Hey, that's mine!

1 April 2006
8:10 AM

Countries down here are always fighting about who invented what and what comes from where. Where does cueca dancing come from? The Chileans say Chile; the Bolivians say Bolivia. While it’s the official dance of Chile, some Bolivians say that Chile stole the cueca just like Bolivia’s coast (the now land-locked Bolivia wasn’t always so). Chileans respond that the cueca is too theirs, and you can’t expect to go to war with a country and not lose a little coastline if you don’t emerge victorious.

Pisco is a locally famous liquor made from fermented grapes, and it’s used in the famous (or infamous, depending, I suppose, on what you do with it) Pisco sour. Naturally, both Chile and Peru claim the pisco sour as their national drink, and both say it originated there. As it stands now, restaurants serve different types of Picso sours since the recipes are slightly different.

These arguments, however, have reached all new levels of silliness. Former associate Krissy Caponi sent me a BBC article about Chile’s plans, “to register over 280 potato varieties from the southern island of Chiloe as national patrimony.” You see, the potato had its humble agricultural origins in Chile, and the country wants to protect its own. Peruvian officials have spoken out, decrying Chile’s plan as outrageous. The outrage is not that Chile is trying to register potatoes, for crying out loud, but rather than the potato began in Peru. And who doesn’t know that? Never mind that we’re dealing with arbitrarily constructed political boundaries—the potato belongs to Peru! Accordingly, the Peruvian legislature has passed a measure on potatoes, “to patent it internationally as a Peruvian product.” Patent potatoes?

Then again, we have software patents in the U.S., so maybe they look at us a little funny too.