth and prosperity Chile does still have the highest income inequality in South America. The minimum wage is still around 190 000 pesos, $380US…. a month!!