Here in Chile, PDA (public displays of affection) are the third national sport, after soccer and tennis. It’s part of our daily cityscape to see cargo tricycles, ultramodern skyscrapers, and, littered all along the park benches, quiet corners, and even the metro, couples open-mouthedly making out. It takes some time to get over the US-borne inclination to shout “Get a room,” and really, much of this PDA comes from the fact that many Chilean couples don’t have a place of their own. They live in extended family situations until pretty late, with it being fairly normal for a 35-year-old to still live at home. So the street becomes their kissing playground.
Reactions from Santiaguinos (people living in Santiago) to seeing couples making out in public is fairly blasé. You can simply avert your gaze, or the gawker in you can check out the latest in technique and dental care. But apparently all that got to be a little too much for a local mall down in Valdivia in Chile’s Region de los Ríos, the nation’s rainsoaked, German-influenced, beer-producing region, and also a big university town.
Mall de Los Ríos has posted signs saying “No pierda la compostura y las buenas costumbres. ‘Niños Mirando.'” (Don’t lose your composure or forget common courtesy, “children watching”) according to a report by Chilean national media, Chilevisión. The report shows teenaged couples getting kissy regardless of the sign, and it’s not clear what the consequences for disregarding the sign would be. Further interviews show that the third floor of the mall is where young couples go to make out and that things seem to get a bit more “passionate” than mall patrons and business owners would like. One woman says that the stairs in front of her beauty salon have practically become a (by-the-hour) motel.
And if that weren’t enough to make you think Chileans are on the edge of believing kissing to be a subversive act, one of the recent events in a longstanding head-to-head between university students and the Chilean government about the state of education (more details in this article about the recent Chilean education protest) held a series of besatones (kissing marathons, or kiss-ins), in front of the National Congress in Valparaíso, in Santiago’s Plaza de Armas, as well as in several other cities the length of the country. Thousands of students gathered for a 30-minute long kissing session on Wednesday July 6th, and the news videographers were there in Valparaíso to grab footage of the students kissing.
There’s no word yet whether there’s been a kiss-in staged on the third floor of the mall in Valdivia, Chile.