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versão impressa ISSN 0873-6561

Etnográfica v.15 n.3 Lisboa jun. 2011


Gender relations and masculinity in northern Chile mining areas: ethnography in schoperías

Jaime Barrientos Delgado*, Paulina Salinas Meruane**, Pablo Rojas Varas*** and Patricio Meza Opazo****

*Escuela de Psicología, Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad Católica del Norte, Chile;

**Escuela de Periodismo, Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad Católica del Norte, Chile;

***Escuela de Psicología, Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad ­Católica del Norte, Chile;

****Escuela de Psicología, ­Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad Católica del Norte, Chile;



This paper deals with an ethnography aimed at describing and understanding the gendered organization of schopería life and masculinity in northern Chile. Schoperías are characterized physically and socially and the effects these premises have on gender relations and masculinity assigned to them by waitresses and clients are studied. Schoperías are beer halls, mainly for men, served by women, located in cities near copper mines in Chile. They are strongly gendered and classed places. Schoperías are reference scenarios for men and their performance; they are premises that privilege masculine socialization and heterosexual hegemonic masculine performance. Paradoxically, they are at the same time unique places where male friendship and complicity take place, allowing homosociability and the expression of a certain type of affection and feelings among men.

KEYWORDS: gender relations, masculinity, schoperías, homosociability, copper mining, Chile.


Relações de género e masculinidade em áreas de mineração do norte do Chile: etnografia em schoperías


O artigo baseia-se numa etnografia com a qual se pretendeu descrever e compreender a organização das schoperías em função do género e a masculinidade no Norte do Chile. As schoperías são caraterizadas física e socialmente e são estudados os efeitos que estes locais produzem nas relações de género e na masculinidade que lhes é atribuída pelas empregadas e pelos clientes. As schoperías são cervejarias destinadas sobretudo aos homens, que são servidos por mulheres, localizadas em cidades próximas de minas de cobre no Chile. São lugares fortemente marcados pelo género e pela classe. As schoperías são cenários de referência para os homens e a sua performance; são locais que privilegiam a socialização masculina e a performance masculina heterossexual e hegemónica. Paradoxalmente, são ao mesmo tempo lugares singulares onde a amizade e a cumplicidade masculinas têm lugar, permitindo a homossociabilidade e a expressão de um certo tipo de afeto e sentimentos entre homens.

PALAVRAS-CHAVE: relações de género, masculinidade, schoperías, homossociabilidade, minas de cobre, Chile.


Most towns in the north of Chile have a number of sex and drink-related businesses oriented to adult entertainment.[1] So, in Chile, as in other countries (Hubbard et al. 2008), new forms of sexual and drink commerce have emerged or the older forms are transformed (e. g.: antique ­brothels). In recent decades, the majority of sexual goods and services are sold off-street in bars, restaurants, cabarets, and saunas (Agustín 2005). Probably, the proliferation of sexual venues is a manifestation of the changes in sexual commerce and adult entertainment. These venues are currently integrated in urban economies and they are making an increasingly significant contribution to the entertainment and leisure economy in Western countries. Their location and visibility within the urban space is highly revealing of the sexual values that dominate in a particular context (Hubbard et al. 2008). These new venues are situated in central urban spaces and schoperías in Calama are the best example of this type of business.[2]

Schoperías are beer halls.[3] They are drink-related venues aimed at ­heterosexual male consumers, a homosocial male-only environment (Barrientos et al. 2009). However, these venues are stigmatized, and for the inhabitants of Calama, these places are associated with commercial sex. Schoperías ban female custom­ers from entering unless escorted by men. Women who enter or frequently go to such places on their own do so only at the risk of their reputation. Visiting schoperías is the most common recreational activity for men in Calama as in other similar places near copper mines. Male clients’ behavior in schoperías and their roles are essentially defined by their work in copper mining and their relationship with their workmates. The mining workers use an analogy of family to emphasize the close emotional bonds among their members. The nature of mining work, the comparative physical isolation, and work shifts are all involved in the formation of a relatively self-contained reference group whose members work and spend their leisure time together (Collis 1999). In this type of work, individual safety depends on others, solidarity within work crews developing from the shared responsibility of working underground. Workmates are also leisure companions. There is also considerable pressure from fellow-miners to conform to the norms of mateship, team spirit, and the macho image (Collis 1999).



New markets have developed for adult sex consumption, commerce, and recreation, as shown by Petersen and Dressel (1982). They include various types of nudity, physical contact, and individual erotic services (Frank 2007). Other services are also available to meet men’s leisure and non-sexual needs. In Chile, leisure and sex commerce are typical in places such as cafe and legs, saunas, and traditional night clubs set up in the late 1980s, when the military government and its restrictions were coming to an end.[4] The environment in these places stimulates interaction among male customers and women and, therefore, plays both a heterosexual and a masculine homosociality role. Along with these ­recreational alternatives, schoperías have been established in the country’s mining regions. However, schoperías are not only recreation and leisure premises. It is speculated that they are also associated with drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, and sexual commerce (Barrientos and Silva 2006).

The social concept of schoperías implies that they are dangerous and, therefore, highly stigmatized like other sex venues (e. g.: nightclubs) (Montemurro 2001). Women who work there do not generally come from the same city, but are young women from the south of the country or abroad (Peru, Colombia, Argentina, and Ecuador, among others). Therefore, schoperías, like nightclubs, have been thoroughly subjected to public scrutiny, debate, and attempts at regulation and control (Frank 2005).

Men’s behavior and consumption habits in schoperías, like smoking, drinking, and rude or aggressive conduct, are generally banned from other public places. As observed in other countries such as Portugal (Almeida 2000), men usually discuss personal and marital problems because it is sooth­ing and they do not have to put up with complaints from the women in their social networks. So, as described by Vale de Almeida (2000), the true masculine space, socioculturally constructed, is the cafe or its various local versions such as the Chilean cafe and legs. The masculine is privileged on a public basis (work place, cafe, bar, and brothel) and the feminine on a private basis (at home). In this context, a man talks, relaxes and behaves as a desiring subject, in a way that is similar to that found in other contexts such as nightclubs (Frank 2003).

As stated above, schopería customers build their identity on the basis of characteristics associated with the ideal miners’ courtship, virility, permanent strength, competitive attitude, and role as provider (Barrientos and Silva 2006). In schoperías, these features are strengthened and contribute to the configuration of a particular sexual and gender identity. This way of acting manly is both present in the mine and in the schopería through various expressions that characterize the form and content of communication among men and with women. A particular language, clothing, physical appearance, practices, interests, habits, codes, consumption habits, that is, a mining culture is recognized; this will be explained in the results section.



In Chile, special emphasis has been put on understanding the sociopolitical and cultural matrix and the social discourses on sexuality since the Chilean coup of 1973 (Htun 2003). Under the military regime, gender images were associated with traditional values: domesticity, motherhood and sexual propriety (Mora 2006). Also, Mala Htun (2003) showed how the military discourse had a gender and sexuality component in Chilean people. Jacqueline Adams (2002) stated that the Chilean gender regime could be called strongly patriarchal, discouraging women from working outside the home, straying far from the house, joining groups, socializing, and becoming involved in politics. However, several studies showed that the political and economic changes the country has gone through in the last ten years have clearly influenced women’s gender expectations and ideals (Conasida and ANRS 2000). For example, the incorporation of women into the workforce, a rise in women’s education, a drop in child bearing, and the transition to democratic government in Chile have led to a transformation in sexuality, gender relationships, and family structure (Barrientos and Páez 2006). However, Mora (2006) stated that the influence of market values has produced a paradox in current gender metaphors: a religious view of women’s dignity as achievable through the role of wife and mother, an imagery also sponsored by social conservatives, co-exists in contemporary Chile along with imagery of the articulate educated, professional woman and worker.

The situation in Calama is different than that of the country regarding gender relations since it still shows significant gender gaps. For example, women’s participation in the paid labor market amounts to 20.4% on a regional basis, while men’s participation amounts to 79.6% (Encla 2009). This situation is not easy to change in a labor market where the main productive activity is based on mining, historically associated with a male workforce (Barrientos et al. 2009). In copper mining in the north of Chile, as in other countries, work and workplaces are male dominated (Abrahamsson 2007). Though some women also work in the mining industry, they usually have administrative jobs. Here, mines are also male in a discursive and cultural way since work, profession and workplace culture have strong symbolic links with masculinity. In this type of work, we can find over-explicit expressions of a special type of manliness. Most mining workers do not live or act in full accordance with the ideals and norms of masculinity, but they all share the same picture of what a real mining worker is (Abrahamsson 2007).



As stated above, mining activity in Chile is mainly a masculine work sector. Women’s life in these contexts has been and is restricted to housework and childcare. In this male environment, gender relations are not easy to establish. For example, it is vox populi that typical Chuquicamata male citizens are manly, egocentric, individualistic, heavy drinkers, and unfaithful (Vergara 2007). This is a stereotype of the man who lives in the desert. So, people living here created a stereotype, that is, men coming from the south had no other role but to work and then get drunk to forget their sorrows. However, as Valdés and Olavarría (1997) pointed out for Santiago, it is important to contextualize the construction of a Chilean masculinity identity, considering the huge changes the country has gone through in the last few years. These authors state that it is not possible to speak about Chilean masculinity, but rather of its multi-faceted character, in spite of the power of existing and expected hegemonic masculine models and the impact of the military dictatorship on men’s lives. According to these authors, masculine identity is strengthened in various homosociality environments such as bars and cafes.

But in the mining context of the Antofagasta region, the image of manhood is formed in relation to the ability of the miner to fulfill his role as provider, producing social recognition from other miners and women working there, along with the possibility to impose his authority on other men (through status given in these spaces, for example by higher salaries and better positions in the work hierarchy) and on women who work there (through money). Campbell (1997), agreeing with this view, states that masculinity plays a key role in miners lives; they live far away from their families and, therefore, mostly rely on their primary support networks or workmates. Besides, life styles associated with mining generally imply little privacy. Even the bedroom is shared with a fellow-worker, creating complicity and particular forms of homosociality among men who are alone, young, and foreigners. The result­ing relationship network increases recreation and leisure. Alcohol, gambling, betting, and soccer fill the free times. Also, the high concentration of single men or men living alone enables the proper conditions for the unend­ing and lucrative sexual commerce in both mining camps and nearby cities to flourish (Vergara 2007).

An important dimension regarding masculinity is its expression in public (Marqués 1997) – in public spaces, women were not usually present. This feature of masculinity is important since social life takes place in male contexts, at least in Latin American societies and, especially, in mining environments where homosociality is inevitable. However, as shown by Ortega (2002), from the second half of the 19th century, affective expressions among men in these social contexts have been restricted to building a strong brotherhood and kinship feeling. So, relations among men are constantly under the gender domain of resistant, hostile, and even misogynous masculinity. This sociocultural construction finds respite in the interaction and dynamics produced by alcohol in bars and cafes.



Homosocial ordering of men’s heterosexual relations has received little attention. Homosociality refers to social bonds among people of the same sex (Bird 1996) or nonsexual attraction for members of their own sex (Lipman-Blumen 1976). Men spend most of their adult lives in homosocial contexts such as male-dominated workplaces and institutions. Men’s lives are said to be highly organized by relations among men (Flood 2007). Men’s gender practice has been theorized as homosocial enactment, in which the performance of manhood takes place in front of, and is granted by other men (Kimmel 1994) – men seek the approval of other men, both identifying with and competing against them. Heterosexual men’s prioritizing of homosociality is also evident in codes of comradeship. Stereotypically, men’s roles include smoking, drinking alcohol (sometimes to excess), fighting, and picking up women. The primacy of homosocial relations is also expressed in a compulsively heterosexual logic governing relations with women (Flood 2007), thus perpetuating gender inequalities, and it promotes a clear distinction between hegemonic masculinities and non-hegemonic masculinities by the segregation of social groups (Bird 1996). Mining work is the best example of a homosocial context. In heterosexual male cultures, there is a variety of sex-related practices that can express or cement bonds between male friends – for example, they watch pornographic movies and strip shows together or tell each other stories of their sexual exploits.

Homosociality, in his sense, is heterosexual and masculine. Homosocial bonds are guarded against the feminizing and homosexualizing influences of excessive heterosociality. Aldrich (1992) emphasizes that male homosociality involves a sexual or erotic bond. Heterosexual male homophobia, fear of, and hostility toward homosexuality is sometimes understood as involving the suppression of homoerotic desire. As stated below, powerful homophobic norms control male interaction in schoperías (e. g.: regarding the openly expression of desire for other men).



This research is guided by the Dramaturgical Approach, a theory that views interaction as a performance shaped by environment and audience, constructed to provide others with impressions that are consonant with the desired goals of the actor (Goffman 1959). This framework uses a theatrical metaphor for defining the method in which one human being introduces him or herself to another based on cultural values, norms, and expectations. It suggests that a person’s identity is not a stable and independent psychological entity; it is constantly remade as the person interacts with others (Le Breton 2004). Self is a sense of who one is, a dramatic effect emerging from the immediate scene being presented. The goal of this presentation of self is acceptance from an audience through manipulation. If the actor succeeds, the audience will view the actor as he or she wants to be viewed. This makes it an intimate form of communication. People are actors who must convey their personal characteristics and their intentions to others. People in their everyday lives manage settings, clothing, words, and nonverbal actions to give a particular impression to others. This is called impression management, a concept that refers to work on maintaining the desired impression. An individual may act in a thoroughly calculating manner, expressing him or herself in a given way exclusively to produce an impression on others (Berkowitz 2006). For example, individuals manage their self-presentation in ways that both sustain and challenge societal notions of hegemonic masculinity, emphasized femininity, and compulsory heterosexuality. Men use the resources available for them (e. g.: their bodies and their language) to perform their manliness (Leyser 2003). Gender is a social construction that is actively created, maintained and amended in specific situations (Berkowitz 2006).

It is with this theoretical framework that masculinity and gender relations are analyzed. Our goal is to describe gender and masculinity construction in schoperías and how masculinity is enacted in these homosocial venues.


METHOD: Data collection

The study was done in Calama, the most important city near Chuquicamata. We chose Calama’s downtown schoperías along with some others outside the central quadrant defined in the study for fieldwork.[5] Analytical units were both the schoperías as cultural scenario and gender relations establishments.

We collected data through ethnographic research and interviews in 2006 and 2007. The fieldwork took 56 days. We made most observations at night, a fact that undoubtedly made our job more complex and increased risks. The fieldwork was based on participant observation and interviews with men and women who regularly go to Calama downtown schoperías. This method ­involved the use of different data collection techniques: observation, informal and ­in-depth interviews with women (waitresses) working in schoperías, customers, and owners. These techniques allowed us to know participants and to learn the regularities and variations of the subjects’ social behavior (­Hammersley and Atkinson 1994). We interviewed 8 waitresses aging 18-35 years. In addition, we interviewed 14 customers (18-40 years old), most of them mining workers. We also interviewed key informants such as a historian and two schopería owners, among others.

We frequently visited four particular schoperías. The name of each schopería has been changed in order to ensure anonymity. In addition, we examined bibliographical, newspaper, and photographic materials. We observed the interaction and dynamics in all four places, moving around the many tables available and mixing with customers. At the beginning of the fieldwork, we did not reveal our identity because we believed it would affect data collection. Our team consisted of four researchers: Jaime (35), Paulina (41) – both faculty members at Universidad Católica del Norte (UCN), Antofagasta, Chile –, Pablo (25), and Patricio (30) – post-graduate students at UCN. At first, all four research­ers visited the schoperías, including Paulina, one of the principal investigators. During these initial field visits or “first impression” (Magnani 2009), each member of the research team went into the field to begin to observe the environments of the schoperías in order to inform the direction of the research. As part of the methodology, first we went as customers and visited each schopería for a long period of time to avoid suspicion. During each visit, we paid for our drinks and our snacks. We acted like typical customers, paying special attention to the interaction among customers, and also between them and the women working there. We dressed casually with jeans, tennis shoes and T-shirts.

During our first visits we were very aware of the risk involved in going with a woman (Paulina) into a purely masculine space that banned female custom­ers. However, we wanted to take the risk and see what happened. However, in our first visit we perceived that the presence of a woman as a customer produced some kind of bewilderment in men and also waitresses. The men in the team usually drank beer and Paulina drank only soft drinks. She was the focus of looks and comments in the schoperías, because she was the only female customer, but also because she did not drink beer. We also noticed it was difficult to interact with other men; many times we perceived their curiosity and above all, their deceit. We were observed but not talked to. This situation made us feel strange. On one occasion, a waitress asked us what Paulina was doing in the schopería. As we had just begun the observation process, we told her we were celebrating her birthday. Once the objective of our study was revealed to the waitresses and many customers we usually interacted with, the waitress that had asked about Paulina told us she had never believed us. On another occasion, Jaime went to the restroom and once inside, a man went up to him and commented:

“We know you are police officers. We can notice it in your clothes, particularly your female partner… But relax, we won’t tell any other custom­ers…” [Man, 35 years old, Calama].

We still remember this happening. That day we were dressed in jeans and T-shirts, except Paulina who was wearing pants and a light brown jacket ­similar to those worn by investigation officers in Chile. So, we are not sure if it was her clothes or her look that triggered the episode. We were quite worried about how she was feeling. One day, some drunk customers started harassing her and she became afraid. Nothing happened to Paulina, but this situation made the research team decide that, in order to protect Paulina and ensure her personal safety, only the men in the team would go to the schoperías from that moment on, except when visiting Crazy, because this schopería was the only site where the informal social codes permitted the presence of female customers. Her absence helped us to interact with customers. Even several customers we did not know greeted us. One of them sat at our table to talk about his life the first day Paulina was not present. In the next visits, we recognized many of the customers and realized that her absence assisted our interaction with waitresses; it was easier to talk and flirt with them. However, it is necessary to note that having a woman in the team helped us to bring attention to some aspects regarding waitresses and schoperías dynamics that we would not have noticed otherwise. Paulina helped us to regard, for example, the women’s physical codes, dress and behavior. We were aware of the power differences between ourselves (faculty members) and subjects studied. Therefore, these issues were analyzed during weekly meetings to avoid difficulties (Wosick-Correa and Joseph 2008). Some of the differences referred to gender, and also to the social, educational, economical, and cultural level of female schopería workers, a fact that does not only impose certain conditions on questions asked, but also on the subjects studied and on how results are shown (Frank 2005). Thus, as in any ethnographic study, some emotions, many times conflicting, arose at the beginning, as reported by La Pastina (2006): we felt anxious when in the field and on entering the premises. We created friendships with participants and a sense of belonging to a club and its related dynamics. We also had to prepare ourselves for departure. The stigma associated with these places influenced the analytical and methodological decisions made during the study, as described by Frank for night clubs (2007) (e. g.: the experience of being a researcher in nightclubs is seen as dangerous, and there is a certain stigma attached).

Finally, following Hammersley and Atkinson (1994), we analyzed and ­interpreted the results through the ethnographic process, that is, first we took field notes, and then took analytical notes using our emerging ­concepts. On the basis of the interactive process promoted by Corbin and Strauss (2007) we identified typologies regarding physical and social organization and gender relations, among others, for encoding and interpreting data. Then, we used the categories identified to organize descriptions. ­Research validation criteria were triangulation on two levels: a) researchers, with field notes, and b) techniques, through participant observation, ­informal talks, ­ethnographic interviews, and document analysis (Denzin 1978; ­Sandín 2003). For data ­production and analysis, we considered ethical criteria emerg­ing ­during fieldwork. We ­informed participants of the study features and guaranteed corresponding confidentiality and protection of data reported. To ensure confidentiality, we changed the names of participants and places ­visited. Interviewees provided a written consent for interviews.



The Antofagasta region[6] has a population of 493,984 inhabitants (INE 2003). It is one of the most prosperous zones in the country with sustained growth in the last decade. This advantageous situation has arisen because of its productive mining; in fact, it exports the country’s main commodity and there is considerable investment made by copper companies. Large scale copper mining is a leading national industry, due to its increasing modernization. This includes ongoing training of human resources, sophisticated technology, meeting environmental demands, and low accident rates, among others. In addition, though less important, regional economic activities are connected to fishing. However, copper mining is the most important activity, making up 50% of the GNP and 95% of regional exports. The most important copper mines are Chuquicamata and Escondida. Chuquicamata is located 15 km from Calama. This is one of the world’s largest copper mines and produces the most copper worldwide. It belongs to Codelco, a company in the top one hundred mining companies worldwide and one of the most important in metallic mining.[7] Production conditions and life in copper mines have been described as detrimental to workers’ health, both physically and psychologically. So, the shift system (e. g.: four days on and three days off, or seven days on and seven days off) has had a profound effect on workers and their families for generations. Both blue and white collar workers have been affected. In the ­Antofagasta region, copper mining represents more than 60% of the regional product (Subdere 2003). According to some estimates, the workforce employed in mining activities in the region exceeds 150,000 people; more than 100,000 men live between the mine and their homes because, frequently, their families live in other cities (Franulic 2007).



Though we visited all schoperías in the Calama (40 approximately), we finally focused on those located downtown: Crazy, Che Oscar, Tesy, and Don Juan. We selected these schoperías because their customers were mainly mining workers, and were recommended by some key respondents.


Che Oscar

Che Oscar is a relatively small schopería, compared with others downtown. It has swinging doors and upon entering it, we could observe the waitresses, all of them young (18-25 years), dressed in miniskirts and tight clothes. Tables are located next to the door and bar. This schopería is divided by a panel that allows free movement through two broad arch-like openings in the center of the place. Inside, waitresses are on the left, either standing or sitting; behind them, there are five refrigerators with beer and beverages for customer consumption. Next to the refrigerators is the kitchen. A video jukebox is located to the right of the kitchen. This venue has eleven tables located on the side of the main room. In the middle of the schopería we find the cash register and a bar with stools and a shelf with some rum, whiskey, vodka, pisco, wine bottles, and various other drinks.[8] In the refrigeration area there is a side entrance for bringing in goods. This schopería has four TV sets; the biggest is located in the left corner next to the refrigerators. Lighting is varied and the lights keep bright from noon to around 6 p.m. The lights dim in the evening, providing more intimacy. Che Oscar is visited mainly by men 40-65 years old. Most custom­ers are or were Codelco workers. Customers who do not work for Codelco are easily identified because they do not share the same codes (for example: types of clothing, ways of talking, physical presentation). Most customers know each other or are able to identify those who work for Codelco and those who don’t. Jewellery worn (e. g.: chunky rings and chains) help identify the different groups.


Don Juan

The second schopería is called Don Juan and is one of the oldest downtown. Its external structure is quite simple; it has only one floor and the façade is painted in red and purple. This venue also has two pairs of swinging doors, one pair in front and the other behind, leaving a small space between them. The front doors are covered in a purple fake leather material. The doors behind are made of glass, physical characteristics that allow customers to look inside and judge the atmosphere. On the right side there is a bar where customers sit on high stools. The cash register is on the bar and there are four or five refrigerators for beer and beverages. There are also four TV sets on the walls. There are plastic flowers between the refrigerators and the cash register and statues of saints decorate small spaces. Waitresses stay at the end of the bar, near the refrigerators. They are all young and dressed in miniskirts and tight clothes. They can watch the whole venue from this position. On the left side there is a row of ten tables which are attached to the wall. Some waitresses sometimes sit or stand there. Don Juan has about 30 tables distributed in four rows, two of them in the center and the two others attached to the walls. The floor is covered in purple ceramic tiles and the walls are painted with murals representing Machu-Picchu, the Chuquicamata copper mine, and a couple of landscapes depicting valleys and villages. There are two doors at the back of the venue: one of them leads to a small kitchen and the other to the storeroom where beer cases and schop (beer) barrels are kept. To the left of the kitchen there is an aisle leading to a private restroom and toilets for men and women. Don Juan is the only one of the four schoperías described that does not have a jukebox, so the cashier takes music requests from waitresses and customers. Customers in this schopería are differently aged and the bar is more popular than Che Oscar. It is not unusual to find some regular customers over 60 and most of them can usually be found in small groups or alone at one of the tables. It is also possible to see many hip-hoppers and flaites.[9] We also saw some youngsters who work in construction and even workers dressed in work clothes. Sometimes it is possible to find indigenous and Andean people. This is also the schopería where fans of Cobreloa, Calama’s soccer team, get together.



Crazy has similar dimensions to Don Juan. They both have swinging doors, and it is easy to evaluate the atmosphere and look at the waitresses because they are dressed in tight clothes, short skirts and wear make-up. None of the waitresses are older than 25. As in the other schoperías, the cash register is next to the door. There are one or two chairs for waitresses next to the cash register and refrigerators for beer and beverages in the same sector. Like Che Oscar, Crazy sells liquor, but not as frequently – beer is the main drink. The venue has about 24 square tables for customers. There is a long bar, about 4 meters in length, with bar stools on the right side at the back. Crazy is the only schopería visited that has tablecloths. It has a kitchen and toilets for men and women, and also dressing rooms for women. The schopería has seven TV sets in different sizes. In terms of lighting, this was the darkest venue visited. The roof has a fan, smoke extractors, and lights that are turned on when the schopería closes are installed in the ceiling. Customers are younger than in the other two venues. Most of them are between 20 and 35 years old and have a higher educational level, two facts that made us feel more comfortable than in the others because we could identify with them. Most of the music was rock music. This is the only schopería visited by some women, mainly young women accompanied by a man or a group of them, probably because it is the closest to a neighborhood bar.



The fourth schopería visited was Tesy. This was the largest establishment observed and the one we visited most often because it was usually the busiest. The building where this schopería is located has three floors and looks imposing and large compared with neighboring buildings. The schopería is on the first floor. Entrances to the second and third floors are located to the left and right of the schopería entrance, respectively. On entering the schopería, we saw customers. Women are to the right of the venue next to the cash register. Like other downtown schoperías (except Che Oscar), waitresses are very close to the door. Here the number of tables is greater than in other venues, about 43. Refrigerators are located by the cash register. This venue has seven TV sets located in such a way that they can be seen from any place and they are always on. There are two toilets, one in front of the other, for men and women, together with a dressing room for women and a kitchen. There are fluorescent lights, fans, and smoke extractors in the ceiling. Unlike the other schoperías visited, there are two slot machines on each side of the TV located at the back of the venue, but they are scarcely used. In fact, we never saw anybody using them. Finally, unlike the other schoperías, Tesy has closed-circuit television consisting of four cameras. According to one of the waitresses, these cameras “are a means of safety for them”. Customers are heterogeneous, generally Codelco workers known to most waitresses, workers from contracting companies, youngsters studying in an institute or college in the city, and men visiting Calama.



In schoperías, we observed women serving men (customers) and men talking, drinking, and laughing. We found the atmosphere inside filled with noise, music, images, smells, and cigarette smoke, which suggested an erotic atmosphere. Dimmed fancy lights, waitresses’ teasing proximity and appearance, their permanent walking between tables, physical contact with customers owing to table distribution and the crowd lead to seduction, flirting, and complicity interactions between customers and waitresses. This is even more noticeable between regular customers and waitresses. We also observed excessive alcohol consumption stimulating the atmosphere and as participant observers, we drank alcohol.

Using an expression devised by Erving Goffman (1963), a schopería can be considered as an “open region”, that is, a place where people have many ­opportunities to relate socially. This concept was considered useful for describing relations in the venue. At the same time, due to their stimulating atmosphere people are usually pushed and almost forced – whether they want to or not – to accept further interactions, a fact that happened to us many times. There is a general implicit sociability rule in schoperías: customers hope they can talk to other men and some women and even touch the latter, though it is also expected that distance is kept between waitresses and customers so as to protect the reputation of both men and women.

We observed differences in the way men use space as customers and women as workers. Each of them moves according to a repertoire of interactions belonging to everyday life, that is, traditional roles socioculturally assigned to gender are reproduced. Men usually speak loudly and make gestures that contrast with body control at work. In other words, their bodies change from having controlled rigid gestures to a more open, exaggerated movement like clapping, and they speak in loud voices (Almeida 2000). This appropriation of space is also related to the frequency with which customers go to schoperías and their ties to these social spaces. Some men have been customers since the opening of the bar and some become regulars because of the waitresses’ friendliness. This allows them to move more confidently and comfortably. It also happened to us as we visited the schoperías more frequently. The dynamic generally favors collaboration and friendly relations with the owners or administrators and the women who have worked longer in the pub. Later, this dynamic also helped us to interview the waitresses and owners.

However, waitresses must not sit at the table with customers; they must focus on serving well, paying close attention when beer bottles are empty and replacing them, cleaning the ashtrays, and responding to consumers requests. We asked waitresses to sit with us on several occasions, but none of them accepted.

In these places, customers usually want – or hope – to have some kind of sexual or erotic experience, either real or fictitious, with one of the waitresses. In other words, there may be a type of halfway sexuality, as proposed by Trautner (2005) for nightclubs. Trautner states that there are different expressions of sexuality associated with images attributed to a certain social class: a repressed one belonging to middle class, and a promiscuous one belonging to the working class. One of these expressions, called “voyeuristic sexuality” by Trautner, is associated with different desire performances, including looking at women from a distance. This expression could be useful for describing the schopería customer’s sexuality and it’s an impersonal way of observing sexuality typical of schoperías. In this type of sexuality, women are seen as objects; men imagine them as sexual partners, with male power being at stake. So, these expressions and their prevalence are associated with several factors such as customers’ age, attendance frequency, work hierarchy or status in the mine (being a worker is not the same as being a superior), being a Codelco worker or hired by a contractor and, lastly, the schopería chosen. Many customers we talked to said that one of the reasons for going to the schoperías was talking to and looking at the waitresses.



In schoperías, dialogue is a central issue affected by alcohol consumption: the more men drink, the more comfortable they feel expressing themselves verbally. Sometimes, games and other types of entertainment accompany the talking. Camaraderie and fellowship develop among customers. They usually treat each other to beers. This behavior can happen in a group when one of the men announces, “Drinks for everybody, my treat!” or during a conversation between two men at a table when one of them offers the other one a beer. Sometimes, they can even ask waitresses to send beer to other men at other tables, especially if they are acquaintances. On one occasion, we received a round of beers as a present from a customer at another table, without any reason. This gesture may be considered “cool” and / or a sign of good will. “Putting a beer to another one” allows the treater to be in a prestigious and respectful position in front of others, thus immediately giving him the chance to enjoy and stay longer in the schopería. This relationship game involves the implicit promise to return the treat. The gesture (treating each other to beers) is used to exert and to perform their masculinity in these contexts. On more than one occasion we had to treat other customers to beer.

In schoperías men talk about breaking news in newspapers and the deaths of well-known people, though as most of them report, some issues are present in every conversation, like male heterosexuality. Men say, “This sweety is hot”; “This chick got fat, right?”; “And what happened to the hotty you were eating?”; “They told me you’ve got cuckolded”; “And, did she say yes?”, “Did you hear that Carola got married?”; “How good is she in bed?” The previous sentences illustrate the construction of gender and the imaginary about femininity in male discourse. Customers think of waitresses as objects – hotties. The idea of women is constructed by referring to body parts (butt, breasts) and different sexual practices (oral and anal sex or ménage a trois). We also had to use these expressions in our talks with customers so as to be able to interact with them and feel like part of the group.

Conversations on sexual topics are usually exaggerated by heroic feats (for example, several acts of sexual intercourse in one night and multiple sexual partners), myths or jokes related to homosexuality or masculine hegemonic performance (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005). Any reference to gay men’s sexuality diminishes the macho image. Referring to male homosexuality as “to be on the other team”, we heard from another customer that it was against nature and an offense. For many it is unacceptable. The customers must maintain their identity and show that they are heterosexual. An identity different from heterosexual, either homosexual or bisexual, is sanctioned and explicitly banned because, apart from being considered “queer”, it creates suspicion or doubt regarding the sexual identity of those who speak about it. On one occasion, Pablo and Jaime were drinking beer. There were only two more customers in the schopería. A young man at a nearby table treated them to beer through one of the waitresses. He was talking on the phone. Pablo looked at him and made a gesture with his head to thank him. The man responded by making a hand signal and kept on looking, but he didn’t approach them, as is usual. Jaime began to feel uncomfortable because Pablo told him he did not understand the meaning of the treat since the customer had not sat or talked with them. Pablo suggested that they should leave. The customer who also stood up to leave continued staring at them. When retelling this experience to the team, we concluded that this incident did not fit the usual behavior in a schopería. Thus, the question was: why had the man interacted with the researcher team in that way? A desire to talk, or a homoerotic desire? We don’t know because we went to another schopería.

Other important topics are work, boss-worker relations, money, alcohol, and soccer. Soccer is a very popular topic, especially in low-class sectors. In fact, one of the elements that attract men to schoperías is a soccer match on television. Customers can watch the TV screen from any part of the schopería. When they talk about soccer, customers test their knowledge about sports, tactics and strategies, playing the role of referee, coach, player, manager or fan. The group values everybody’s expertise. They can vehemently argue on team organization or the strengths and difficulties of a club. But, though many of them do not play soccer because of work commitments, this sport has been incorporated into their masculine socialization. Indeed, those who do not know about soccer, who do not support any team or have never played, are considered strange buddies. As none of us are soccer fans, we had to read the newspapers to learn about scores and then be able to make comments in the schopería. In fact, we had to show that we were soccer fans.

Under the influence of alcohol, men relate face to face, almost daringly as if its consumption were like soccer, women being there just to serve it. Alcohol makes it easier for men to express their emotions and feelings to each other, something that otherwise would not be possible since being a man in this context involves responding indefinitely, at least in public, to the gender demands of being strong, not crying, bearing work adversities and family problems, and playing the role of provider. In our visits, we realized that our own consumption facilitated communication and the creation of bonds with customers. Alcohol consumption allowed us to talk to customers with whom we would otherwise never have communicated. Under the influence of alcohol, we observed that it was easier for men to express affection and friendship and demand loyalty. The research team also experienced this, alcohol as a tool for socialization. These expressions of affection contradict masculine hegemonic performance and show a different side to men, as they become able to express affection and feelings which are traits normally attributed to women. Some men even pat other men’s hair or backs in an exaggeratedly erotic way or give each other compliments such as “You are good, son of a bitch!” or “You’ve got a good ass!”, then burst into laughter. These manifestations give account of how difficult it is for men to express affection to each other or to establish close links since their masculinity could be put at risk.

Euphoria increases with alcohol consumption. Once the men are drunk but aware of their state, we could hear, “I love you very much” and “You’re my friend, buddy!”, accompanied by hugs, rough patting on the head or slaps on the back. A young man told us:

“The thing is you get sentimental when you are kind of crazy, because anyway every man needs somebody by his side” [Man, 29 years old, customer].

The conversation in schoperías often revolves around men’s jobs, according to the workers in the mines. Their work is an activity requiring physical strength, shrewdness, and other skills that women do not have. Men talk about the exhausting journey or week, of the workmate sanctioned by the boss, of the next collective negotiation, of the fight with a co-worker, or the inability of the foreman or supervisor to solve a certain problem. We frequently heard the sentence: “The one who knows knows, and the one who doesn’t is the boss”. This is very common and tends to vindicate the role of those who hold inferior positions, meaning that these positions may be circumstantial or held for reasons other than merit. Revindication is then associated with knowledge or shrewdness when facing certain problems since knowledge as symbolic capital (Bourdieu 2004) is a power that strengthens an individual when hierarchical differences put some men in an inferior rank, in this case, below the boss. Talking about work was not easy for us. Since we are faculty members and most of the customers were mining workers, we were at first perceived as strangers. However, if we said that we were psychologists, communication became easier because they immediately started to talk, as if the term psychologist were a magic wand opening a door to communication.

On the faces of some men who go to schoperías, the signs of an exhausting work day can be seen. They go there to have a woman to serve them some beer. Cultural constructs that establish the division of work between both sexes are ascribed to these dynamics. According to this concept, real work implies physical strain and sacrifice, while service or care of others are natural roles associated with the female. The compensatory meaning of a woman’s work in the schopería must be added since the worker wants service and care. There he does not receive orders; on the contrary, he is the one who gives orders and pays for them.

The main role of the schopería, as some owners told us, is to sell alcohol and contribute to male entertainment. Yet, there are also other roles associated with this lucrative business in the city, as we discovered with time. Customers, particularly those that are shyer or have only a few friends, report feeling comfortable because there they can talk to friends and women. Customers report that conversations with women are different since they can relate to them without the risk of being rejected. This is due to the fact that sexuality and courtship are very stressful and, many times, also humiliating, as some men frequently reported, particularly after alcohol consumption. In schoperías customers interact with women to whom they could not relate otherwise (in the street or in a discotheque), either because they do not consider themselves physically attractive or due to age, class, education gap, or simply because they believe these women would not talk to them.

Referring to his study on night clubs, Frank (2005) points out that men go to night clubs to get relief and liberate themselves. She also states that many of them, particularly regular customers, report that sexual activity per se is available, but in a way different than in other places such as massage and topless bars. So, schoperías might be seen as leisure places providing an atmosphere different from work or home. They are far from being exclusive for sexual commerce and thus the social representation built around these places is untrue. The research team was often told that it was possible that some contacts may have resulted in sexual or affective arrangements outside the schopería between customers and waitresses. These places provide the opportunity to make personal sexual contact with waitresses. Schoperías are attractive places providing safety, if compared to the illegality of other male leisure places. They are a man’s escape not only from the daily grind of competing with fellow workers and his job, but also, for a while, from the demands for affection, time, and money of his family. However, for many customers the schopería is contradictorily the place they want to escape from, but, though at the same time they miss it. Workers usually come from other regions and move to the ­Antofagasta region because of a job. Although many consider it only temporary, this situation may last for years. They live in boarding houses located downtown, most of them substandard, built on a small site and with shared bedrooms and bathrooms. In this sense, schoperías become a big comfortable living-room that is not found in the boarding house. A customer told us:

“Anyway, I sometimes feel kind of alone, then I go for a walk and go to the schopería. I don’t even realize how I got there. There I feel at ease, talk to the girls,[10] they already know me. Why am I going to be enclosed in the boarding house if the schopería is around the corner?” [Man, 27 years old, customer]

The schopería becomes a place for getting together: making friends, having fun, telling jokes and forgetting problems at least for a while. This happened to us when we were about to end our fieldwork. Although in the beginning the place was very different from the venues we frequently visit, in the end we felt comfortable and liked spending time at the different schoperías.



In schoperías, as in other places sharing similar features (Wesely 2006), women do a job strongly sexualized, being particularly valued as the customers’ physical and emotional object of desire. Waitresses built their identity according to social expectations of their gender and sexual role. The customers do the same. In this sense, and as pointed out by feminists, organizations and jobs are frequently gendered, that is, the concepts of femininity and masculinity are hegemonically defined (Trautner 2005; Connell and Messerschmidt 2005). So, we can affirm that schoperías are social structures, namely, organizations that shape gender according to female or male heterosexual demands.

The gendered space described above in the schoperías determines the type of customers and the relations established between customers and waitresses. In one of the schoperías customers were mainly Codelco workers, while in the rougher, more boisterous schoperías they came from other companies. A key informant told us:

“As early as 1985, the shit […] began to blast. To make money, we had to have hotties. The good hotties arrived around 82. Serving has changed; now it is more sexual… who brings the best hotties does better” [Man, 49 years old, customer].

Another informant told us:

“Before, the girls working in schoperías were like… more adult. Now, they aren’t; now the girls are younger, that is, they are 19, the oldest is 25 years, get it? Schopería girls. No one accepts girls older than 25 years” [Women, 34 years old, waitress].

In previous decades, waitresses were not so young. Several men told us their preference for a young woman’s body: “young girls are sexier”, “they are hard”, “nothin’ happens with Chuquicamata trucks”, referring to overweight middle-aged women. Besides, some men prefer young women because they are more docile, meaning that they are easier to relate to and, eventually, more likely to accept offers, as compared with older women. This discourse exemplifies the symbolic violence implicit in gender language. It gives account of male power standing; they are the ones who assess women’s age and body with a strong sense of appropriation and control of them. A waitress, 22-year-old girl told us:

“You hear the typical, you are pretty, or what are you doing here?, etc… Uh… Do… do… do you want to go out with me? Do you want to be my girlfriend…? Some men establish partnerships or friendships with the waitresses, though outside the premises”.

The same woman said to the research team:

“Some men ask our names, if we are dating, if we want to go out with them, some even deny their children”.

Relations between men and women are of different types: they range from cold interaction with the customer to affective involvement. Although less frequent, we heard wedding stories. Customers sometimes get to know some of the waitresses; others express their liking for one of them; some enjoy looking at them; and others establish friendships with them. Sometimes, if a waitress accepts, they can take her to dance or for a drink after her shift. On one occasion, one of the researchers flirted with a waitress and when she served him beer, she gave him her phone number. However, waitresses are quite selective and will not talk with most of the customers who try to make friends while they are working. On the other hand, waitresses acknowledge having some acquaintances and friends who go to schoperías. These are mostly regular customers and also owners’ friends or acquaintances. In other cases, customers are men that waitresses meet in other places and then go to the schopería.

In courtship and seduction, we observed that some men are more successful and catch waitresses’ attention, even arranging dates with them. These customers get special service and maybe a few words and a smile. Seduction is the game. Waitresses use attraction mechanisms as self-protection. Sometimes men tap waitresses’ shoulders, caressing them, and this contact becomes a signal for the waitress to watch out and move away to avoid further proximity. Other waitresses accept it if they have met the customer before.

Among women, customer age is important for courtship. Generally, the youngest, best dressed, and best-looking are more successful, along with single or richer men. This happened to us because we were perceived as well-dressed college professors and good catches. These are meaningful issues and, in fact, waitresses observe and look for this information. Men manage their self-presentations in schoperías using certain codes to show their economic standing in front of women: the denomination of the bill they pay with, leaving their car keys on the table, wearing jewelry in their ears or around their wrist or neck, and / or using well-known brand names. Masculinity is performed through these codes. For example, the research team participated in masculine performance by leaving tips and by using vulgar language referring to a female body, drinking, telling sex stories or speaking about soccer, among others. We observed that some customers also give waitresses presents such as chocolates, fancy jewels or craft pieces. A friendly attitude makes them special to the waitresses and shows men’s interest. The present is used as a means of seducing a woman. He seduces and she is seduced, thus recreating the traditional active / passive gender roles. Customers not rich enough to give presents to women feel their male identity undermined.

Men’s economic ostentation in schoperías means power, autonomy, and solvency that are perceived as signs of male authority and thus confirm gender stereotypes. Men want to show other men and women their position in the social hierarchy using markers of manhood such as power and status (money, clothes), physical prowess, or sexual achievement (Kimmel 1994). When asked what she did when a man gave her chocolates or flowers, a 38-year-old waitress told us:

“To me here, a customer gave me a car. I have a car, and I didn’t even go out to have tea with him. It was only that he wanted me to serve him. And he asked me what I wanted to have and I told him a car, but just to say something… [laughter] Oh, yeah. And he left… and came with the money and told me, OK sweetie, here, I bought you… a car… [silence] Yeah… so simple. So simple. So, I have a car”.

Tipping is an example that illustrates these markers of manhood. Tips seem to have a symbolic meaning associated with gender interactions between men and women; they are related to male power and potential interest in a woman. The amount of the tip is seen as related to the value they give to waitresses’ service and the attention received. From this viewpoint, a good tip involves not only a positive perception of a waitress’s service, but also plays a seductive role. Through this seduction game women gain experience and are able to clearly identify the different types of customers, even detecting their purchasing power: if they work for Codelco (or are faculty members as in our case); if they are married or single and if they have children. Women also gauge the intensity of the desire they cause while, at the same time, weighting the possibilities of quitting the seduction game or advancing toward greater intimacy.

Though female subordination is the norm, women are empowered through their economic participation. We observed that they solve problems with customers by themselves since only women work in these premises, this being a small sign of female agency in this context. On one occasion, we saw how a drunk customer was going to leave without paying and a waitress went up to him with the bill. He did not want to pay, but she told him: “you better pay or I’ll break this bottle on your head”. He paid.

Finally, gender in these structures interacts with other features of social stratification such as class. Therefore, in schoperías women do not only work as women, but also as sexualized and stratified women in terms of classiness. Sexuality is built according to customer class norms. Customers use codes to manage their self presentation and social and sexual identity in this place, as we stated, but the waitresses do the same. In this relationship game, customers must feel that they are the owners of the desired object (young, attractive, desirable women). So, schoperías show strong symbolic gender orders, providing men and women with clues on how to behave.



Gender relations and masculinity are created and recreated in different contexts. Men and women manage their self-presentation, guided by gender roles and social expectations about masculinity and femininity. We describe some aspects of gender and masculinity in some typical venues in the north of Chile.

Men spend most of their lives on homosocial contexts such as male-dominated workplaces. Schoperías are beer halls but also male heterosexual homosocial settings visited by mining workers. However, mine workers’ leisure and recreation venues have changed with time, from the old taverns in a neighborhood where nitrate miners used to go at the beginning of the 20th century into the current schoperías, spaces where manliness is created and performed. These changes are related to more complex phenomena such as the country’s economic growth, the higher value of copper in international markets during the last decade, the growing migration to mining zones, and the great demand for highly qualified manpower. Thus, schoperías make up a lucrative business opportunity, a niche where a line of business profitable for owners matches customer demands. These homosocial places are relaxing and leisurely settings for workers. In these venues, alcohol, women, and friends are present. Schoperías mix the tradition of taverns (men getting together to drink) and modernity (technological resources such as home theaters, hi-fi sets, and fancy lights). The fact that this business is so profitable has led owners to invest big sums of money in audiovisual equipment and intricate physical aesthetics. This mix has become one of the distinctive features of these places. At the root of this peculiarity is the strength and richness of popular culture associated with belonging to a social class recognized as middle or low. Schoperías increase their value in mining areas, the social and cultural context of these leisure places becoming an important issue. Though existing in other regions of the country, they are fewer in number. Schoperías show a strange mix of nightclub and local or neighborhood bar. They are places where the main consumption is beer, the same as in these other kinds of venue. They share common features with nightclubs where men show a voyeuristic sexuality, that is, women are hired not only to entertain customers but also to strengthen and maintain male desire. Not just any woman can work there; the job is only for those who are potentially desirable for men.

Despite the negative picture that schoperías have in popular culture as places where sex is purchased and sold, sexual commerce does not take place in schoperías. They are not sex-related businesses like night clubs or saunas. Here, men meet, court, and seduce women. Sexual arrangements, if they occur, take place outside the premise and after the waitresses’ work shift.

Schoperías are consumption premises but, above all, they are male leisure and homosociality spaces. They are reference scenarios for male performance. In these contexts men become the owners of social space and use it to construct territories favorable for masculinity performance. Men perform gender, and everything they do has a masculine meaning: from eating, smoking, chatting to flirting. Under a masculine complicity stimulated in these places, men use classical cultural codes, such as dirty language, and share sexual secrets that make it possible for both the speaker and the listener to reveal their manliness. Here, women become the center of attention; they are objects of desire, fantasy, ridicule, competition, and permanent contradiction; men desire and repudiate them. They are spaces for the commodification and objectification of the female body. Men share these spaces with other men to perform masculinity and show how virile they are. Thus, these are privileged places for masculine socialization where social practices are produced and reproduced in the same fashion as in other spaces sharing similar characteristics (e. g.: the so-called butecos or bars where men belonging to the working class drink and meet, in Brazil; Jardim 1995).

In schoperías, gendered interactions that occur in other contexts, such as within family, are reproduced in the relations between customers and waitresses, and among customers attending the schopería. There, men reveal many ­characteristics attributed to them in Latin American cultures and expected from heterosexual hegemonic masculinity, all of which produce a positive image of themselves and their manliness. As male entertainment venues, schoperías (their physical and social organization) favor the hegemonic construction of the masculine and the feminine in mining contexts. This construction is manifested in the power position exerted by male customers on women. Money, alcohol, and status as miners foster men’s superiority, though women learn to create strategies allowing them to act in these places – seduction and rules that keep women from sitting with a costumer are some essential tools for this purpose. Cooperation and complicity among women is another way of managing their position in these places. Women gradually learn to manage their self-presentation and their complex relations with men. They are even able to overcome the initial resistance caused by their incorporation to the schopería and the stigma associated with it (“these women are easy”). As time goes by, the stigma remains but it loses importance for many of them. Economic independence, the possibility of building future projects (studying) and helping their family and children are more important than the kind of job they do. Though modernity and the huge changes the country has gone through have caused women to move about in places considered traditionally masculine, men still tend to express a hegemonic masculinity in these spaces where women are subordinated. Thus, women still suffer victimization in different areas of their social life. Further studies should be made to find out if this feminine agency is the result of business rules or changes in the female standing in the sex / gender system.

Although schoperías are privileged for heterosexual hegemonic masculinity performance, they are also places where male friendship and camaraderie is cultivated. Emotional behavior so restricted in other places can be freely expressed in the schopería. Here, men become playful, affectionate, sentimental and aware of their vulnerability. Friends and / or workmates get together to talk about life, work, women, and boast about their sexuality, love affairs, and failures. Alcohol facilitates this expression of affection. Also, customers meet here to watch soccer games and their favorite videos or to listen to their favorite songs. Thus, the schopería provides relaxation after work and becomes a kind of living-room not always available at home. So, an amazing finding is that, far from being only venues for heterosexual hegemonic performance, these places allow for the expression of homosociality and a certain type of masculinity permitting affection and feelings among men to be shown. In the schoperías, the research team observed certain social elements that deviated from the hegemonic masculine norm – for example, female agency of the waitresses in the context of a hypermasculine environment and, as Connell and Messerschmidt (2005) note, a recognizable “geography of masculinities”, since masculinity is heterogeneous and is expressed in multiples forms in the schoperías. However, powerful homophobic norms regulate male interaction in schoperías. Here, homoeroticism is not equivalent to homosociality, although for some authors such as Aldrich (1992), male homosociality involves a sexual or erotic bond. In schoperías, erotic desire is suppressed and homophobia, still strongly ­present in Chile, appears, as reported in other studies (Barrientos et al. 2008, 2010; Cárdenas and Barrientos 2008). Homosociality plays an important role in perpetuating gender and class inequalities in schoperías, as observed in other contexts (Flood 2007).

Schoperías are also crossed by class dimensions. This is shown by the social distribution of schoperías. They are very hierarchical. Codelco supervisors or chiefs visit some of them, while in others only workers and contractors can be seen. Future studies should explore this aspect.

Finally, future research should delve into aspects not examined here such as management of workers and their family links, relations between women working in the schoperías and their children and families, expenses incurred by families and the work system, and the social and health costs of excessive alcohol consumption.



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[1] This study was possible thanks to grant Fondecyt n.º 1070528. The authors acknowledge the invaluable testimonies of women and men living in Calama, and who agreed to participate in this piece of research. Special thanks are given to anthropologists Horacio Sivori, Maria Luiza Heilborn and Katherine Frank; to sociologist Michel Bozon, Spanish-English translator Ana Tejeda, and English reviewer Pamela Beaumont, Margaret Cushley and our friend Ted Thufstader.

[2] Calama is a town near Chuquicamata, the most important copper mine of Chile. “Chuqui”, as the latter is familiarly known, is a large open-pit mine, located 215 km northeast of Antofagasta and 1240 km north of the capital, Santiago.

[3] A similar though not equal type of venue existing in the USA culture are hooters, the trade name of two privately held American restaurant chains. Their targets are male customers and they have a staff of scantily-clad waitresses.

[4] “Cafe and legs” (café con piernas) are quite original cafes whose waitresses expose their legs quite freely. These have expanded in Chile, a country with little tradition of grain coffee drinking. Apart from their regular work, some “cafe and legs” waitresses also do undercover sexual commerce.

[5] The area where these premises are located was defined as the “central quadrant”. This term is used to refer to the following: most of the city’s commercial and recreational activities take place in this quadrant and most public services are also located here.

[6] This is the second region in Chile.

[7] Codelco: National Copper Corporation.

[8] Pisco: typical liquor in Chile and Peru.

[9] Flaites: used in Chilean juvenile culture to designate low-class youngsters.

[10] “Girl” is used because it is the word used for the women who work in schoperías.

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