"Blue-eyed blonds have superpowers in Chile." I thought my ex-pat gringo friends, who'd moved to Santiago almost a decade ago, were just trying to bribe me into visiting. In point of fact, they were preparing me for a paradigm-shifting, ego-boosting culture shock.
These superpowers are the result of a racist hierarchy based on class and — by extension — skin colour. It was introduced by lighter-hued European colonizers centuries ago, internalized by Chileans for generations and exacerbated by North American pop culture flooding into the country since the fall of the dictator (and boy-toy to Margaret Thatcher) Augusto Pinochet.
It's ingrained, unconcealed and socially crippling. And it would work wonders for my self-confidence.
Immediately upon unpacking at my friends' spacious apartment (in the seen-better-days-but-still-posh neighbourhood of Providencia), I opened my Grindr account to put their theory to the test. Museum crawling and winery hopping could wait.
Personally, I think of myself as wading through the Philip Seymour Hoffman end of the Caucasian gene pool. But I quickly discovered that to a seeming multitude of Chilean men, I'm splashing around the deep end with Ryan Gosling!
I would also benefit from the Chilean lack of concern for the Great Generational Divide that strikes fear (or worse, disinterest) in the hearts of North Americans. It's a nice change from Vancouver, where, as a single gay man within spitting distance of 50, I might as well be dead. Or a leper. Or a provincial Liberal.
Of course, as the holas and ¿Como estas? came pouring in, and I fired up my clunky translation app, some caution was advised by my well-informed friends.
"He's a hustler," they told me, pointing at StgoUncut. "You're a gringo travelling in South America — they assume you have money."
That would explain why this six-packed, toffee-skinned, 21-year-old (with a handgun tattooed on the inside of his bicep) sent me six unsolicited photos, five of which boldly displayed his most salable (or at least most engorged) feature.
So I blocked StgoUncut. Right after I archived his photos for a rainy day.
Pedro8+ was subtler. Then again, with my age-inappropriate naiveté, subtlety is not really required — you could hit me in the face with a plank that says “Voy a robarte el iPad” (“I'm going to steal your iPad”), and I still might invite you over if you've got a sweet smile and not too many tattoos.
Pedro8+ was fully clothed in his profile pic, and he started the conversation with a smiley face. Would a hustler lead with a smiley face? As it turns out, yes.
"Hola. ¿Como va?" According to my translation app, this was also innocent enough: “Hello. How are you going?”
"I'm good, but too warm," I replied. "I'm from Canada, and I haven't acclimatized to the Chilean heat! So I get naked as often as possible!" I wasn't sure how my app was going to translate this, but I was hoping for blatant flirting tinged with gringo humour.
"Jajajajaja!" I love text-laughing with accents!
"Por mi trabajo estoy siempre desnudo." For my work I'm always naked.
That should've been my first warning. But, no.
"Soy un acompañante."
Now, one of the problems with clunky translation apps is they have no sense of context. He was telling me he was either a companion or an accompanist. Considering I was on Grindr, the answer should've been obvious to me. But, no.
So I very delicately asked if he was trying to tell me he was for sale or if he wanted to play the piano while I sang. And, being a good Canadian, I preemptively apologized for insulting him with my poor Spanish.
Again, this should've been easy to understand. But the direct translation is "I'm fucking." Was he telling me he was busy? Or maybe it was a sentence fragment — the importance of proper punctuation while texting cannot be overstated — and I needed to wait for the rest of the statement. Was he going to tell me he was "fucking horny"? Or "fucking hungry"?
But with a little more translation digging, I realized he was using the masculine form of puta — whore. I also realized it was a complete and definitive statement.
"I'm a man-whore," would perhaps be the most accurate translation.
As it turns out, an hour of sexo completo with Pedro8+ would've set me back 80 bucks.
I looked at the list of hombrés atractivo messaging me and thought I'd take a chance that there were at least one or two who didn't have price tags attached. And, still being a good Canadian, I apologized to Pedro8+ for not wanting to pay him for sex. He took it in stride.
"Que mala," he replied. Too bad.
"¡Soy super hot, y me gusta follar bravo!" (“I'm super hot, and I like to fuck bravo!”) Sometimes clunky translation apps say it best.
"¡Quiero lechecita caliente en mi boca!" The colloquial flair of this statement jammed my app entirely. But boca, of course, means mouth. And let's just say that lechecita caliente translates roughly to “hot little milk” and leave it at that.
As it turns out, I was right about that fistful of hombrés atractivo messaging me. Most of them come without price tags. And I'm choosing to use my superpowers for good, not evil.