Reflecting on change since my first trip to South America

tours in south america

Traveling in South America, to ME, has changed dramatically in the interim years between my first trip there in 1999-2000 and my trip there in 2012-2013. I noticed some of these changed during my 2009 travels but they stood out stronger more recently.

Music.  Though it may be comforting to some, I feel that the influx and dominance of pop music from the U.S.A robs travelers of a potentially greater traveling experience. Rewind.  When I arrived in Castro, Chiloe (an island in Chile), many years ago, I happened into a folk fest.  At one point in the night both young and old community members danced and sang to a song played by a guitar and beat box player. I later heard this song in a restaurant and learn who the artist was.  The song was about apartheid and somehow the entire demographic of this island an ocean away from S. Africa identified with the song.  I was very moved. I still am.

Refridgeration. On my first venture into Bolivia I do not recall seeing more than a few units that chilled food to any extent. Chile, Argentina, and even Peru were all chilling food. I hurled countless times in Bolivia. I think after a while there were just no anti’s left in my body.  Then I caught a severe chest cold in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I stayed in a hotel where the owners took pit on me.  They heard my horrendous coughing and brought me tea.  Then there was a knock at the door and upon opening I found a tray of freshly cooked food which I inhaled.  Within hours I was barfing wildly.  I am a really loud barfer so everyone knew. It’s kind of embarrassing actually. Anyway, it looks like some used refrigerators from the North have made it down there.

English. Other than tourists, I do not recall English being spoken by anyone on my first trip. It was great for me because I wanted to be immersed in Spanish to become fluent.  It worked.  I became the translator and city guide for each group of travelers I ran with.  On my recent venture into Colombia and Ecuador I was really surprised at how much excellent English was spoken. Though I did not get to babble in Spanish as much as I’d have liked it was cool to see that change.  I think is a fairly universal change though.

Travelers and attitudes. I am giving the majority of young travelers the thumbs down here. NOT ALL OF YOU because so many of you are awesome but the level of respect I am witnessing now is deplorable. I don’t want to just sit here and whine about it but there are a few rules your mother should have taught you. Treat others homes and belongings as you would your own. Be polite. Say please and thank you. Be respectful you over privileged little prick!

Things that have not changed:

Incessant dog barking. Uuuuugh!  OK, I get it.  Every dog in Latin America is a guard dog. OK, I have learned to carry earplugs.  OK, but sometimes, well, most of the time, earplugs don’t do a damn thing. Well let me tell you a secret for the next time you need to get up early and and there is incessant barking right next to your head. Take a wad of bread, wet it down, crush half a sleeping pill up, and rub it into the bread.  Throw it at the dogs head and go to sleep. Easy as 1-2-3. Maybe make sure you change hotels in the morning.

Cocks. I can’t carry a gun around so I am not sure what the hell to do about this phenomenon. It’s a damn nature thing to crow at ungodly hours, non-stop, all the time.  Well, low and behold, we have a bit of etymology leaking from this awesome blog now. I know understand why men that are assholes get called “cocks”.  Yes, male chicken, I get it.  Daaaang!

Dictatorships.  When will this stop? I mean these guys just pass the torch and if if its a “democratically” elected government they change term limits to “benefit the people”.  It’s not everywhere but it seems like a fairly persistent problem.

Corruption. No country has nothin’ on nobody when it comes to corruption. Show me a country whose government is not corrupt. I bet you 5 it’s not alive if you don’t know it’s name!

It was fun to write this.  I am sure there is a thing or two I am forgetting but my memory is fading. I used to not take many pictures while traveling and did not journal for several years.  That is not a good idea.  Write, shoot, and have memories!  Safe travels all!

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29 thoughts on “Reflecting on change since my first trip to South America

      • I remember one time, I was living right in front of a guy who would leave his door open and blast his music (reggaeton). His door was only 4 meters from mine and I could hear his music as if it were playing from my apartment. I was standing in front of his open door a good three minutes before he saw me trying to catch his attention because he couldn’t hear me shouting. When I asked him to turn it down and explained I was trying to work, he got very pissy and did it begrudgingly.

        I’ve got half a tablet of Valium. I’ll save it for such an occasion. 😉


      • I’ve gone swimming with them but I don’t think it was that near Holbox. I really want to go for the rays, though. I want to go swimming with sail fish again. That was absolutely amazing! I need to go see whale sharks again, though. Really beautiful…have you gone?


      • I have not but I was thinking about doing it there or maybe…Zanzibar. Where did you swim with whale sharks? I did rays in Indonesia. Amazing but whale sharks seem like another level.


      • It might have been near Holbox. All I know is that it was farther off than Isla Mujeres. Someone I know went recently and only saw one but the time I went (about two years ago) there were about 50 in the area. It is daunting but absolutely brilliant. Let me know if you come down this way. I may be able to connect you.


  1. Tell, was the pop music you heard modern pop or was it a few years old? When I studied in Ecuador back in 2000, I remember hearing some, but it was always from 3 years ago. Either way, its a shame our music has so infiltrated the world. I prefer to hear local music.


    • In 1999 it was “One” by U2. Mostly south american music other than that. Now I think its a lot more classic and butt rock. Some poppy stuff but I dont follow pop so I couldn’t tell you when its from. I was in a cab on my way out of Cuenca and the driver was jamming some nice churango, guitar, pan flute stuff and I told him I liked it and that I never hear it anymore.He shrugged his shoulders.


      • When I was there in 2000, Guns and Roses was still popular. Oh, and two year old Luey Vega songs. I did attend a nice folk music concert for a hot second but the Americans were chased out because of the money situation at the time.


      • I did not thin so strange. I heard the Misfits several times on my last trip which seemed really strange. So when the Americans were run out of the folk fest, what was going on? I’ve read enough to understand the crazy inflation that was happening at the time but I don’t know how it was for foreigners. Have you read “Plundering Paradise”?


      • When I was there, things were cheap for Americans. The government froze the bank accounts of citizens so the people were struggling. At the same time, the government switched their monetary system to the US dollar. Understandably, this inflamed the people and there was much animosity towards Americans. We were chased out of the folk concert after a speech blasting the USA for stealing the Ecuadorian culture by the singer in the band. I have not read Plundering Paradise. What is it about?


  2. I enjoyed this humorous and insightful post! An added audio experience for me in Oaxaca was the homemade fireworks (these are the ones that only make a loud blast, no colors in the sky) at any and all hours of the day and night. The question in my mind was always “why? What’s the occasion at 3 a.m.?” Was it someone who couldn’t sleep and thought, “what the hell, I’ve got a couple of stray fireworks, might as well light “em!” Someone told me that if it’s your birthday, your friends come in the night and light these on your doorstep.
    We kind of miss them.
    I had to laugh when I read some letters to the editor in the Anchorage Daily News after the 4th…people complaining about fireworks late into the night…it’s all relative, isn’t it?


    • Thanks for sharing your story. Yep, I recall booms in the night in Mexico.

      I just cant even read letters to the editor anymore. Rule number one should be: Would you speak to your mother like this? Extreme environment, extreme opinion.


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