Classism: The Spanish Legacy in Latin America

Posted on 24. Jul, 2012 by in colombia, latin america, peru

A major culture shock for gringos moving to Latin America is classism – “prejudice or discrimination based on social class.”

Wealth inequality is greater in Latin America than anywhere else in the world. The Gini coefficient measures wealth inequality, something for which my country is often criticized by the more egalitarian Europeans. However, the US pales in comparison to wealth inequality in Latin America, which boasts the most unequal societies of any region in the world, which is substantial given how tiny is population of upper-class Latin Americans. This year Colombia was ranked as the 7th most unequal country in the world. Classism is palpable.

The histories of the United States and of Latin America should be similar. Both represented new worlds to Old Europe. However, the difference in their paths lie in their heritage. Classism comes from the Spanish. From Michael Reid’s Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul:

The colonial inheritance

Apart from its costly birth, the second handicap faced by newly independent Latin America was the legacy of the Iberian colonial order, which made it ill equipped for democracy and development. Colonial Latin America differed radically from New England or Canada (though less so from the more southerly of Britain’s American colonies). In the sixteenth century, the conquistadores had brought with them a kind of militarised feudalism …

The Spanish crown tried to control who settled in the Americas – indeed it went so far as to obtain a papal bull to uphold its authority to do so. In sharp contrast with English-speaking North America, no heretics, dissidents or freethinkers needed to apply. The second guiding philosophy was mercantilism. This doctrine held that gold and silver bullion was the ultimate source of wealth – and not merely another commodity – and that trade was a zero-sum game. So Spain imposed a rigid monopoly of trade with its colonies, and discouraged the production of items that might compete with its own farmers and artisans. The backbone of the colonial economy became the hacienda (large landed estate with resident serfs), the plantation and the mine …

Unlike the Pilgrim Fathers, the Spaniards conquered territories with large populations of native Americans … The Spaniards quickly realised that they needed Indian labour. Colonial Spanish America became a caste society: a small group of large landowners, officials and clergy ruled over a much larger population of Indians …

Inequality was a fundamental and integral aspect of colonial societies, whether they were based on serfdom or slavery or both. ‘Perhaps nowhere is inequality more shocking,’ noted Alexander von Humboldt, an aristocratic German scientist and traveler, in his essay on New Spain (Mexico) published in 1811. ‘The architecture of public and private buildings, the women’s elegant wardrobes, the high society atmosphere: all testify to an extreme social polish which is in extraordinary contrast to the nakedness, ignorance and coarseness of the population.’ … Spaniards, criollos, and Indians lived under separate laws … Men always outnumbered women among Iberian colonists, and overwhelmingly so at the start …

[T]he underlying socio-economic divides, broadly speaking, ran along racial lines. The fears, resentments and ignorance which racial difference generated made that divide all the harder to break down. At the heart of the history of Latin America since independence has been the tension between the beneficiaries of that divide and the gathering forces of socio-political mestizaje.

I’ll translate that to layman’s terms. The colonization of English-speaking America was very different from the colonization of Latin America.

Canada and the US were colonized by people looking to start new religions (Quakers, Shakers, Pilgrims, Puritans, etc.), people escaping famine (Germans, Irish), people escaping debtors prisons. These were people who wanted to create new lives in an un-established land of opportunity. North American history, aside from the slave-holding South, was largely about single family farms. Wealth inequality wasn’t extreme.

The colonists who came to the rest of the Americas weren’t looking to start religions or establish utopias. They were overwhelmingly male, and they came as treasure hunters. The idea was to marry an Indian, build an estate with high walls to keep out the Indian labor, and extract all the resources possible to send back to the old country. Economics was a zero-sum game to maintain wealth in the family and keep the Indians poor. Wealth inequality was, in von Humboldt’s words, “shocking.”

Status in Latin America

In Early Latin America: A History of Colonial Spanish America and Brazil, James Lockhart writes:

Iberians themselves spoke much of the distinction between noble and commoner, and so much was made of nobility that a fairly large proportion of the population, people who in some countries would have been considered prosperous townsmen, asserted noble status for themselves. Much of the activity concerned with establishing nobility was superficial, a sort of subterfuge and camouflage that deceived no one, but the ideal, the well-defined role and lifestyle of the nobleman, was a force in life. Nobility was as much a set of attitudes as it was a matter of lineage … Full economic success in almost any branch of life created nobility, and the nobles new and old adhered to the same patterns … There were also things a noble did not do, as important to his status as his positive attributes. The noble married a woman of high lineage (underneath which ideal much jockeying for wealth and position went on); he maintained a large establishment of relatives, retainers, and servants who filled a city house of much magnificence and spread out to care for lands and stock in the country … The goal was permanent wealth, enabling a family to “live nobly” from rents and herds without daily activity in trade.

Institute Pimp once told me that if a Colombian is making 10 million pesos a month, he’s spending 15 million. He’s trying to maintain the image of high status.

In Politics, Power, and Cities (excellent speech), Enrique Peñalosa gives an example of bike use in northern vs. southern Europe. He asks why is bicycle use so much more common in the Netherlands than in Spain or Italy, when the weather in Spain and Italy is much warmer? Because Spain and Italy are less egalitarian societies. Because of status and social class, the Spanish or Italian businessman considers himself too important to be seen riding a bicycle in his fancy suit. The Dutch businessman, on the other hand, jumps on an old bike like everyone else.

That’s a cute, safe illustration of status consciousness. Here’s a funny one.

The preppie look from gringos in the 80s – early 90s is raging in Latin America. It’s common to see guys wearing khakis with Tommy Hilfiger flags on the butt, with plaid dress shirts tucked in with sweaters draped / tied around their necks or waists. Sweaters tied around their necks! I told this to a Mexican-American buddy back home – he didn’t believe me. The corniest, whackest trends from “preppie” are alive and well in Latin America. They’re known as gomelos in Colombia, pitucos in Peru. Polo, Nautica, all the golf brands. They’re differentiating themselves from the middle and lower classes. To an uninformed gringo, it looks like they’re trying to be us.

Then there are examples that aren’t funny.

The first time I went to Camana, the beach town a few hours from Arequipa, my buddy and I missed the bus our group of friends left on. Our best option was to hire a private taxi. Most taxis wait until they get four passengers, charging each about 15 soles. We found two kids about 17 years old to team up with.

I couldn’t believe how these kids treated the taxi driver. They were rude, insisting, and talking with a tone of the boss. They were telling him how to do his job. In the States, you don’t see 17 year old rich kids telling adult cab drivers what to do. And if they did, the cab driver wouldn’t sit and take it like this cholo did. An American cabbie would boot the brats from the car.

Pollo had an interesting story from when he was first deported to Colombia from Miami. He returned to his upper class family in Barranquilla. They tried to set him up with the daughter of similar estrato. Pollo and this creida went on a date to a Crepes & Waffles. Creida ordered a water and the server brought a glass of tap water. Creida went into a rage and loudly scolded the waitress. ‘Do you expect me to drink tap water? I can’t believe you brought me this to drink. I’m so insulted!’ Pollo said, “Oh my God, I wanted to disappear. This bitch wouldn’t shut the fuck up. I was so embarrassed and I felt bad for the girl.” I thought of the irony of Pollo, the ex-con, thug, con artist, gangbanger, coke-snorting, American spic being embarrassed by the behavior of a high society gomela.

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Those make gomelos cringe

Latin Americans will judge you by your hands. These are mine, and they’ve caused many soft-handed gomelos to inquire about them, horrified. This is directly at odds with American values, where men have hard hands. At least in the heartland, where I’m from. In Missouri, a normal boy is going to do a significant amount of cutting grass, shoveling snow, wheel barreling (bricks, mulch, dirt, etc.), digging holes (the worst!) – all kinds of manual labor. My hands had calluses before I was jerking off, so the only soft hands my dick has felt have been on girls. Later I worked in landscaping, as a busser, a beer merchandiser – all heavy manual labor positions. And of course regularly deadlifting 400 pounds doesn’t help. But the fact is, I never had soft hands. I have family and friends in construction and landscaping whose hands are like rawhide. I’d guess mine are about average for men from the South or Midwest. But you wouldn’t believe the reactions from gomelos. They point it out – what’s with your hands? They’re horrified. They’re proud of having soft hands because, in Latin America, hard hands indicate low class. As an undergrad I had a Brazilian girlfriend who complained about my calluses. She bought this rock to scrub them with, to soften the skin. The first time she did it, it hurt like hell and I withdrew my hands and told her to go throw the rock outside. She wasn’t going to use it on me anymore.

Latin Americans aren’t discrete about classism either. One of my Colombian affairs said in so many words, “Soy muy clasista,” as if she were trying to impress me. That’s like saying in English, “I don’t like poor people. I don’t fuck with poor folks.” When I went to Brazil, I took a liking to the funk song, Glamurosa. Another Brazilian indluged me and played it over and over. Another protested in English, “What level are we?” They come right out and say it.

Being seen with a gringo is a status symbol. That’s one reason why gringos make so many friends in Latin America, whether they realize it or not. Obviously, sometimes your Latin friend and you have true chemistry and you’re buddies. But often, they want to be associated with you for status reasons.

Classism Affects You and Me

If you live in Latin America, classism will probably affect you in time. It got to me real quick. When I arrived in Peru, within a couple months I was working at one of the city’s most esteemed companies. The student organization helping me was based at one of the city’s finest universities, and I played basketball with the alumni team of one of the most prestigious private high schools (and city champs). Everybody I knew had money and came from the upper class. I felt like a rock star.

But it didn’t stop there. One night I made out with a gorgeous chick at a bar. She invited me to a party she was having the next week. When I showed up, I was shocked at her house. She was rich, fine, and very interested. That had never happened to me in the States. Girls I dated were teachers, nurses, secretaries, etc. They came from working class or middle class families. I’d never gone to a girl’s house to find a mansion. That night was a turning point for me.

In the marriage ad I posted (which was a joke), the one requirement that elicited the most comments was that the girls had to be estrato 5 or 6. The ad was a joke, but the requirements weren’t. Obviously I could be lax with one or another for a girl I really liked. But those were the guidelines I was using to vet women. I had realized that as a gringo I’d have access to that socio-economic level. Why throw that away?

Race was mentioned in Michael Reid’s passage above. I never gave a shit what color a girl is back in the States. But once social class and classism in Latin America started to affect me, I started noting how white women were. How many Indians in her bloodline? Because only pure Spanish blood would be the best indicator of estrato 5 or 6.

“I don’t fuck with poor bitches” – I never would’ve said something like this before going expat. But I’ve said it since.

I’ve moved away from the classism, however. Colombia is the 7th most unequal country in the world, and its brand of clasismo is harsher than anywhere else I’ve seen (especially in Bogota). Stuck-up gomelos are the most obnoxious people I’ve met in my life. I’d rather kick it with American hipsters. Everything is just too SAFE and BORING. I started avoiding the north of Bogota altogether, at least when partying. Last year I made an artist buddy, a nice guy, who invited me to posh parties and galleries in Chicó and Usaquen. But I’d always flake on him, until he stopped calling. I’d rather get in trouble with deported guys or other expats in La Candelaria and Chapinero.

A lot of gringos live entirely inside these upper-class bubbles. It’s easy to do, especially if you’re making an American salary. You can tell from some of the all-too-common, incredibly naive comments on this site that a gringo never “leaves the hacienda” – the protected bubble of affluence. If you do the math, 3% of Colombia is estrato 5 or 6. Now given government, business, and media power is centered in Bogota, you could reasonably assume that average is double, while many regions of Colombia have little to no upper class. So at 6% of a city of 8 million, that’s 480,000 people in estrato 5 or 6. That’s a small city in itself. That’s a lot of gomelos – more than enough to never leave the bubble. It’s not big enough to never have to see low or middle class people, but it’s enough to never have to get to know them. Not that I know anything about how people in the slums live – but I don’t believe the image of a country fed to me by the people in the hacienda.

Don’t Eat the Rich

Much of the classism actually comes from the aspiring middle class. At my gym, Los Libertadores in Teusaquillo (Cl 63A between Kr 17 and 18), a trainer once told me not to call him ‘parce’, implying it was beneath him. It’s one thing for an estrato 6 gym-goer at Bodytech to say ‘Don’t call me parce’. But you work at Los Libertadores, a university that has an auto mechanic school. At nightfall the surrounding streets are prowled with zombie crackheads. Sometimes entire blocks stink of crack smoke. And the little party district adjacent to the school is one of the most likely areas you’ll get drugged with Scopolamine in Bogota. Don’t give me that too-cool-for-school nonsense. The brief rola affair who told me in so many words, “Soy muy clasista,” – she was estrato 4. Moreover, an estrato 4 neighborhood in the south. A clasista from the south!

In Peru the middle class are more likely to badmouth the serranos AKA cholos. Milagros, a nurse, told me she learned from her mother, a middle class housewife, to look down on the Indians. Milagros has been one of many Peruvians who voiced support for forced sterilizations of rural, indigenous Peruvian women by Alberto Fujimori’s government. This is similar to what I’ve observed on racism against African-Americans in my country. Despite what you see in the movies, most racists aren’t people with money and power (like in Trading Places). They’re not the power elite in New York or LA. The biggest racists are working-class whites who want to feel superior somehow.

Upper-class Colombians I’ve met are more likely to be involved in social work. So definitely not all Colombian gomelos, Peruvian pitucos, and high-estrato Latinos are consumed by classism. I’ve met Andes students who do unpaid social work in Chocó. And on the days when Un Techo Para Mi País is out collecting donations, stop and talk to the volunteers. How white are they? What universities do they go to? How much English do they speak? Connect the dots.

Finally, one of the best forces against Colombian classism is Enrique Peñalosa, who didn’t come from humble roots. He attended one of the best Bogota high schools, then Duke University before going on to his doctorate in Paris. Here are quotes that display his disdain of classism:

  • A bus with one hundred passengers deserves one hundred times the road space as a car with one passenger.
  • A citizen on a $30 bicycle is just as important as a citizen in a $30,000 car.

So don’t eat the rich. Most of them are the classists I describe, but you can’t paint them all with that brush. And the only people in Latin America who are trying to move the culture away from backwards practices like classism are from upper class families.

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36 Responses to “Classism: The Spanish Legacy in Latin America”

  1. Andrew Meyer

    24. Jul, 2012

    Fascinating post. Class is an interesting topic for an American. Most other countries are very open about class distinctions. That’s why Brits and Europeans care so much about accent, word choice and grammar. Why Asians hate getting tan. Why Africans care so much about tribe.

    In the US, the middle class is loath to talk directly about class, but people check out what car you drive, where you live, how much you weigh, what jeans you wear, whether you have a maid, where you went to school etc.

    Its really when you look at how other countries signal class, that it start becoming apparent that the US is similar, it’s just loath to admit it.

    Very interest, thanks.

  2. Colin

    24. Jul, 2012

    Andrew – Yes, it def exists in the States. In STL, it’s “What high school did you go to?” But it’s FIERCE down here. Much stronger, and the proportions are all out of whack too.

  3. Pamir

    24. Jul, 2012

    Wonderful article… I really loved it!!! That classicism is one of the reasons that keep me away from my home-town. I already had my own personal experience, definitely those socio-economical inequalities sucks.

  4. Michael

    25. Jul, 2012

    Sweet post man, really enjoyed it…I always get shit about my hands too…

  5. David

    25. Jul, 2012

    Being unequal is not all bad. The UK is far more equal than Colombia. That is because people who don’t work and don’t want to work get money from workers.

    I know Colombians who are lazy who live in the UK and in Colombia. The ones in the UK live in houses that many workers cannot afford. The ones in Colombia live in extreme poverty – sounds much fairer to me.

  6. David

    25. Jul, 2012

    “He asks why is bicycle use so much more common in the Netherlands than in Spain or Italy, when the weather in Spain and Italy is much warmer? Because Spain and Italy are less egalitarian societies. Because of status and social class, the Spanish or Italian businessman considers himself too important to be seen riding a bicycle in his fancy suit. The Dutch businessman, on the other hand, jumps on an old bike like everyone else.”
    In the UK you do find my cycling in flat towns e.g. Cambridge and Oxford than hillier towns. (The awful traffic delays probably helps).
    I think the fact that Holland is flat helps. Also who wants to cycle in Southern Spain in the summer? It is far too hot but the winter is not so warm to encourage cycling.

  7. David

    25. Jul, 2012

    I meant more cycling not my

  8. Chuck

    25. Jul, 2012

    I never detected classism in St. Louis but I might have been oblivious. I’ve seen it here on the east coast, however, after only a month of living here. Some cheeseball whiteys looked at me like I was crazy after I told them I was jumping in pick-up soccer games with Honduran and El Salvadorian immigrants.

    Note to self: When in Latin America, go for the dark ones. We’re drinking tap water, dammit.

  9. Samuel

    25. Jul, 2012

    good post, man. If I do get to Colombia, I will likely use this to my advantage. Like you said, when you realize you don’t have to mess with poor chicks and can get hot rich chicks, you’d be a fool not to.

    I don’t discriminate regarding money, and I don’t mistreat people of any estrato. If you ask me, class is important, but class has nothing to do with money. It comes from within.

    I might key in on a rich girl/family now more than I might have in the past. I made a million in real estate, but times have been really bad and I have been very poor of late. If I could have a pretty, sweet Colombiana, that would be great… but if I could have one with MONEY that would take the pressure off, I would not pass it up. I used to say “I can make my own money” and it was true, but anymore, I don’t think I will spend my days rebuilding a new empire.

    I wouldn’t mind getting on board with an existing one, though.

  10. Jorge

    25. Jul, 2012

    I hate all that candelaria people hanging out there just to be seen with gringos and europeans, being cock sucking friendly, and those silly sluts looking for foreign dick, stupid people. Let’s see if they are that friendly to everybody else.

  11. Carlito

    25. Jul, 2012

    Yes, gringos used to be status symbols in Bogotá… not anymore in the north where the new trend is going for europeans, specially french because nowadays “everybody” speaks english so speaking english is no more considered a status symbol; that’s why french, italian and other romance languages are so widely teach here… its all about the classism.
    My friends use to mock me because I read a lot (another classism) and have fair skin (if sun hits your face is because you must work outside an office, another classism). It’s interesting when I tell people I went to public school and they react like “why?” because that’s another classism.
    It runs in all colombian veins. Mothers and Grand Mothers always ask “where do you live” “where did you go to school” to assess your status.

    Nice read, you made me rememeber Tocqueville (1835) who criticized its fellows in France for the clasissm (or the differences between an aristocracy and a real democracy) because In France if a servant and a master find each other at a public place (like church), the servant still looks at the other man as the master, with some fear and respect despite those are his free hours. In America (USA) such scene doesn’t belong, the servant is a free man and he will look at the master like an equal.

  12. ash

    25. Jul, 2012

    ^^ Ironically enough, the US is commonly seen as a more classist society here in France. One way or another, I think it’s always easier to point out the obvious classism and/or racism in other societies rather than your own. Especially for white middle/upper class gringos and Europeans in Latin-America.

  13. Colin

    25. Jul, 2012

    Carlito – you’re right about English no longer being Spanish fly in Bogota (don’t know about the rest of the country). I’ve heard that, pre-2005, speaking English alone got you laid. My theory is, because Colombian women are so fine, a disproportionate number of “sexpat” gringos came to Colombia. And the girls got hip to the fact that a lot of English teaching gringos are broke, or druggies, or somehow not worth shit. But being seen with a gringo is still a status symbol, throughout Latin America.

    Also, NEVER apologize for being an avid reader. In my opinion, the top priorities for further Latin American development should be VORACIOUS READING and studying highly technical fields: engineering, math, etc.

    Ash – There’s more inequality in the US than most European countries. But classism – not sure. And the classism in LatAm isn’t just obvious, it’s FIERCE. Quick example: my cousin runs two businesses: one is lawn care (cutting grass) and the other is valet (parking cars). When he parties, which is rare, he likes to do so at the high end clubs in downtown STL: Pepper Lounge, Shiver, etc. So despite how much classism exists in America, it’s not rare at all for the other St. Louisans paying $8 / beer (bankers, real estate agents, whatever) to rub shoulders with someone who cuts grass. That would NEVER, EVER, EVER happen in Colombia. People who cut grass and park cars don’t go drinking in Zona Rosa. But in America, not uncommon at all.

  14. Twenty

    25. Jul, 2012

    Finally, one of the best forces against Colombian classism is Enrique Peñalosa, who didn’t come from humble roots. He attended one of the best Bogota high schools, then Duke University before going on to his doctorate in Paris.

    Paris, hun? Just like Pol Pot, I guess.

    It’s my observation that spoiled brats with too much time on their hands are some of the biggest drivers of civilization-wrecking utopian hippy-dippy nonsense. Perhaps it’s not that “working-class whites” “want to feel superior somehow”, but rather that HBD denialism is luxury available only to those who don’t actually have to live amongst the proles.

    Perhaps your estrato 4 clasista fling had a perspective you lack?

    None of this is to say that there aren’t plenty of dipshit snobs in .co or anywhere else, but reflexive “classism == bad” thinking seems little better.

    And whenever politicians start talking about what people “deserve” I start wondering where my guns are.

  15. Chili Tabasco

    26. Jul, 2012

    Nice work, Colin. I’ve been in Costa Rica for the past 20 years, traveling often to Colombia recently. A lot of us long time expats here are heading your way. I’m looking to set up in Medellin, pals are heading to Cali. Do keep your updates coming. The reality is that once you have been to Colombia, enjoyed the culture and women in their native environment why deal with the jaded version that we have here in CR? From what I see, the cost of living in Medellin is 30% less than San Jose (Escazu) and the quality of life is better in Colombia.
    I also travel frequently to Buenos Aires. Would you trade Medellin for BA?

  16. Jimmy

    26. Jul, 2012

    Catholic Schools in the US educated immigrant kids and made them as American as anybody else, limiting saving millions from the underclass.

    In an admission of incredible immaturity I will always be glad to claim my old mexican neighborhood. I am even prouder to claim the Irish hoodlum neighborhood that I moved too as a teenager.

    If I lived in Colombia and it could cost me a job, I probably would not be so quick to run the badass banner up flag pole.

    In America we can create our own job and be anybody we want to be. I don;t think it is that easy in Colombia.

    Ultimately character and hardwork will get us where we want to go.

  17. Californio

    26. Jul, 2012

    I noticed this in Mexico City, in the Polanco district. They like Aryan hispanics – it is the preferred asthetic. So they eat me up in latin america. If you think you are such an egalitarian – marry a woman who is short, swarthy and none too attractive….oh wait. Everyone here would be “above” that….. Everyone is a snob is some fashion.

  18. ash

    26. Jul, 2012

    @. I wouldn’t go as far as saying there is more inequality in the US than in Europe. I think that income inequalities (measured by GINI) only tell half of the picture. However over here people still perceive it as being very unequal and classist too, but it’s all subjective, perceptions.

    I think in Europe and the states we tend to hide our classism behind a facade of equalitarianism and meritocracy, whereas in L.A and other parts of the world it’s much more direct. Still, I think we should be carefull before accepting as a natural fact that our societies are more equalitarian.

    For example in the US classism is hidden behind the idea of individual merit, and it’s opposite, “lazyness” but it’s the same shit in the end and it’s still about social class.

    French society pretends to be equalitarian but classism is definitly there, it just is legitimied by “culture”. If you don’t have any “high culture”, if you’re not an expert on obscure french 19th century art then you are considered shit, and are de-facto excluded from prestigious schools, jobs and so on. The problem is that “high culture” is actually the culture of the upper class, nobody gives a damn if you’re an expert on say….. Corsican folk music.

    Last, but not least, our European and North-American racial issues tend to hide classism as well. For example in the Netherlands the most subaltern and dirty jobs tend to be taken by non-European immigrants. The dutch will pretend their society is equalitarian but islamophobia and racism (targeted against those who are de facto, the country’s lower-working class) is rampant.

  19. Rawley

    26. Jul, 2012

    Good article Colin. I agree with what you are saying about class in South America, some of it is unwarranted and hateful in nature while other classifications of race and class exist for a reason.

    I also think some of the above posters are associating simple flashy wealth with Class. All around the world, you have Rich and then you have class.

    Seeing someone in a nice new Mercedes, does impress some people. It show’s that “maybe” you’re a go getter, a clever business man, a taste for nice things. Doesn’t mean you are necessarily rich, and certainly doesn’t mean you have class.

    New money – an athlete, gangster, drug dealer, someone who won the lottery etc. Might have a huge house and nice cars , but maybe cannot even read, much less behave in public. I read an interesting article about some of the new multi-millionaires in Russian (Mafia or Oil money or both) who basically are Russia’s version of Redneck’s. Tatoos, beer belly’s, assaulting people in the street, missing teeth etc. Same for cocaleros in South America…you might have money but you are still not necessarily respected or accepted by those with old money. Families of Dr.s Lawyers, professors, high powered business men, are the classy folks in pretty much any culture. Sometimes no less “dirty” than the new rich, but def a long legacy of class, marrying up and education.

    I do disagree with some of your comments in passing for instance about middle class whites being racist to feel superior somehow…do not buy that..but that is another discussion.

  20. Rawley

    26. Jul, 2012

    @ Californio – You are right on the spot. I think the criticizing of “class ism” in some instances is just for show by those who like to drone on about this modern idea called equality.

  21. Jorge

    26. Jul, 2012

    Classisnm and racism are not the same, even if they frequently go together. I think latin american are more classist than gringos, and gringos are more racist than latin americans.

    Rawley, by cocaleros you meant narcotraficantes, cocalero is the coca leaf grower.

    I am an estrato 5 colombian and have been heavily criticised for dating “poor” girls. Once I took a sureña to a poshy night club in el norte, I repeatedly was asked by a friend what the fuck was I doing and so on. This friend is a common colombian extranjero lover. Not to mention every women in her family had married an extranjero.

    One thing I like about gringos is that they don’t give a fuck at whatever you are doing, everybody mind their own bussiness. We colombians like to live by appereances.

    At this point we should not be discusing these subjects, it feels so medieval to me.

  22. Antoine

    27. Jul, 2012

    Very nice article Colin. I strongly agree with you, classism is deepply rooted in Colombia’s society. I remember that in my childhood years people used to say stuff like, “oh, he is the son of XXX; He comes from a good family”. Back in the days I used to find that very normal, and it did not affected me at all.

    We Colombians are aware that in our country if you have certain status “eres alguien” That status help people “pull the strings” as you may know someone who knows someone that could eventually help you…

    On the other hand, it is very annoying as people are always competing to show off who has more power. In places like Bogota this competition becomes even more visible. This is one of the few things I don’t miss from Colombia.

  23. matthew b

    27. Jul, 2012

    The classism in latam is annoying as hell to me. The true rich are not so bad apart from having a effed up sense of entitlement. It’s the “aspiring” middle class that purposefully try to act like they’re too good for everything and mistreat poor people that really piss me off.

    As a gringo in Mexico I make it a point to display my education and my humble not-give-a- fuck attitude at the same time to keep the rich entitled brats on their toes. They really don’t know what to think of me.

  24. Peadar

    29. Jul, 2012

    Awesome post & and awesome Blog. I check in here every couple of days. I have spent a couple of months in Colombia and your observations are generally 100% on the money. I can totally identify with the feeling like a rock star piece as a gringo – I had the very same feeling when I was there! Keep up the great work!

  25. david

    29. Jul, 2012

    I’ve read most of ur posts…I see now how u can’t hang in the US and thought to live large outside. Leave and make a mark in the best country in the world. Everywhere else is second class.

    Rich in US, Rich everywhere else…Rich in Colombia…poor in US..

    it is what it is.

  26. Rawley

    30. Jul, 2012

    @ Jorge – you are right…I should have used Narco instead of Cocalero. I was talking of my experiences recently in Bolivia where the actual Cocalero’s are making a lot more money too. Some have gone from just growing to producing the paste and the line from a traditional Coca grower and cocaine producer isn’t as defined as it once was. They are still looked down on as low class /indio’s in most cases, but you can go out to their areas and see Range Rovers, Loaded Nissan Armada’s, American style Ranch houses, satellites etc

  27. Anonymous

    10. Aug, 2012

    “regularly deadlifting 400 pounds doesn’t help”

    hahahaha I know guys that know you and they said you’re nothing but a skinny little punk.

  28. allen craig

    13. Sep, 2012

    “I had realized that as a gringo I’d have access to that socio-economic level. Why throw that away?”

    Because the women in Colombia, like in most of the rest of the world, in the upper stratas are arrogant cunts?

    But I know it’s a catch-22. The women from the lower stratas are often money-focused as well, often thievingly so. And ignorant as hell. But sweet as pie!

    Man, every sucks.

  29. Tin

    16. Sep, 2012

    Nice post and totally true

  30. Lili

    20. Oct, 2012

    I think you made a good post Collin. Very good post and well written. I wonder whether you can extent an analysis on why you are a drug consumer and how this affect Colombia and its people. Perhaps you can learn something about yourself and the damage you are doing?

    Re: Classism in Colombia: Yes, you are right, it is really annoying to see how Colombians behave. But sadly, we all in this planet live in a capitalism society, a global village that values accumulation of income and spending money that you do not have.

    I have lived in the UK, where you see more social classes than in Colombia, from the refugees to the working class, to the upper class to the Royalty. Of course, they do not ask you those questions directly like Colombian do. I mean, little by little they ask (too) where do you live, where did you study, what profession your parents have, and easily they classify you. I know because I have seen them doing so with me.Not too mention they live on credit cards to keep a status they can not afford otherwise.

    I am a Colombian woman, and I find hilarious the argument that my status will increase, if somebody see me with a American. Actually, I would feel so embarrassed. I know what kind of things Americans have done in this world, so the last thing I would like to, is to be associated with them. Not at all with an american who keeps consuming drugs in Colombia. Embarrassing.

    Besides, you are right, people who have not travelled the world, who have not witnessed other cultures and societies, like those ones in strato 4 can not even think how equally humans beings should be. But you know? that applies to most of the middle classes in most of countries of the world. Really.

    I am living now in a society that is considered the top of equality in the world, and you know what? Here, working class people are so snobbish ….worst than those strato 4 in Colombia , worse than the Gomelito you have encountered in Bogota. And the sad thing is that they do not have university degrees, or a good job or whatever, yet, I always have to check whether “their poo” is gold or just like mine (normal stuff). One of this individuals dare to ask me whether I was living in front of the sea (because very very rich people live in those areas in this country). So you see?

    For this analysis you made I see something good in you Collin, but it seems you are going down a route that is questionable, using human beings, like those bimboos you have met there, instead of meeting other type of women. In a way, you and the comments in this blog are worse that those Colombians. You are using people an being used by them. All for money. Sad.

  31. kayla

    26. Jun, 2014

    I find this amazing i am also living this experience as a Dominican America living in the Dominican Republic and i have found that the small elite is actually very humble and down to earth and notice the classicism mostly come from the upper middle class. I have known of kids who have a lot of money who take taxis and public cars contrary to the middle class who would not be cought dead in one.

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  35. Yo

    02. Aug, 2016

    Good post. Agree with it, but just to be clear, there’s classism in every country. I grew up in a snobby town in southern Connecticut (mostly all white anglo saxons families where the fathers commute to NYC to work), and the middle school / high school cafeteria was by far the most classist place I have ever experienced. Coincidentally, there were four white Peruvian kids (parents in U.S. as worked for large multinationals and were on a couple year assignments), and they and their families fit right in with that town’s snobbery. They were some of the most classist, stuck up people I’ve known (they used to be friends). There were other Latin American expats in that town that I knew, (Chileans, Colombians, Argentinians), but by far the Peruvians were on a league of their own. It was not only after I’d travelled to Lima much later on, that I understood why they were like that…..I mean Peruvians are not only classist, but they’re outright racist. The fact that the word “cholo” is used so nonchalantly is enough to explain how racist they are. Other Latin American countries may have similar words, but in no way are those words used (or have same conotation) how “cholo” is used in Peru.

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  1. Top 10 most interesting or annoying moments in Colombia | Open Minded Traveler - February 26, 2014

    […] is especially prevalent in places in Brazil and Colombia where there is a large wealth disparity. Classism  is a lot like passive discrimination it puts anyone with less social status or money into a lower […]

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