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Notes from Underneath: Strange things are afoot at Dario Urzua*

Notes from Underneath

A California girl in Chilsters (that's Chile to you)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Strange things are afoot at Dario Urzua*

Holy son of a motherless goat.

I just had the weirdest experience with the world outside of my apartment.

When I stepped into the elevator to take Obi outside for his evening stroll, I found this flier taped to the elevator wall:

It's a call to prayer to the entire "community" (i.e. building) in honor of the "Month of Mary." Said call to prayer is taking place ALL MONTH LONG in November, starting November 8th, Monday to Friday from 7:30 - 8:00 pm.

It was like a Twilight Zone version of the fliers one sees in college dorms. Specifically the dorm where the characters in the movie Saved! would eventually go to college. A call to prayer? All month long? I'm officially freaked out.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not freaked out by the notion of praying during the month of Mary (though I AM confused because as a former Catholic school student, I'm pretty sure the month of Mary is in May, not November.) What bothers me most about this is the invasion! In fact, I immediately got off the elevator and demanded to the front desk person "What if I'm Jewish?!" He answered that it wasn't obligatory. Um, well then ... this building has THAT going for it in that we aren't all forced into month-long prayer with our fellow neighbors.

But seriously, if this were the U.S., this would be so unacceptable, it would border on illegal. In fact, I imagine that in the U.S. the buildings need to first reach consensus to allow such a thing to take place and furthermore, if we were going to be issuing a call to prayer during the month of Mary, we'd certainly have to organize the blowing of the shofar during Rosh Hashanah AND invite everyone to the Iftar meal when Ramadan ends.

I can't put a finger on why I am so bothered by this but I can describe it as a feeling of invasion and it angers me that a few in the building would feel at liberty to air that in public, in the apartment building where my home is located, without so much as a single thought of concern for anyone else. Why are these few allowed to impose their will on the rest of us who live here? What if I put up fliers stating the Top 10 things that annoyed me about my neighbors each week? Am I free to do that just as they are free to put this flier in each elevator? What's next? Will I find a rosary and a monthly Missal in my mailbox? "Oh you know, just because!"

What do you think? Am I being overly sensitive or does this reek of imposition?

Oh and the other gnarly thing I had to witness while I was outside was a taxi driver relieving himself on one of the tree trunks of our quaint tree-lined street. Sweet.

Stay classy, Santiaguinos.

[*Dario Urzua is the name of the street I live on.]

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I get overly offended when religious people want to do religious things and try to involve me. I think that part of it is that if I say, "Let's have a month of atheism!" I know they'd freak out and be mad. It just pisses me off when I feel like they have the right to push their agenda on me but if I wanted to (and I don't) I wouldn't have the same right.

And there must be something in the water. On my run tonight I saw three men peeing on the street. Not together, of course.
It would bother me too. I have nothing against religion and although I wouldn't call myself religious I do believe in God and go to church when I'm in the US. But I think what bothers me is that I imagine the attitude of whoever posted this. Like Kyle said, I have a huge problem with people pushing religion on other people. For me, faith and religion are personal things, something you share with your faith community and the ones close to you, not with every stranger who lives in your apartment building. Plus, I'd be pissed if I wanted to use the sala de eventos during one of those times to have a party or somehting.
I´m not a religious person, but it´s just a paper,in a common area of the building, inviting those who believe in that stuff to participate. I think that if someone practice other religions, such as judaism, islam or others they could celebrate their stuff in a comunity, as anyone else, and people that don´t want to participate, don´t.
It´s a different thing when they go knock your door and say "come with us, participate in this religion of ours!", I don´t like that stuff either.
I´m an honest person, and I don´t mean to be judgmental, but I´m a little surprised to read "if this were the U.S., this would be so unacceptable, it would border on illegal", after all the "cultural melting pot" yada yada I read the U.S. is (and I know it is, I´ve been there).
I wouldn´t participate in that "Mes de María" stuff if other people in the building are trying to pray all month long, but I see no harm in other people doing whatever they want in their free time.
If they put that flyer on your front door, or talk to you directly trying to involve you in, that´s another story.
Hi Marmo,
My biggest issue is that this is in the bldg where I have my home. My sanctuary, refuge, safe place, etc. The Sala de Eventos is a public place in this bldg. I find it VERY presumptuous of the people who posted this in the elevator. I stand by my views on this and think that as Kyle pointed out, if I wanted to invite everyone to be agnostic, there would be an uproar and I'm almost willing to put money on it.
The most offensive part of this is that it was never discussed or communicated to the bldg prior to the posting. It's invasive and very fascist and I'm sorry, also very typical Chilean to assume that if one person thinks it and feels it, everyone else must too.
Hi Andrea.
I see your point. But have you tried to put a flyer inviting everyone else to be agnostic? I´ve seen one similar flyer in my gf´s building (she lives in Providencia also) and no one said anything, besides people interested, and then, another in December, inviting to celebrate "hanukkah". I have no pictures of that, it happened last year, but it wasn´t a big deal to anyone.
I respect your opinion, I just happen to have a different point of view.
What if I hate halloween? Should I consider myself invaded when many other people in my building are using costumes and partying?
Don´t be sorry for saying that is a very typical Chilean thing; maybe it is, and as a Chilean myself, is highly interesting to know other perspectives.
I also stand by my views on expecting more tolerance from you people. That´s not a bad or good thing, it just surprises me.
i am pretty sure you could find a similar thing in a building in the US. the bigger issue i see w/this post is that you're comparing Stgo w/San Fran (where a posting like this woudl be very weird/unlikely) vs comparing Stgo w/a more provincial/homogenous city in the US. The fact is that most people in Stgo are Catholic and most people might pray and so bc it's so homogenous they think well i'll just invite everyone to pray. in that sense i can see why that bothers you - i mean it sucks to feel like you're the odd one out i.e. you would never dream of praying to maria every day of the week for a month and it's odd to think that many people who live in your very building might think that as weird. it's deifnitely alienating in that sense. that said, i don't see how this would be illegal - this is a privately-owned building, not some gov't property/public school. so in that sense i'm pretty sure you'd find the same thing in the US. and don't get me wrong- i'm about as not religious as you get - i hate when people say "bless you" to me or sign something weird like "yours in christ" and i have more obvious problems with women in certain religions who have to cover themselves up or cutting out their genitals in the name of religious practice (and no, i dont think that's me being culturally insensitive - just a feminist and anti-human rights violations whether in the name of the lord or not)... i hate that you have to be a Christian to be politics in this country...i will not raise my children in any religion, etc. ****BUT*** i believe that people have the right to practice religion (well, not if it involves abuse/human rights violations), they have the right to yell about it in the street and they have the right to put up a silly flyer. So too do i believe that you have the right to pull it down. or put up your own flyer. just my 2 cents.
I think you're being overly sensitive, ditto Kyle and Abby.

In the Bay Area, we're all so worried about being politically correct that you wouldn't see this. If you did - I'm thinking dorm room bulletin board where all activities are posted - there would also be fliers for blowing the shofar, sharing the Iftar meal and protesting against organized religion. Here, there's less religious diversity, so you're unlikely to see that mix. While you, Kyle and Abby are all saying "well I don't think they'd receive my agnostic flier well," you haven't actually had that experience in this building. If you posted a flier inviting people to celebrate Kwanzaa and got negative feedback, I'd say that was wrong of people because it is a common area where anyone can share an invitation to anything.

I also don't know why the posting of a flier would be communicated to anyone before it was posted. I know many buildings have rules about how to post things (ie. fliers must be approved by the administration), and as long as the flier/poster followed the rules I wouldn't expect a pre-flier telling me that a different flier was about to be put up. I also don't see why an invitation to participate in something is necessarily an assumption that everyone will want to or an imposition of will.

Your building common areas are shared space, not your sanctuary. I mean, if you feel the whole building's a sanctuary that's great, but if someone's different views ruin that feeling for you then it's a shame but not a violation of your rights - you only get to lay claim to your apartment. And as you say, the Sala de Eventos is public, therefore it can be used by any residents for any purpose, including something you disagree with.
I'm always so behind on the blogging scene that all I can say is I agree with Emily and Katina (although I will be raising my children in the Christian faith so the perspective is slightly different). I say as long as your building is giving everyone equal access to the sala de eventos (and not knocking on everyone's doors to pressure people to attend) then it is fair game. And, it would definitely not be illegal under these circumstances in the U.S.

What I am confused about is how someone who grew up in San Francisco and believes in equality can suggest that we should censor religious speech. Why does religion have to be some big secret? You absolutely have the right not to discuss your Catholic faith with other people, but your neighbors have just as much of a right “to air that in public.” It shouldn't be taboo or offensive for ANYONE to say whether or not they believe in a particular religion or faith. If you, Kyle, and Abby want to put up anti-religion or atheist flyers(and no, I am not suggesting they are synonymous) and have a group meeting everyday next month you are 100% in your right to do so. And, I would defend your right to do so even though I don’t share your beliefs. It's not like you live on the first floor next to the Sala de eventos and people's praying is going to invade your personal space or interfere with your life. All I can say is: yes friend, I think you are overreacting.

On the other hand, I am not surprised that you are reacting so strongly, because San Francisco isn't just PC--it's borderline hostile to religion, and Christianity in particular. I have been treated like I am small-minded and stupid on more than one occasion because I am openly Christian and go to church. And, I don't push my religion on other people. But, I shouldn’t have to HIDE it, either. Unfortunately, there are MANY close-minded, judgmental, and pushy religious people. I’m sorry if those people have offended you or made you feel stupid or small-minded.

As for Abby's point about wanting to have a party during one of those times--all of the buildings I have lived in in Santiago have standard policies about how to reserve the sala de eventos. If someone else reserved it before you, that’s unfortunate, but that’s how common space works--you can’t always use it when you want to.
I think you're overreacting
Melissa expressed things much more eloquently and brought up a point I really agree with. In the Bay Area, we are SO pro-freedom of speech and expression and defend the rights of "alternative" or liberal lifestyles, but sometimes we forget that goes both ways. If you want to be a conservative right-wing fundamentalist Christian, I reserve the right to think you're a nutjob, but I will also defend your right to have and share your beliefs.

It's not fascist to post a flier that happens to be religious. It would however be fascist (in the sense of dictatorial control and suppression) to ban the posting of all religious or personal fliers.
In consideration of all this feedback about this issue I think I've been able to pinpoint what's bothered me so much and it's a combination of what KM wrote and what Melissa wrote.
KM - you're right. I'm already the odd man out in this building, what with being a Bulldog owning foreigner and that flier just served to remind me that I'm NOT like them in that, even though I'm Catholic, I'm not the kind of Catholic that prays in my building during the month of Mary, alongside my neighbors. This flier served to remind me once again that I'm a stranger in a strange land. I got defensive.

And the second point Melissa makes, which Emily also commented on, is that I'm from an area where yeah, anyone that is remotely religious is for some reason labeled as "freak." The irony is that you can be religious, but you can't parade it around otherwise you risk being labeled.

I think both of those things came to the forefront of my realm and space when I saw this flier.

In the end, yes, I agree that I overrated. But then again, I'm kind of glad I overreacted enough so as to blog about it because I find your opinions and perspectives really, really interesting.

I like dialogue.
Dialogue is good :)

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