When I decided to move to Santiago, Chile, I thought I would look like everyone else in the country. People have always thought I was from the Caribbean or South America because of my skin tone and Miami accent. In my admitted ignorance, I was certain that Chileans would look just like Brazilians, and I could blend in with ease. I realized just how wrong I was the minute I arrived to my adopted home three months ago. From the time my best friend and I moved to Santiago, we have experienced a whole new type of staring game. Everyone — and I do mean everyone — stares at us. This is not the “oh, you look different but now that you see me looking, I’ll look away” type of stare. This is more like “I’m going to look at you until I can read your mind” type of stare. They would look at us for a full two minutes and then snicker with their friends about us
Some of the attention is a bit expected, such as people trying to touch my hair or men cat-calling, because that happens in America. Still, most of it is unnerving and damn near rude. One night, my best friend and I were visiting a park when this group of teenagers suddenly ran up to us and started speaking to us in the world’s fastest Spanish. Next thing I knew, they were taking a picture with the two of us. I immediately felt like I was some ancient artifact on display in a museum
My discomfort led me to discover the history of Chile, which has had scarce numbers of people who look like me for centuries
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A European country in South AmericaBasically, black people have not had a true identity or presence in Chile in the 20th and 21st centuries. Some official accounts of Chilean history exclude African slavery altogether (we see where certain U.S. textbooks get it from). Nearly 89 percent of the current population is white and non-indigenous, and it seems this makeup is extremely intentional. Like other Latin-American countries, it feels like Chile has adopted the idea that the more European the country looks, the more successful it will be. Even with the country's denial of African heritage — Chile's national dance, cueca, is said to have African elements
I don’t know what to call Chileans’ obsession with my skin tone. Chileans make it extremely clear that I'm different, though it doesn't feel like it's in hate. It feels more like an uncomfortable, inappropriate curiosity. Given the history of the country, it's easy to understand why; however, the idea that I am now part of the country's 0.3 percent of the population that is of “unspecified” race is an idea that I am finding difficult to grasp