Like other Latin American societies, Argentina and Chile have strong machista (chauvinist) elements. Argentine and Chilean women are traditionally mothers, homemakers, and children’s caregivers, while men are providers and decision-makers, but there are increasing numbers of professional and working women.
Many Argentine and Chilean men view foreign women as sexually available, but this is not necessarily discriminatory; they view women of their own nationality the same way. In Argentina, harassment often takes the form of piropos, sexist comments that may be innocuous and can even be poetic, but are just as likely to be vulgar. It’s best to ignore verbal comments, which are obvious by tone of voice even if you don’t understand them. If they’re persistent, seek refuge in a café or confitería.
Despite problems, Argentine and Chilean women have acquired political prominence. The most prominent and notorious, of course, was Eva Perón, but her rise to the top was an unconventional one. The highest-profile women in current politics are Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner, wife of the late president Néstor Kirchner and a formidable politician in her own right, and Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.
Gay and Lesbian Travelers
Despite its conspicuous Catholicism, Argentina is a fairly tolerant country for both gay males and lesbians, and public displays of affection—men kissing on the cheek, women holding hands—are common even among heterosexuals. In 2003, in fact, the city of Buenos Aires passed an ordinance permitting same-sex civil unions, and in 2010 the country enacted same-sex marriage.
This does not mean that homosexuals can always behave as they wish in public. The police have beaten and jailed individuals who have offended their sense of propriety. If in doubt, be circumspect.
Certain Buenos Aires districts, most notably Recoleta, Barrio Norte, and Palermo, have a number of openly gay entertainment venues and even accommodations, but these are less conspicuous in provincial cities. Conservative Chile may be less publicly tolerant, but Santiago has a lively (though not exclusively) gay scene in Barrio Bellavista.
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