When I swore at Lenín Moreno, it was in Chilean.
Within the Spanish-speaking world, Chilean-Spanish enjoys a reputation similar to Cockney in the Anglosphere. Both are admired for their cadence, their slang, and their humour. Equally, both are derided as mangled corruptions, the inevitable linguistic degradations of illiteracy, isolation, and inferior education. Both inspire envy as well. Mockney seems to have become the unofficial language of London. Chilean-Spanish, equally, is eminently emulable. It doesn’t sound quite like anything else.
Being copied is novel for Chileans, who mostly heretofore have been the copiers. Chilean-Spanish is festooned with words borrowed from Rioplatense (the relationship is not reciprocal), the variation of Spanish spoken throughout Argentina and Uruguay. When Chilean Alexis Sanchez joined FC Barcelona, his Spanish teammates are reported to have found his Spanish nearly unintelligible. The only teammate who understood him well was Lionel Messi, from Rosario, Argentina. They’re the same basic language only Chileans crank up the tempo a notch.
Chile’s reputational improvement isn’t, perhaps, limited exclusively to Latin America. In Canada, a Chilean passport is pretty golden. Beginning in 2014, any Chilean citizen with a valid passport can get a tourist visa into this country. This seems sensible as Chile is an advanced, and progressive, nation: it is also, apparently, possessed of unusually visionary and highly organized criminal gangs.
The racket is quite simple. Having realized that: 1) throughout much of the English-speaking world, houses sit entirely unoccupied throughout the work day; and, given that 2) almost all of these homes contain tens of thousands of dollars of re-sellable consumer merchandise; Chilean criminal masterminds determined it would therefore be a cinch to 3) send gangs of professional Chilean thieves, using legally-issued tourist visas, to rob these houses using a simple and reasonably fool-proof scheme: dressed up as members of construction crews, two Chileans ring the doorbell of a house they believe to be empty.
If someone answers, they say, in heavily accented English, that they are part of a construction crew, and they’re just going around giving everyone a heads-up of upcoming work in the neighbourhood. They assume their accents will cause people to look right past them, just some migrant labourers. There is reportedly a strict policy against any violence. The gangs don’t want to become a police priority. If their members do get caught then the absence of violence, the inevitability of it being a first offense in the country, often results in an insignificant criminal sentence.
If no one’s home, the whole gang descends and they can clean out a mansion in minutes. By all accounts, there is enough expensive junk occupying the otherwise vast and empty houses of this country to feed a mid-sized nation. Sadly, this is probably literally true.
I don't even want to live in a world where you can't combine a robbing spree with your annual vacation. Pictured: a few of the 14 recently arrested in Toronto.