In Chile police-civillian tensions run pretty high, with frequent demonstrator-police clashes, with liberal use of guanacos (water cannons) and gas lacrimógeno (teargas) on one side, and often the well-aimed botellazo (bottle lob that hits its mark) on the other. There’s a long history of demonstration and conflict and dictatorship that fuels strife, discord and, occasionally, violence. It can make the ins and outs of living downtown hairy. I’ve been handed lemon wedges by strangers against the teargas, have fled down sidestreets, found stores shuttered during working hours, seen things I won’t photograph.
Yesterday Chile observed the funeral of José Alejandro Bernales, the chief of the Chilean Carabineros (police force) who died, along with his wife and four others in a helicopter crash in Panama last week.
And it was like it all melted away. Tensions, aggravations, violence, anger, difference. If just for a day, the country was together to mourn the loss of a human, a person, a police officer, a father, husband and son. Maybe today there will be more demonstrations, about education, working conditions, transportation, unjust treatment. But yesterday Santiago was eerily calm.
Below: two pictures taken in Plaza Italia, Santiago’s epicenter and traditional site of demonstrations, celebrations and vandalism.