Spend some time in Chile and you’ll notice that quoting Pablo Neruda is not exactly the “cultural reference” you need for mingling at a neighborhood barbecue, and even a doctoral thesis on Chilean literature won’t help you understand the jokes after a few rounds of chelas (beer). You need deep underground, you need pop culture… you need Condorito. Here, a quick look at three crucial cultural references that will leave you laughing like a Chilean (“jajaja”).
The lovable, every-man Condorito is the star of Chile’s favorite comic book by the same name. The strip has been running since 1949, and the latest book of Condorito comics can be found at most newspaper stands throughout the country for a few luka (one thousand Chilean pesos, roughly US$2), or online at a bilingual Spanish-English website. The main character may be a condor – Chile’s national bird – and the jokes may be in Chilean Spanish, but the themes are universal: miscommunication between men and women, disapproving in-laws, and stingy bosses at unfulfilling jobs.
Each six-panel strip ends with a “Plop!”, as someone falls over backwards in astonishment at the punchline. This interjection has made its way into common speech for most Chileans under the age of 75, and is most commonly heard when someone is describing a failed expectation with a twist of irony, as in: “I looked everywhere for my sunglasses and then found them on my head. Plop!”
A clever Chilean parody of a 1980s-era news program, the puppet newscasters on “31 Minutos” have captured the hearts of audiences throughout Latin America since the program’s pilot screening in 2004. The show is ostensibly for children, with interviews on subjects like: should you dye your hair light-blue, what kind of food do you like, and what happens to all that poop that goes down the toilet. The cast of characters gained a cult-following among high school and university students, so much so that the producers decided to make a movie: “31 Minutos, La Pelicula.”
The show airs Monday through Friday at 12:30pm on Chile’s national television channel, TVN.
Don Francisco is arguably the king of Chilean celebrity culture. Born Mario Kreutzberger in the rural city of Talca, Don Francisco has become a pop culture institution in his own right. He is most famous for leading the televised gameshow “Sábado Gigante,” which started in Chile in the 1970s and spread to the United States in the late 1980s, eventually becoming a region-wide phenomenon with millions of viewers throughout the Americas.
In Chile, Don Francisco is also the face of the yearly Teletón, a fundraising event broadcast on television that channels citizen donations into charities for children with physical disabilities.
By Jackie Seitz