Chile: Country Pulse

Hot topics in March 2010 – The habits and behaviour of Chileans have not returned to normal after the earthquake, The earthquake, a humbling blow to Chilean society and High quality cheese is the new “it” food, but it is scarce.

The habits and behaviour of Chileans have not returned to normal after the earthquake (March 2010)

Chileans have not recovered from the earthquakes that have been destroying the country since February the 27th. The government acknowledged that after the catastrophe, alcohol and tobacco consumption increased, as well as consultations for stress and anxiety symptoms, informed the Spanish news agency EFE.

Besides these disorders, citizens also modified their eating and sleeping habits. Meanwhile, the job website published a survey conducted twenty days after the earthquake hit, according to which 24.4% of workers admit they feel the quake still affects their daily tasks in a negative way. 24% also report not being able to concentrate fully because they are awaiting a new aftershock.

The earthquake, a humbling blow to Chilean society (March 2010)

The land moved again, as it usually does in Chile, but this time it was worse, much worse. Besides the more than 500 deaths and the US$2,000 million dollars it will cost to rebuild the damaged country, the devastating earthquake that shook Chile exposed the country’s poverty and how millions of unprotected Chileans live.

After the initial silence left by the shocking tragedy, came the opinions of experts, politicians, bloggers, consumers, and journalists, who watched in awe at what came next: looting, violence and anarchy. In addition, TV images showed the state of scores of shoddy homes in which many Chileans had been living. What has happened? What have we become? Is this how we have always been?

These questions appeared all over forums and in the media. “We were convinced we were a first world country, that we no longer belonged to Latin America, but the earthquake has left no one untouched and revealed the social inequity that has always existed”, expressed the Director of the Citizen Observatory, José Aylwin. Alfonso Baeza, a Catholic priest, added “We have encouraged an individualistic society where economic success was what mattered the most. Chile is a business; Chile is a great big mall of inequality”. These are the conclusions of many Chileans after tragedy struck.

High quality cheese is the new “it” food, but it is scarce (March 2010)

The Baco bistro, a restaurant in Nueva de Lyon Street, Providencia, sells more than 150 kilos of cheese per month, in different dishes. But none of these cheeses are Chilean; they are all French. The restaurant specialises in cheese, but it is not alone.

“Cheese is becoming a fashionable food and trend in Chile and, as always, there is reason for its consumption”, reveals a long article in the Chilean newspaper La Nación. Suddenly, wealthy consumers have discovered the authentic Roquefort, the original Camembert, exclusive Brie and other celebrities like the Pont L´éveque, the Livarot, the Saint Nectaire, the Comté and the Petit Basque.

Men and women with high incomes want them in their favourite restaurants and want to know the best Chilean cheese, although, they say, home-grown cheese still lacks originality, diversity and character. For them, “it is too soft, hard or buttery”.

The owner of bistro Baco says that two years after he opened his restaurant, there has “been an evolution” in cheese consumption in Chile. “In two years a new habit has developed where they share cheese. They no longer eat it after the meal or before dessert, as in France. Now it is more of an appetiser, alongside a glass of wine, before ordering the food.” This has boosted consumption, he concludes, even in supermarkets, where cheeses are usually located near the wines and the bread, the best things to have them with, say Chileans.