Tuesday, March 18, 2008

los piropos

In the DR—and most, if not all, Latin American countries—“los piropos” are very common on the street. “Piropo” means “compliment,” but they’re really more like catcalls. For us Americans, it’s a big cultural change—we tend to find them annoying or even offensive, while most Dominican women would find it almost offensive not to receive piropos when she walked down the street.

In one of our Entrena classes on Dominican culture, we got a handout of some common piropos. Some of them are pretty funny, like “Pareces un Volkswagen, con el motor atras,”—“You look like a Volkwagen, with the motor in back,”or “Cuantas curves y yo sin frenas”—“Such curves and me without brakes.” But I have yet to hear anything like that. Mostly I get pretty mild things like “Que linda”—“how pretty!” or “Gringa bonita”—“beautiful gringa!”

Yesterday, though, Karina and I were sharing a beer at a table outside the local supercolmado, and being stationary in a public place like that exposed us to more piropos than usual. One guy kept it up for a couple minutes straight. We ignored him (standard piropo procedure) until finally Karina yelled back “No podemos entendar,” “We can’t understand you!” Another offered to “teach the Americans something about the Dominican Republic,” to which I replied (to Karina only), “We have Entrena for that!” Our favorite piropo of the afternoon, however, was “Dos americanas afuera!”—“Two Americans outside!” Like, yes, thank God, they finally let us out of our crate!

I should add, in case anyone is concerned—“piropos” don’t generally have bad intentions, or even romantic intentions. Most guys don’t yell piropos in an actual attempt to get a date (or more), but just to show off in front of other guys or just in a culturally-accepted way to acknowledge a woman’s presence. “Piropos vulgares” are considered inappropriate, and I have yet to hear any. I have, however, received my first marriage proposal (I declined). We´ve all been warned to expect many proposals from Dominicans seeking US citizenship, or maybe just a cute Americana.

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