To Chile or Not To Chile: An Imperialist View

This past year I had the privilege of living in Chile, the long country bordering Argentina to the Right and the Pacific Ocean to the left. As a Latino, I had some idea of what my experience would be like going in, but as an American my thoughts were ever so conflicted. Nonetheless, when it came time to leave I was heartbroken that I would leave, but determined to drag my country for filth at every possible opportunity, so here I am.

The reason I mention that is because of the one question that burned me inside every time it was uttered. The one question that seemed like a slap to the face regardless who spoke it, or what language it was uttered in. The one question that made me mentally check out every time it dared cross the effervescent, ignorant border that was the human mouth. Why did you decide to come to Chile?

What, is that it? Yes. That is it.

Of course it was always followed by such gems as: “You could’ve gone to Spain!” Or “Latin America is not interesting.” In the interest of time, I would always answer with a ditzy statement such as: “It was one of the only programs for my major” or “It looked really cool.” Albeit basic, these were true.

Valparaíso had an excellent Spanish language capacity program and it was a remarkable city of color, worthy of being named the Jewel of the Pacific. But, my true rationale was something that I hadn’t really shared with anyone due to a fear of sounding like I was preaching. Now, I write this preaching like a true reverend of social theory. I chose Valparaiso because I was tired of that Eurocentric, imperialist mindset that comes associated with studying abroad. I grew tired of being subjected to the white mans ideals of what an education abroad should be. I grew tired of listening to the dull, senseless ramblings of the privileged, spoken frivolously as if they had any sense of what it means to be oppressed. Because I was tired of the Chads, Courtneys, Dillons, and Daphnes, using my people and their lands like playgrounds.

I chose Chile because as a Latino it would have been shameful to go anywhere else. As a man of color, it would have been a slap to the face of all my ancestors that died at the hands of colonizers, a slap to the face of my parents who risked life and limb to cross a border traversed by the worst dangers known to man. It would have been a mockery to who I am as a person and to what I stood for to go to a European country and enjoy walking through the beaches of Ibiza, admiring the castles of Toledo, and enjoying the company of Spanish men. It would have been the selling of a soul that was once lost in ignorance before. It was a mistake I would not make again and a privilege I would not take for granted.

My personal rationale aside, that question in and of itself served as interesting social thought. All the Chileans I encountered would ask this question. They would ask me why I would even bother going to Chile.

As if somehow their country wasn’t worthy of being visited by the imperialists. As if somehow their people retain the power of sovereignty once taken from them by demeaning themselves and their culture with a question laced in self hate and pity. Why Chile? Please.

Shame on you for thinking that. Shame on you for believing that anywhere but your homeland is better when you are not in the midst of war. When you are living in stability for the first time in a long time. When you have finally received the privilege of open and free elections after a period of universal oppression. Sure, the political climate is hostile to say the least and the country is not where it would like to be in terms of progression. But it is progressing nonetheless. The question should not be “Why Chile?” but “What have you learned from Chile?”

My answer: Everything and Nothing. I learned all that needs to be learned about myself and my views and yet I learned that I know nothing of a people who would so willingly succumb to the mental inhibitions of those that sought and still seek to treat us as second hand citizens of this earth because of our color and culture. I learned that cultures of the oppressed are so much so ingrained with a mentality of damaged psyches that recovery is almost a lost cause, yet I did not learn how to repair it myself. I learned how beautiful a people and a city could be, yet I did not learn how to leave them be. Because to leave them be without tough love would be a sign of apathy. A sin worse than hate.