It is just after 5 p.m. in what was once one of Latin America’s most sexually conservative countries, and the youth of Chile are bumping and grinding to a reggaetÃ³n beat. At the Bar Urbano disco, boys and girls aged 14 to 18 are stripping off their shirts.
The place is a tangle of lips and tongues and hands. About 800 teenagers sway and bounce to lyrics imploring them to “Poncea! Poncea!”: to make out with as many people as they can.
And make out they do – with stranger after stranger, vying for the honor of being known as the “ponceo,” the one who pairs up the most.
Chile, long considered to have among the most traditional social mores in South America, is crashing headlong against that reputation with its precocious teenagers. Chile’s youth are living in a period of sexual exploration that, academics and government officials say, is like nothing the country has witnessed before.
“Chile’s youth are clearly having sex earlier and testing the borderlines with their sexual conduct,” said Dr. Ramiro Molina, director of the University of Chile’s Center for Adolescent Reproductive Medicine and Development.