It’s been quite a few years since I’ve lived in Chile, but thanks to my Chilean partner, my half Chilean children, and DirectTV, I keep up with Chilean culture which is why I was kind of pissed off by Newsweek‘s one dimensional interpretation of urban youth identity in Chile summed up by the Pokemones vs. the Pelolais.
According to the Newsweek article, Pokemones are all about looks, sex, and materialism and nothing of substance. They are, according to the article the new urban tribe taking advantage of a good Chilean economy with no political inclination at all.
Absent from the article, and corrected by one commenter, is the fact that the majority of Pokemones (so named, correct me if I’m wrong) not for the cartoon characters per se but because like the Pokemon characters, they are many. There is power in being part of a group and every group has an ideological enemy. In the case of the Pokemones, that enemy would be the pelolais.
Pelolais, in Chilean slang, means the straight haired girls. The pelolais are described as cuicas – preppy, rich girls. They follow the upward trend of the ever expanding Chilean economy, ignoring disparities. Of course this too is a stereotype.
The funny thing is that this debate, which according to Newsweek, has nothing to do with politics, is drawn along gender and sexual lines. Pokemones are seen as more androgynous, flouting traditional female beauty standards in favor of a more dark, almost goth aesthetic while the pelolais stick to a more traditional model of beauty. Being thin is part of this as is being hetero. The Newsweek article points out that Pokemones don’t care about the gender of their sexual/kissing partners. In a country that remains socially conservative and gay repression is very real, how is this not political?
I think Newsweek wanted to find a scandal worthy story in the Latin American third world success that Chile is played up to be and what better way than to tale a completely one sided look at disenfranchised young third world women.
I know I got some Chileno readers….weigh in!!!
Read the article at Newsweek’s website (where I took the image for this commentary from).