Santiago de Chile
Read the walls, follow the signs of a urban guerrilla
Chile is electing a new president after 2 years of civil unrest. The candidates reflect the polarization of the country. On the far right, José Antonio Kast, a turbo capitalist who defends the legacy of former dictator Augusto Pinochet. On the opposite side, Gabriel Boric, ex student union leader and social activist supported by the marxist left.
The “Estallido Social”, the social outburst against neo-liberal agendas started on 18th october 2019 with a peaceful mass demonstration in downtown Santiago de Chile. Some days later, the State of emergency was declared and the Martial law and a curfew were established by authorities who called for a military intervention to patrol the streets of the capital. As repression escalated so was the protest, which turned into a riot. Fires and looting spread across the capital and the major cities of the country. 36 demonstrators have died and thousands have been injured and arrested. Amnesty International reports of serious human rights violations.
Ignacio Cembrano, Rotten Trips reporter and Chilean journalist describes the aftermath of an attempted popular insurrection.
“It was a war zone and demonstrators left codes and signs on the walls of Santiago. A way to invade urban space with a revolutionary narrative but also to send strategic messages to the protesters”.
Every major mass movement has its urban epicenter. In Chile, it is Baquedano Square, where we suggest you start your visit and follow the footsteps of the popular revolt.
General Baquedano is considered a national war hero and the square is named after his statue. During the turmoils, demostrators vandalised the monument: for the protesters Baquedano is the incarnation of chilean militarism and of the indigenous minority genocide. The statue eventually got removed by authorities and the square should be soon renamed “Plaza Dignidad ” (Square of Dignity).
“The square is more than a symbol in Santiago. It physically separates two main areas of the Capital: the north-east bourgeois neighborhoods and the central-southern popular areas”, says Ignacio.
Anti-police and anarchist graffiti dominate the walls of the surrounding streets. Instead of the V mask or the Joker smile, there is Tia Pikachu. “Auntie Pikachu” is one of the avatars of the revolt. “She is named after a demonstrator that used to wear the pokemon mask during the protests, under the tear gas”, explains Ignacio.
Baquedano neighborhood is full of squats where a new generation of radical political collectives are emerging. Another mark of the 2019 street guerrilla is the representation of a dog with a red bandana around his neck. His name is Mata Paco, which means “Cop Killer”. “It’s the People’s dog, he actually was the pet of a militant that used to bark at the police during demonstrations”.
Peace has been restored, at least temporarily.
Rotten Trips, reporters of global decadence, suggest you take a morning walk through the O’Higgins park towards the Barrio Republica. Have a strong black coffee in the university district with its colonial spanish style buildings, its libraries and small student bars. Stop by the GAM, Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, the beating heart of Santiago’s underground urban creativity.