ROBERTO CONTRERAS (Santiago, Chile, 1975), is a writer, teacher, and editor. His work moves across different genres, he has published fiction, poetry and chronicle. Currently he is engaged in research and development of strategies aimed to promote reading in children and youth.
In Chile we work 24/7. We live to work. The Chilean working week of 45 hours is one of the highest in the world, but this doesn’t mean it is a productive time. What if the goal was to get things done and not this man-hour confinement among four walls, hanging in scaffolding, behind a desk, in front of a cash register or riding a truck? It is hard to think about anything else while we are working. And there is no other work with language than witnessing how text messages fall in a cell phone screen and then typing desperate responses like bottles that are thrown into the sea. Where we should turn our eyes? We owe our hours to the dead time we spend on the public transportation. We stay a lot at the workplace, and the commute back home –at least in Santiago– can take two hours: we get out before dawn and we return by dusk. The man-hour is underpaid. The gap –that wage difference reflected on the banners displayed on hundreds of demonstrations– is brutal. This is the country of bewilderment. The land of opportunity. A sea view country, that doesn’t hesitate to hit like a tsunami to those who go out every day to get bread for their tables. But man does not live on bread alone. The four most powerful families (owners of the retail industry, the banks and the mega markets) offer them banks accounts, lines of credit, loans, cash advances, sales on sales, a kind of happiness by installments as a promise of payment implanted by the economic model. We live in the red. The only thing we have left is to look away and then sneak a look, and hear to those who dare to raise their voices. To rehearse Baudelaire’s voyeur, taking a break in the middle of the working day, and walk down the street searching for news about the invisible ones: clerks, laborers, waiters, cashiers, and drivers who, in the less expected day, will cross the Andes to never come back.
Translated by Carlos Soto-Román and Juan Manuel Silva