Saturday, May 21, 2011

Protest or Parade?

After watching President Piñera's televised state of the union address, Gracie and I opted for going down the hill to check things out. We had a tough choice when we reached Plaza Victoria at the bottom of our hill...protest or parade?

They were both taking place only a couple blocks in either direction. We glanced down the street at the thousands of folks at the protest and saw that the water canons were in full use - so we opted for the parade.

It was a full Armed Forces parade and we saw lots of bayonets and bands in marching formation. We thought the women carabineros (police officers) ill prepared for combat in heels, skirts and make-up, but it was unclear as to what potentially lethal item their hand bags (see photo) might have held. There was also a fun group of Cueca dancers all over the age of 70 bringing up the rear of the parade.

After watching the marching for awhile, Gracie and I made our way back towards the our house. In short order, we came upon the protesters again, which had moved much closer to the parade route, with police in riot gear surrounding the area. We spotted the above sign - which I'm not totally clear about the Capitan Planeta reference - but something about blowing your whistle on Piraña (the pejorative name for Pres. Piñera) and the CIA (reflecting the US/Nixon/Kissinger's legacy from its days of helping to overthrow Chile's socialist President Allende and installing the military dictator Pinochet in 1973). There's growing opposition to some of this administration's pro-business policies, foremost is a project to build a hydroelectric dam in Patagonia's wilderness.

We stepped over broken glass and listened at a safe distance and then continued home. Unfortunately, we did run into the residual effects of the tear gas (the Minister of the Interior explained that rather than taking two weeks they were able to study in 32 hours the matter of long-term health impacts and having found no evidence of such, reauthorized the use of tear gas for today).

Gracie and I scrambled away from the area coughing and with stinging/tearing eyes, but we made it home without further incident.


p.s. Theo didn't post this...really!


  1. It is interesting to me that Chile and Bolivia both celebrate the anniversary of this war in 1879, when Bolivia was easily beaten and lost its final outlet to the sea (at or near the city of Arica, I think). Bolivia celebrates its loss with "El Dia del Mar", when the military holds parades and the politicians rant about how Bolivia is about to march to the sea and force Chile to return the outlet to the Pacific Ocean. It is a sort of cathartic experience in which Bolivia blames the "asesinos" of Chile for all of its troubles. In 1966, when the big parade passed by the Centro Boliviano-Americano, from which I watched it. In addition to a fair number of regular rag-tag soldiers, I saw six or eight female paratroopers. There was one flatbed truck which carried a few very old ladies who were identified as widows of Bolivians who had fought in that "war". (I figured that none of them were alive at the time of the war. They must have been very young brides of very old men who had been involved in the war.) From my memories of watching that parade, I wrote a paper which I used in graduate school. I titled it "Bolivia's March to the Sea", and the journalism professor liked it. I still have that paper somewhere.

    Jim Rogers

  2. Really enjoyed the photos and commentary and am very glad you evaded water cannons and full-force teargas.

    On a sad note, Marian Clay died on Thursday--very peacefully, Darlene told me.

    Love, Mom

  3. Wow, that's really interesting Jim. The issue of Bolivia's access to the Pacific is alive and well. Bolivia has recently asked a Spanish judge to hear Bolivia's case. Certainly, looking at its geography its easy to understand what a huge loss it was to lose the Antofogasta area. LJ