PDA is okay, and other social differences

Hola! We have officially been traveling for one week starting today; it has gone by so fast. Today we visited a public relations firm called Extend that works for many businesses in Chile to help businesses with corporate, digital, and internal communications, crisis, public affairs, branding, workshops, community relations, and event planning. Their most popular field of work is crisis management. They shared a PR plan with us that recently won an award for the best PR plan in South America as well as some Chilean challenges the face their company. The plan was for a cemetery, translated to Remembrance Park, who wanted to extend the use of their property to be used for the public, similar to the purposes of a public park. In order to attract the community to the park, they had concerts in the park, Mother’s Day events, and a Remembrance Day which had the community write the names of love ones lost on a balloon and release the balloon in the air.

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Extend’s logo in their lobby. -Photo by Tommy

Extend is successful because they are able to provide innovative and unique ideas for their consumers that make sure the business is being represented correctly. When meeting with two of the employees, they gave many examples of the amazing work that they do at Extend. We asked them questions that dealt with how to handle certain situations, and they told us that the most important thing is that you advise your client to tell the truth within a timely manner. Once a client tells a lie, it is very hard to come back from that and some clients may not be able to trust if there is commonalities of dishonesty. The cemetery and Extend are both B Corporations, which is a certification showing that the company is providing opportunities to help the community and planet as well as their shareholders. This can have a large impact on whether a company has success or not. Since Extend is a business-to-business company, it is important that the business they are working for is able to see that they are willing to help in many different aspects than just to make a profit.

We had the afternoon off so that we could work on our group projects for the course. We decided that our project is going to be discussing the inequalities that are present in Chile. This includes, but is not limited to, economic differences, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, as well as anything that we may find while observing the culture. During our free time today, we had a brainstorming session and walked to the Costanera Center.  On our way to the Costanera Center, we came across an advertisement that for WOM 4G cellular plans featuring angry women with picket signs reading “Sexistas” and “F*CK WOM”. Next to these women was the slogan, “Say what you want.” We interpreted this ad as a satirical play on some of the recent social movements in Chile.

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WOM’s billboard with the Costanera Center in the background. -Photo by Molly

The billboard was relevant to our groups project on inequality – particularly, gender inequality. At first glance, the sign appears to be a social justice campaign advocating for women. (Especially if your Spanish is limited and you can’t read the text.)

Another observation we made today that focused on gender inequality was inside the Costanera Center. As we rode on the escalators, we noticed that the handicap signs near the bottom of each silver staircase depicted sexist images. The images of people with children and strollers, depicted figures with skirts – a familiar instance of gender binaries in relation to family.

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Costanera Center escalator sign. -Photo by Molly

Another component of our day that related to our inequality project was the heart-wrenching trip to one of the low-income areas in Santiago. We were able to view the litter-spotted streets, lined with buildings ripe with graffiti marks and impoverishment. This low-income area is located primarily on the outskirts of the city – a solid 15 minutes, at least, away from the high-class business districts. The districts offer housing at incredibly economical rates; the term “bargain” is an understatement. Government support for this housing system has been expansive and sustained since Pinochet’s dictatorship. We found this interesting, especially paired with the reality that Chile’s unemployment rate stands at 6.6 percent, according to the National Statistics Institute. Comparing this fact with the United States’ 5.5 percent unemployment rate, we deduced that there may be a correlation between strong housing assistance and jobless Chileans. However, on the other side of that, we noted that Chile is still a developing country and the rate is considerably low compared with other developing countries, as such as Argentina, who’s rate was 8.2 percent in 2014. Garbage and poverty are not only found in these neighborhoods. You can find these sights in the heart of Santiago.

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This is subsidized housing here in Chile. As you can see, there is a large amount of garbage sitting at the front of the house. -Photo by Capris

Running through Santiago (with its origins in the Andes Mountains) is the Mapocho River, dividing the city into two parts. We took a minute today to stop and admire the river, and we were surprised to see that the Mapocho River is home to a large amount of trash. Garbage consisting of glass bottles, discarded paper, and plastic bags sat on the riverbanks. Enclosing the river was a wall on either side, plastered with graffiti. The most notable part of the Mapocho River was its color: a chocolate milk brown.

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The distant blue water of the Mapocho River collides with the brown city water. Take note of the trash in the right riverbank and graffiti on either wall. – Photo by Claire

As you can see in the photo above, part of the river is a clear crystal blue (sourced from the Andes Mountains); the other part of the river is a muddy brown (sourced from the city of Santiago). According to the Gobierno de Chile, mining waste from the top of the Andes Mountains, as well as liquid waste from the city pollutes the Mapocho River. The Gobierno de Chile cites sewage discharge as the main pollutant in the river, and notes that a treatment facility is in place to clean the water for drinking. As we walked next to the river, we saw the effects of pollution in the brown color of the water. While the government of Chile may spend a lot of money to treat the water so its citizens can safely drink the water, it is quite shocking to see brown water run throughout the city. This brown river (in addition to trash and graffiti) is a true contrast to the vibrant greenery visible on almost all Santiago street corners.

After wandering by the Mapohco River, we found ourselves walking through a park located nearby. The city of Santiago is home to a large number of green areas; it is clear that the city takes pride in keeping its open spaces well-maintained for all visitors. With an abundance of shade trees, park benches, and walking paths, this park was no exception to what we have seen before. There was a large amount of couples, friends, and families enjoying a beautiful day in Santiago in the grass throughout the park. Some people were eating, some people were reading, and an overwhelming number of couples were simply laying in the grass admiring and kissing one another. It is rare to find a park full of couples in Des Moines enjoying public displays of affection, but we have noticed that this is completely normal in Santiago. We say, “More power to the people!”

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Couples enjoying freedom to express PDA. – Photo by Claire

Adios y hasta luego!

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