Hipsters Making a Living


Marcela sometimes mentions to me that we could sell the things we make in our house (food, clothes, vinegar, etc.) on the street in the US when we go to visit to make some extra cash. I have to explain that you can’t just set up shop anywhere and sell stuff on a whim due to government restrictions. You can do it here. It’s not impossible to get permits, and even if you don’t get a permit for non-food items, there is little fuss kicked up. At every event there is someone hawking an appropriate item: lemons at protests (for the tear gas trucks – prevents tears), blow-up animals at kids’ events, tee-shirts at the Cure or Iron Maiden shows, underwear, tweezers, band-aids, sweaters, bags, purses, hand-made earrings, knit items, artisanal anything… and I could just keep on going. When people want to take a vacation, especially college age folk with low-paying jobs, they frequently make soy burgers or empanadas and infiltrate street concerts. All parades are awash in people carrying ice-cold beers and sodas. No opportunity is missed here to make a peso. None.

I was listening to an old podcast of Planet Money wherein they mention that in Brooklyn it seems people are selling artisanal goods on the streets. I thought, Yes! It seems we could pull it off. Then they called the people who do so “hipster”, and I thought, Do I quality as said hipster? laughing to myself all the while. What on earth is a hipster anyway? That word has made its way to Chile in the last two years, but no one anywhere seems to use that term in a good way and it doesn’t seem many people really know what the heck it’s supposed to mean. Of course, I had an idea but decided to look it up on Urban Dictionary. They give a definition that is not much at odds with my philosophy of life. It seems the real issue would be over-identification with a style or a “sub-culture”. Let me paint a picture of my point. Life philosophy: Buy used things. A. Cheaper B. Environmentally friendly C. Less participation in possible sweatshop conditions. Life philosophy hijacked as style issue: Buy things that look used, but are priced high because they are new so one looks as if they were (example of the subjunctive in English) environmentally friendly, etc. So maybe what we’re dealing with is a variety of hipster types.

All I really know, aside from the word hipster being thrown around as some vague, lame insult, is that Chile seems to have old grandma and grandpa hipsters, Peruvian hipsters, college-age hipsters, even little kid hipsters selling fruit juice slushies in the park. Ha! My point is, the word is tired.


About Sharlene Newman

Nearly seven years ago I moved from the global north to the global south. I write and translate and give solicited advice! I know some stuff and don't know a bunch of other things about Chile and South America, but I'm learning every day. Send any comments or questions you may have my way.

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