By David Azócar
Much has been said about the vast number of Chileans scattered around the globe. In Chile, they are referred to as “patiperros”, which is similar to the term globetrotters. As such, this Portal would like to take a good, hard look at Asian patiperros in Chile. We talked to people from Korea, China and Japan; three Asians who currently reside in Chile. Let's see how they are doing this far south on the map.
Our first visitor arrived from Tokyo to pursue the dream of being an artist. He sings cuecas, which are Chile’s most traditional and representative songs.
The second comes from Beijing. She left behind a boyfriend and family in order to come to Chile to study business.
The last lives with her family and even some cousins. She lives in Chile, where her family is in the textile business. Their business is located in Santiago’s booming Asian quarter: Patronato.
Our Japanese visitor states that he "live(s) in a boarding house with 20 other people. I get up every morning to jog and exercise in Ñuñoa. Once finished with that, I prepare my teaching materials for my Japanese language classes and also compose music.” Toshiro Murata, though his Spanish is lightly accented by his native tongue, Toshiro has no communication barriers.
A graduate of Waseda University - one of the best in Japan - Toshiro moved to Chile in order to follow his passion for music. "I love what I do in Chile and am definitely not nostalgic about Japan." The bilingual singer-songwriter has composed everything from bossa nova to pop. He is now hard at work on singing and playing cuecas on guitar. "The Guatón Loyola and la Consentida are cuecas which many people ask for during the holidays and at parties. I sing them in Japanese."
Zhang Shangshu story is quite different from that of Toshiro. Though only 19 years old, she won a two-year scholarship from the Chinese government. "I left China because Chile is a very safe place with good economic indicators.” The young woman showed how convinced she was by leaving behind her boyfriend in Beijing. "I was studying advertising and the opportunity arose to come to Chile. When I was fully decided, I got the tickets and told him and my friends that I was leaving Beijing. They could not believe it.”
Zhang, who only speaks English, has a relatively easy schedule for now. This is because she is only taking lower-level courses for now. In the evenings, she studies Spanish at an institute. "I go Monday through Friday from 14:30 to 16:45. We are taught basic things for now, but that will surely change with time. I only have one classmate who is younger than I.”
The Universidad Gabriela Mistral student, unlike her Japanese counterpart, feels her isolation from her homeland. "I love Chile and my school, but it is difficult to communicate because I came here not knowing any Spanish. In class, it’s hard to follow the conversation because they speak so fast," she confesses.
What's more, the young woman has not always felt welcome here in Chile. "I went out to eat with a classmate. He is also Chinese. The food was great. We ate traditional food. The problem was that when we got the check it was very expensive. My friend paid, but he mentioned that we had been charged more because we were foreigners.”
Sara Kim, unlike the other two, is of Korean descent. She was born in Chile. The first to arrive to Chile was her grandfather who lived in a Korean colony in Brazil. “My grandpa arrived more than 25 years ago. Now we are 30 relatives, in total. We live near one another and most devoted are in the textile business. My parents have a store in Patronato and do quite well for themselves.”
Sara, who is 16, studies at the Colegio Nido de Aguilas, which is a very posh school with US-based curriculum. She is happy with life in Chile and hopes to become a chef. "My family is very strict. I have to be home by 11:00 PM. I would not want to know what would happen if I ever arrived late. They do not like the idea of me at culinary school, but ultimately they respect my right to choose an occupation.”
Sara will have dual nationality until 18 years of age. She states she will opt for Chilean citizenship, when the time comes. "In Korea there is little tolerance for foreigners and a lot of competition. For example, in schools there is a lot of verbal abuse among nationals directed towards foreigners. The level of competitiveness is atrocious. Chile, though not easy, has a better quality of life and studies.”
View a photo gallery of our protagonists by clicking here.