Friday, June 10, 2011

Motels in South America

A typical "All-American Motel"
(Image from
In South America the motels are specific places for folks to go and have sex. This isn't a sleaze thing; it's culturally important because people in South America don't move out of the house until they're married, and that sometimes doesn't happen until about 40 years old. It is an absolutely bizarre concept for North Americans to not move out at the age of 18, but it's phenomenally common in South America. Knowing this, it is understandable why these motels exist, because who wants to bring the girl from the bar home to mom?

However, in a completely different context, I was talking with some friends the other day and I joked that one of them, who was struggling to find summer work, could get a job at his father's motel (the North American kind - i.e. - non-sexual) and he looked at me with one eyebrow cocked and asked, "What would my father have anything to do with a motel?" I was confused, until the others laughed at the notion of my friend's father running brothel. This led me to wonder aloud, "Why would you think that first and not about the standard sleep-while-travelling kind?"

For a little context, motels in South America serve as rather important and common institutions: a fair amount of "dating" takes place in these places. As noted above, when living at home it is hard to bring a date, or even a steady girlfriend or boyfriend, home for a night of intimacy. Something about having to have tea and snacks with mom in front of the TV before heading upstairs seems a little depressing let alone wondering if mom has turned the TV up just to avoid having to hear the muffled sounds from the other side of the bedroom door. Of course, the most awkward moment isn't even getting through the front door to the bedroom, but it's asking mom if the coffee is fresh without looking her in the eye the next morning. In short, whether the notion of living at home until one is married is weird or not, at the very least, knowing that this is a cultural reality in South America makes the existence of motels understandable at the very least.

The "Hotel" Santa Victoria to the right of the green window
(my old room)
While I'm not exactly a connoisseur of these places, I do have some experience as a result of living next door to one in Santiago de Chile. I have also had conversations with folks in Brasil about these places, so while my experience isn't perfect, it is, on the very shallow surface, somewhat knowledgeable. In fact, it's enough to note that the quality varies wildly from place to place, or maybe even from country to country. For instance, the place next door to my apartment in Santiago was so close to me that it was common, while walking across the living room and dining room to and from the kitchen, to look out the windows and practically be able to wave and say, "hola!" to the dude smoking a cigarette out of his room's window after he had previously gotten his girlfriend to serenade me with her moans for an hour or so (come to think of it, if it was that long then maybe there were two guys, but I digress, even if my roommates and I occasionally had discussions regarding just how many people were in the room due to how many hours we'd hear a particular woman groan). Now this place was only slight better than a dump. You could see into the downstairs room pretty easily (no, we never saw anything like that, but the cleaners left the windows open when there was no one in the room). It looked like a Motel 6 in Detroit, the part of town that would make Eminem cringe, and yet it was full all the time. I'm not just talking weekends either, though undoubtedly that's when the loudest sex was often heard. Weekdays, mornings, afternoons, two o'clock on a Tuesday morning, it didn't matter; we heard sex coming from those rooms on a regular basis. It was simply a place to have sex, nothing less and nothing more, and despite it's low quality, it was popular.
Notice the lack of windows (those are TVs) on the entrance
on the right of this fortress-like motel
(image from
That was in Chile, but then there is this strip of highway in Curitiba, Brasil where there are about a dozen motels, all of which are so secret that when one drives up one doesn't do business with a person behind a counter but with a person behind a concrete wall instead. Seriously, these things are fortresses. When one pays, one uses one of those holes in the wall that one finds at bank drive-throughs. They're built like this so that no one knows who comes and who goes. Each room has a garage so that folks don't have to get out of the car outside the room. It's funny because many years ago there was a scandal in Brasil about a government official finding his wife at one of these places. These places are supposed to be secretive for a reason, and that motel apparently blew it (excuse the pun). Still, the place in Santiago wasn't so secretive. When one walked in one was greeted by the desk person who showed the couple to their room. While it is outside the scope of this post, I wonder what the difference says about the dating scene in both Brasil and Chile.

A multi-level motel suite in Curitiba
(image from
But I digress again. I was speaking more about the quality, and from what I understand the quality in Brasil (or at least in Curitiba) is nothing like in that place next door to me in Chile. The ones in Brasil have waterfall pools. They have 40-inch flat screen TVs, bars, bottles of champagne stocked to the gills in the fridge, and gourmet meals delivered to your room (left in a private, closet-like room attached only to your bedroom so that no one can come in and see you, of course). The cost can be as high as $400 (US) per night for the suites and $150 for the crappy rooms without the waterfall pool, but still with a hot tub large enough for six people. It's funny because these places are so nice and expensive that Brasilians actually use them for parties. I know someone who, upon going there for the first time with his girlfriend, was stunned to hear the woman on the other end of the speaker ask him how many people were renting the room. He turned to his girlfriend and wondered aloud, "Aren't these just for sex?" She laughed and said, "No, they're for parties, too, and not the sexual kind." Seriously? Well, to be honest, it seems like good business planning to me, so what do I care, but imagine being asked that question when going to the motel for a completely different, and fairly, the original reason. It makes one start wondering which friends should be invited next time.

Inside a Chilean institution (and invention): a cafe con pierna
(Image from
OK, I see the flaw in my quality argument: that maybe the place next to my apartment in Santiago was simply a cheap motel while Curitiba has it's own cheap places, it's just that the expensive places happen to be located along the main road to the airport, of which I had regular exposure to during my stay there. Maybe there are expensive motels in Chile, too, like the ones in Curitiba, and to be honest I believe that's the case, I just don't know where they are. But I'm not entirely convinced that the quality question I created isn't completely inaccurate. I'm not going to go into this in-depth because: 1) I'm not an expert and; 2) as stated above, this isn't the place for it, but let's just say that Chileans and Brasilians are different in many ways, not least of which is personality, which dictates a lot about how people approach life. Chileans, while not afraid to step out a bit with their cafes con piernas, are fairly conservative people and don't really seem the type to overindulge in luxury as a society. Simply put, Brasilians like flash, and that says a lot to me about how motels might also be a higher quality in Brasil, in general, than in Chile. Also, the motels in Curitiba aren't exactly in the best neighborhood (not that it's a slum, but it's not in the posh part of town either), whereas in Santiago I didn't live in a particularly bad part of town. So, even if not perfect, I can draw some conclusions. 

But the real question here goes back to my original question I posed to my friends: where did this notion of motels only for sex come from outside of South America? Is it common in Canada? North Carolina? Scotland? Spain? Australia? Indonesia? I'm curious, and I'm also curious to know what the quality is in these other locations. I'm not talking about Vegas or Atlantic City, the two cities where I wouldn't be surprised if a South American style motel existed, but within the mainstream community instead. I never knew these places existed like this outside of sleazy Vegas, and when I first learned about them in South America I thought it was a specific cultural thing, which it is. Since kids generally move out when they're 18 in North America, it is significantly less necessary in North America than it is in South America. But there it is, at least three friends had that idea first, and now I'm left wondering, where the hell was I? 


  1. I have organized a big new year's eve party (over 400 people) in one of the biggest motel rooms in south america.

    It happened in a 2 million ppl city in central Brazil.

    This year we're doing it again and you should come see it.

    Check out "Suite Real" on this page

  2. That's interesting. Any photos or stories online about it? Would love to read how that went.


  3. I'm amazed, I have to say. Really hardly at any time do I experience a site that's the two educative and entertaining, and allow me tell you, you might have strike the nail on the head. Your concept

    is fantastic the issue is anything that not ample men and women are speaking intelligently about. I am very joyful that I stumbled across this in my find for anything referring to this.
    hotels seaside heights nj

  4. Many thanks for the exciting blog posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you are a brilliant writer. I actually added your blog to my favorites and will look forward for more updates. Great Job, Keep it up..
    motels in rock springs wyoming


Please keep it clean and useful. Criticism is certainly OK, but crap will be deleted. Thanks!