Musings at the Mall

In Vermont we don’t have nice malls. The mall closest to where I live is really crappy. It’s barely even a mall. I hated going there because it made me depressed. I don’t know why…probably because it’s small (minuscule)and it smells funny and the lighting is bad and they play really bad musak. There are bigger malls in Burlington, but even so, they are pretty small and only slightly less depressing.

That’s why for me Chilean malls are so impressive. Yesterday I went to Florida Center, which supposedly isn’t as nice as Parque Arauco or Alto Los Condes. But still, it’s enormous, with three floors, three huge department stores, a Jumbo (the closest thing to Wal-Mart that Chile had before Wal-Mart bought Lider), an Easy (think Home Depot), and at least a hundred other small stores. It also has two food courts and a play area for kids with blow-up bouncy toys.

And yesterday, everyone and their mother was there.

I don’t really like shopping that much. I don’t mind going with someone else who needs to buy something, but I don’t like buying things myself because 1) it means I have to spend money and 2) I hate making decisions. But yesterday I desperately needed to buy a backpack and some folders so I trudged over to the mall. I went to Florida Center because it is right off the metro and even has a handy little walk way that connects the metro station to the mall.

After buying my things, I walked around a little bit, people watching. I noticed that the majority of people weren’t really buying that much. Maybe they had an ice cream cone, or some bags from Paris or Ripley (both of which are having huge sales right now). Nearer to the Jumbo, of course people had bags full of groceries. I would occasionally see a bag from Zara or Fes or Casa y Ideas. What I don’t understand though, is how the hundreds of other stores survive! I mean honestly, who can afford to buy stuff from Columbia or Ralph Lauren or any other up-scale gringo retailer? I didn’t go into any of those stores this time mostly because they were empty and I wanted to avoid the awkward situation of leaving without buying anything. So that means I don’t exactly know how much things cost, but I’m 99.9% sure that they are super expensive.

Another puzzling thing is that Florida Center is located (logically) in La Florida. La Florida is a solid middle-working class neighborhood (in fact, it is one of the more diverse comunas in Santiago in terms of socio-economic status)but it is not by any means Providencia, Las Condes or even Ñuñoa, which are all upper class comunas. Also, as I mentioned, Florida Center is right near a metro, while Parque Aracuo and Alto Las Condes are most easily accessed by car. Wouldn’t it be logical to think that people with less means shop at Florida Center, given it’s location and ease of access? Then WHY oh WHY all the cuico stores?

Maybe someday I’ll be able to go shopping without thinking about socio-economic conditions, but for now I’ll just be puzzled.

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