Posts Tagged ‘mañana’

If you spend any time in Latin America, you will find that things happen with a bizarre, backwards-zero-sum lack of logic that makes your head spin. Part of understanding this has to do with understanding the Viveza Criolla and its influence on the way the people think.

The Viveza Criolla, also shortened to “Vivo” is a behavioral phenomenon in Spanish-speaking, Latin-based cultures, whereby an individual tries to screw someone else over before his victim has a chance to do the same to the perpetrator. They brush off the guilt by saying, “Si no robo yo, robará otro (If I don’t steal from you, someone else will),” as if you should thank them for the privilege of being robbed by someone you know!

It is their way of forcing a zero-sum outcome to snag it away from the other guy before he even has a chance. It has become a way that society rigs outcomes in favor of schemers and shysters, and punishes the honest. It is to blame for the tiring plague of ingrained lack of trust, the penchant for socialist nonsense, and the laziness, lack of work ethic, and disdain for self-starters and those who wish to excel.

There is no literal translation for Viveza Criolla that fits, and the best a local has ever come up with to explain it to me is to describe it as a “Wiseguy” mentality. Some describe it as “artful lying.”

The term Vivo can be used as a noun for the act itself, or as the formal title of its perpetrator. The Vivo is viewed by its winner as, well, a way to get ahead. The Vivo is viewed by bystanders as a “good for him,” one-up street cred for the winner. The Vivo is seen by the loser as a part of life, and a learning opportunity not to be repeated (so he is more apt to pull the Vivo on someone else before the Vivo is pulled on him).

The Vivo, when caught, is a sort of wink-wink-nudge-nudge situation that is treated with an “oh, haha, you got me!” attitude, whereby both the victim and bystanders are expected to catch it first; if they fail to counter-Vivo, they are expected to take blame for losing because they were not sharp enough to see it coming. It is a bizarre backhanded outsourcing of responsibility.

Regardless of the result, the dynamic of the Viveza Criolla places more importance on getting away with the heist, than the actual fruits of the labor.

In the Vivo game mechanic, the instigator of the Vivo has nothing to lose, and is, in fact, strangely one-upped for being caught (you charming devil)! The loser, if he catches it, is also one-upped for catching the instigator. However if the instigator does not get caught, he is one-upped while the loser is one-downed. Heads I win, Tails you lose. It is, quite literally, nonzero game mechanics turned inside out.

And no, the bystanders will not necessarily warn the victim of his impending fall to the Vivo, for it is his responsibility and his alone to see it. After the fact, oh yes, they will all come by and say “Oh, yeah, we knew about that but we didn’t want to seem nosy.” Which flies in the face of Latino culture because they are the most inherently gossipy bunch of people I have ever encountered.

If the victim is lucky, someone might pull him aside and say something like, “Ojo, es muy vivo ese (Watch out, that guy is very untrustworthy).”

The Viveza Criolla is a negative, destructive cancer upon the social and economic fabric of Latin America, and one of the reasons the region cannot seem to pull head from ass and get its act together. It is the reason why Latin Americans do not trust each other, and, as the Peruvians are apt to say, “Your own hand cannot even trust what the other one is doing.” It is the reason for short-term profit taking with complete disregard to future business prospects, and lack of customer service.

This trust issue is not just between buyer and seller; it can happen with any agreement, from simply getting together for lunch, to major property deals, to selling a car, to employing someone, etc. To keep it elementary I will just describe the parties as “buyer” and “seller.”

Often times the seller, after making an agreement, will pull the Vivo and actually sabotage the deal, thinking that he is getting undercut somehow by the buyer, after they have already settled on the details of the deal. Thus, when some are negotiating prices (for real estate in particular), the seller jumps the gun on the Vivo, thinking he can get a better deal because “hey, there’s interest shown in this thing, that means I am not asking enough!” Counteroffers then come back to the buyer higher than the original asking price!

Often times the seller will simply kill the deal because he gets too nervous, thinking that smooth sailing means the worst, and that he will get really screwed in the end. It’s almost as if they cannot contemplate a square deal at all.

Sometimes the buyer, despite wanting what it is that he is after, will sabotage the deal after the fact because he thinks that it is too good to be true. Or something about the seller makes him question the quality of the merchandise. Both parties will analyze and re-analyze every little interaction until they have made themselves paranoid. This is why there is no such thing as customer service in Latin America. You are expected to deal with it if the seller fails to provide, because after all, it is your responsibility if you got stuck with the wrong end of the Vivo.

Another aspect which the Vivo invades is employment and contracted relationships. The roundabout Vivo thinking will invade the mind so much that if a mistake is made, the party at fault will feel the need to blame the wronged party and create extra drama around the whole situation whereby the one at fault will attempt to shift the blame and make themselves appear the victim. “I am being exploited! How dare you demand I show up at 9 and work until 5?! How dare you hold me accountable when I say I will be here tomorrow and I don’t show up until next week!”

Thieves, when caught, will become angry and try to turn the situation around, claiming “faltándole el respeto,” that you are disrespecting them, as if they deserve any.

The Vivo thinking is a source of much of the “Mañanismo” (tomorrowism) that has killed the work ethic, since it provides an excuse for them not to do anything. Why, they will be exploited for sure– better to screw the boss over first, before he can exploit the workers!

It’s very hard to explain, and I have tried my best, but there it is. You will encounter it if you venture into Latin America, so watch for it; maybe you can see it coming, maneuver it to your advantage, and get Vivo street cred for cutting it off at the pass.

Special thanks to BeelzeBob for helping me to understand 🙂


PS. The book is at 85 pages and counting…

About 3 weeks ago I received a call from a representative from our home insurance company in Uruguay, with information about the upcoming expiration of our homeowners policy and how to deal with the bill payment. As I had wanted to find a new, different agency, but had run out of time, I simply let it slide and decided to renew it. So I explained that I am leaving within 48 hours and have no time to deal with running around doing bank deposits, so can I do it online,? The lady said yes, gave me the account number, and her email, etc. so here I thought I would be slick and technology-oriented and do the transfer online and have it done without needing to drive to the bank, like the way it is done in the rest of the world.


The bank deposit went without a hitch, I made a PDF of the transfer receipt, sent it via email to her, received no bounce message, so I assumed it was done. However, you must do everyone else’s job for them in Uruguay, even if you are not in Uruguay, so I called her today, 3 weeks later, to verify that the funds were properly received and credited. No sign of anything from her end. No checking of email, nothing. So of course she says she must search her records and call me back, so she takes my number and I know I will not hear from her until… never.

I am beginning to think that Uruguay cannot cope with technology and only understands grunts, simple hand signals, and pieces of paper with stamps and foil seals.

Meanwhile… is my house insured? Nobody seems to know. If a tree falls our your house in Uruguay and nobody is there to insure it, does it still make a sound?

I wake to the alarm. Not ours. Someone else’s. Close-by. It isn’t the neighbors to the south; we called that one in yesterday, because it had been going nonstop for 48 hours. Maybe it’s the neighbors to the north, whose alarm sounds every time it rains, or the power goes out, which is every day. I wake, at 2am. Then again at 2:15. 2:30, 2:45, 3am, and so on and so forth. Until I finally reach the point where the need to sleep outweighs the discomfort of the getting out of bed, I haul myself up, shut the windows and turn on the air conditioner to try and drown out the racket.

It’s really a charming place.

…except for the daily power outages.

…and the internet grinding to a halt repeatedly.

…the internet I pay US$200 per month for, for the fastest available connection.

But it’s really a charming place.

…where the property management company doesn’t manage the property.

…where the yard guy they said they hired, but really didn’t hire, never showed up and never mowed the lawn for months.

…whereby every creature in the surrounding area moved in and burrowed holes into our once golf-course-like lawn.

But it’s really a charming place.

…where the new gardener is trying to extort us with a US$250/month rate to mow our lawn and keep the weeds to a minimum.

…where we are still waiting for a replacement screen and a replacement mechanism to open our (new) warranteed windows that were promised more than 6 months ago and never delivered.

…where the gun shop guy conveniently lost 200 empty ammunition casings for my antique rifle, along with the dies to reload them, when I told him I didn’t want to spend USD$1200 to reload them at $6 per shot.

…that’s after the 9 months it took them to give me an estimate for the reloading.

But it’s really a charming place.

…where 400 grams of potato chips now cost you USD$6.00 and a chicken now costs you US$10 when before it was less than half that.

…where a pound of cheese now costs US$10.

…where it costs you a thousand dollars per month to keep your house heated to a minimum level of comfort but still at 99% humidity.

…where the new air conditioners you installed last year don’t work this year.

…where the technician you call to come fix them says he will be there later today but then never shows up, leaving you putting off your plans for no reason.

…where you have to sand and repaint everything metal outside because the morons who painted it last year used interior latex paint so it all rusted to hell.

…where you consider yourself lucky to only have a few meters of mold coverage in your house because you were vigilant in military fashion to keep it eradicated.

…where your friends and yourself are constantly being sued or dropkicked by the government or fined or the recipient of theft or extortion or other miscellaneous scumbaggery for no particular reason other than that we are viewed as ATM machines with arms, legs, gullible faces, and a foreign accent.

…where your friend is mugged right in front of the Conrad casino by a motorcycle thug, purse snatched, and by some miracle the morons took only the money and the sim card (!?) from her phone.

…where the President applauds his subjects for enforcing the tenets of the Bolivarian Socialist Revolution and “securing” your goods for their cause.

I could go on, but Uruguay is just such a charming place.

ExFedBob left Uruguay months ago, after becoming disenfranchised with the lack of progress on his residency application. He left and never looked back.

He just got a note from his immigration fixer, stating the need for an interview with Migraciones:

“you are currently out of the country and have not been in Uruguay for a while and they want to confirm that in an interview”

“They want to interview you in person to ask you about your migration movements.”

So, to make sure that you aren’t really here, and have left for good, you need to show up in person to verify your absence.


Some fun responses might be:

“My decision is en tramite, and the decision delivery functionaries have been on strike for months. 50 tons of decisions have piled up and we are considering throwing them in the Rio de la Plata. But we’ll let one truck of decisions out, as a token gesture. Maybe your decision will be on that truck.”

“In order to verify the authenticity of this request, you must verify its authenticity with your verification of authenticity verification. It is located al lado of the Department of Redundancy Department. Then, it must be notarized and legalized, and submitted to the Department of Documents and Unnecessary Paperwork for final authentication before if may be considered usable in Uruguay. At which point it will likely be considered ‘vencido’ whereby you must start the process over again from the beginning.”

“Am I …here? Or… am I …there?”

“They sold my brain?!”

“Please accept these droids as a gift. They will serve you well.”

ANCAP, the Uruguayan government petroleum monopoly, is on strike. As a result, there is no gas or diesel available in most of the country.

I stopped at the local fuel station yesterday out of curiosity, asking the guy behind the counter what the deal was, if it was because of a strike, or not? He didn’t want to talk about it, and was rather grumpy. I was, after all, disturbing his day of not-selling-any-gas with my pestering questions.

“Simplemente no hay,” he said. There just isn’t any.

Doesn’t bug me any; there’s this great technology called a jerrican that we’ve had since, well, we climbed down from trees and started walking upright. And I have them in my truck. Ants and grasshoppers. But oh, the drama that ensues throughout the rest of the country!

“They” say that supplies will be back by Tuesday. We shall see.

In the meantime, biting sarcasm is plentiful in our circles. DiverBob brought up the fact that right now, Uruguay has no:

  • Mail (Correo is on strike)
  • Fuel (ANCAP is on strike)
  • Airplanes (Pluna is dead)

So why, exactly, are people rushing here to avoid the collapse of complex systems that they fear will inevitably happen in the first world? Maybe they figure they can get it over with by going Amish in a place where the stuff never worked quite right in the first place?

“Aren’t we glad we bailed out to Uruguay to avoid all this BS?”

More light reading here.

We just returned to Uruguay after 2 months in Chile. It’s already noticeably more fucked here. 20% increase in food prices SINCE WE LEFT. On LOCALLY MADE stuff! I attribute it to the inflationary ratcheting mechanism whereby the peso loses a little value vs the dollar, either by UY inflation or USD deflation, the UY merchants hike the price in a reactionary way to compensate, and then never reduce the price. They then become accustomed to it, until the next peso devaluation. Repeat process.

This year UY increased construction worker minimum wage by 22%, along with an additional 22% increase in BPS taxes for said labor. Which goes hand in hand with last year’s labor and BPS hike. Which put a damper on construction, including ours; were were ready to push the button on the construction of a second house, until we saw that we would be paying some USD$70,000 worth of taxes to construct it, so it can no longer be done within the budget we had drawn up.

OH– and this is all nicely timed with the removal of bank secrecy for Argentines looking to bank or invest in property in UY. Builders are now marching and rioting and going on strike because they are being laid off from construction projects. Some construction projects are stopping completely due to lack of available flight capital from Argentina and shrinking input from the EU.

“How dare you run out of OUR money!?” is their attitude.

“Hey, in order to protest our being laid off because there are too many of us and we don’t work enough, let’s stop working completely! That’ll show everyone!”

Add to that the discussion, passage, and finalization of new taxes on foreign-earned income for all other expats. Which was then repealed to give them a 5-year amnesty, just in time to maybe get their residency or passports, if they ever get it (what a joke we all know that to be now). But hey, we’re thinking of your best interests, foreign investors! All that talk about raping your wallets, that was just political rhetoric. We’re really friendly. Really.

And our banking? That’s so stable that our employees are always going on strike, shutting down entire branches, and so we have reduced opening and working to 5 hours per day to give you the best customer experience possible. Oh, and now we’ve made it so that unless you are withdrawing more than 30,000 pesos (USD$1500) in a single transaction, our tellers will refuse to even deal with you. You’ll have to go to the ATM that tells you that you must change your pin before you can withdraw your money and then doesn’t let you change your pin. And so now we only need one guy in there, and 2 SWAT team thugs to protect him from angry customers. That and the removal of banking secrecy for Argentines, your biggest customer base. But it’s stable, really! That makes it really stable!

Just like the “residency is easy and granted in 6 months” stuff. And the passports for 5-year single and 3-year married residents. It’s guaranteed in the law. Really. And we clearly respect the law. Really! You can trust us 100%

Hey, where did everyone go?

Way to go, Uruguay!

Seriously, I am willing to bet that you start to see significant unemployment exploding here, and accompanying demonstrations, and families and whole communities unable to feed themselves. How Uruguayans can afford to exist boggles my mind. Their cost of living has literally doubled in the last few years and it wasn’t cheap to begin with.