Class consciousness

Valparaiso, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

I was having lunch the other day at a friend’s house. His parents were asking me what I think of Valapaiso and Viña del Mar. I was talking about how I like each in its own way. They were slightly surprised, assuming that as an American I would clearly have a preference for the more upscale, planned city of Viña del Mar. They liked Viña better.

They also talked about something I hadn’t really thought much about; they prosed that Valparaiso becoming a World Heritage Site is a bad thing. They look at is as glorifying poverty; failing to see the misery people live in and rather romanticize their lives, their housing, and their squaller. Furthermore, they see it as a way to not have to confront the poverty or work to change the lives of those in this country with the least. I am not sure that I totally area, but I do see their point.

Another disagreement in the conversation arose when I was talking about reasons I like Cerro Polanco. One of the reasons is the close quarters that the different social classes live in (in harmony) on the hill. Next to my house, which people refer to as the castle, you can find people squatting in shanty houses, up the road you can find almost every degree in between. Again, said friends did not like this– they are about as far left as you can get and anti-social classes as a concept.

However, here, I stick by my point. Living together, the people come to a better understanding of the other. I come from an area within the US (like most areas within the US) that is extremely segregated by both class and race. I believe that it is easy for a child to grow up in their communities and never befriend someone of a different social status; in some cases, even see them up close. This distance gives weight, even validity, to stereotypes and prejudices.

The other day Mombian pointed out that people who know 2 or more LGBT individuals are more likely to vote in favor of protections for LGBT people regardless of their (the voter’s)  political affiliation. I assume that something similar must be true when talking about classes. An upper or middle class person who has made friends with or knows someone who has demonstrated how hard it is to survive on minimum wage, is probably more likely to vote for an increase in minimum wage. Granted, this is just my extrapolation of how life should work, who knows if it is true.

Finally, I feel I need to put a plug in for a book that I really enjoyed Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. If you haven’t thought about minimum wage or class issues in America, it really is a good read. Not to mention it is entertaining.



  1. I would guess that it probably is true. It doesn’t surprise me that people who know two or more LGBTs would vote in favor for more rights for them…the only case that doesn’t seem to be that way is Dick Cheney. But every rule needs and exception to prove it.

    I’m from an EXTREMELY conservative town. I’m 100% liberal. I got called such ugly names for going away to college and making gay friends…but those names were called by people who had probably never met an (out) gay person in their lives. It’s easy to villainify (is that a word?) a group of people if you have never known any and your only knowledge of that group of people comes from the misguided information that your parents give you, who also have probably never met a single LGBT person in their lives.

  2. What’s a LGBT? I’m serious.

    Ever see that guy that did Super Size Me, but in the other show 30 days? I will never forget he and his wife did a minimum wage stint and it was really interesting. She even became ill and had to go to the hospital with NO INSURANCE.

  3. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (lesbiana, gay, bisexual, y transgenero). Sorry, I forget sometimes that abbreviations don’t always work for English as a second language series.

    As for the second, Morgon Spurlock, I know about Super size me and it was impressive. Also, very eye opening. Also, his show 30 days can be really impressive. It is amazing how once people break down barriers, they can realize how prejudice they are.

  4. I came across this blog by accident, but being from Chile, growing up in the States and then going back to Chile for vacations… You nailed this one. This is one of my biggest gripes and the main reason I stay clear of family functions. I cant deal with the “classism” Its to stressfull….. I have a mixed child and the first time my mother took him to Chile (it took 6 years of her begging before I agreed) I told her that I would personally fly to Chile if I hear anyone speak ill of my son. People really dont understand how bad it truly is until you have lived it yourself.

    Thanks for the blog.

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