The outpouring of rage and resentment that erupted in last weekend's "yellow vest" demonstrations in Paris made headlines around the world. In far-flung Chile, which has had plenty of its own experience in recent years with large-scale, anti-government demonstrations, there was keen interest in the French protesters taking umbrage with leaders who seem out of touch with the everyday struggles of working families.
But those parallels aside, there was something else about the events in Paris that raised eyebrows in the long-and-skinny South American country: graffiti.
To the left of where someone spray-painted the capital's Arc de Triomphe with the words Les gilets jaunes triompheront ("the yellow vests will triumph") was another widely seen tag: Pico pa Macron. It is a message in profane Spanish or, to be more precise, profane Chilean Spanish — at least according to news outlets like the Santiago-based Radio Bío Bío.
"Typical Chilean?" an article on the radio station's web site asks about the wording of the graffiti, which translates roughly as "a d**k for Macron" or "suck a d**k Macron."
No one has claimed authorship for the monument-marring message, but speculation is high in Chile that one of their countrymen (or women) was almost certainly involved. "A popular chilenismo (Chilean slang expression) making reference to the male reproductive apparatus was spray-painted on the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, in a tone that was not very friendly to the French president, Emmanuel Macron," the Chilean news site Cooperativa reported.
It wouldn't be the first time someone from Chile got caught messing around with another nation's national monument. In late 2004, a pair of young Chileans were arrested in neighboring Peru for spray-painting on an ancient Incan wall in the historic city of center of Cuzco. Peruvian authorities held the pair in custody for several months, contributing to what the BBC described in 2005 as a "border row" between the two nations.
Easter Island "Moai" statues (minus one ear) — Photo: Thomas Griggs
In 2008, it was Chile's turn to be on the receiving end of an act of foreign vandalism. While visiting Easter Island, a Chilean territory, a tourist from Finland was arrested after chipping an earlobe off an ancient Moai statue — and on Easter weekend, of all times!
The man, Marko Kulju, was eventually allowed to fly home, but only after paying a $17,000-fine and agreeing not to return to Chile for at least three years. In comments published by the Santiago-based daily La Tercera, Kulju called it "the worst mistake of my life."
When in Rome? — Photo: Bence Boros
Finns aren't the only people in Europe to behave badly abroad. Just last year, police arrested a 45-year-old French woman who reportedly used an "ancient coin" to carve the words "Sabrina 2017" into a wall of Rome's world-famous Colosseum, the Italian daily La Stampa reported.
A Russian man was nabbed a year earlier for doing the same thing. Italian authorities eventually sent him packing, but not before charging him a cool 20,000 euros for his "contribution" to the Colosseum.
Watch out, Abe — Photo: Patrick Perkins
Not to be outdone by his neighbor, a man from the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan tried to make his mark last year on one of the best-known monuments in the United States: Washington's Lincoln Memorial. The 21-year-old culprit, Nurtilek Bakirov, allegedly used a penny to carve the words "HYPT MAEK" in the fifth pillar of the monument's north side. Bakirov was arrested and charged with malicious destruction of property.
What's not clear, as acknowledged by the Washington Post, is what exactly "HYPT MAEK" means. Perhaps next time, Bakirov should consider writing his messages in Chilean. "Pico pa señor presidente?"