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Veintiun milliones, seis ocho dos etc… This is my chant. It’s not the winning lottery number, it’s not my phone number. It’s my RUT. It’s how I’m known in Chile. It’s how I’d be entered in DICOM (for bad credit), which thankfully hasn’t happened. It’s how I get my discount at Cruz Verde (the pharmacy), and it’s the number I have to leave when I leave my bike somewhere with a security guard. It’s everywhere, all the time. Something like a social security number, in that it’s assigned by the government, but also totally unlike an SS number, in that people ask me what it is all the time, and I tell them. Without a RUT it’s difficult to rent an apartment, impossible to get a bank account, etc.

The RUT is assigned to you when you apply for your first carnet, which is the national ID card. Most carnets last ten years, though mysteriously a friend of mine was granted one for only five. But this is not about carnets so much as it is about the fact that the Registro Civíl, which is a government-run entity which registers, processes and distributes carnets, and also the certificado de antecedentes which is a piece of paper that costs about two dollars to get which is sort of like your police record. I’m happy to report that mine is clean, and also to report that I have never sold it, though this has been offered as an option to me on more than one occasion.

The truth is that most Chileans probably don’t think much about the Registro Civíl, except for when they’re applying for a job and need the aforementioned certificate, or when they need a new carnet because theirs has been lost, has expired or been otherwise purloined. (with kudos to the incredible reading curriculum at the NYC public schools where I received my free pre-university education). Passport renewals also require some machinations here, or so I hear. I don’t have a Chilean passport and have no intention of giving up my US passport or citizenship.

But me? I’m thinking about registro civíl pretty much all the time lately, and not only because my current carnet seems to be MIA. I’m thinking about the registro civíl because they’ve been on paro (sort of like a strike, but they lost their right to officially strike with the dictatorship) for over a week. And they whistle, and toot and honk and drum on old water containers and shake cans of coins and cars honk when they go by. And they’re just right on the other side of the footbridge that goes over the Panamerican Highway. So I hear them all the time. The issues are, as they are wont to be, money, working conditions, etc. What’s amazing is that it’s almost entirely staffed by women, and that we’re talking about dozens of locations the length of the country. And they’re all outside, protesting for their rights. Yesterday there was a march, and I went along to make idle chatter and take some pictures.

To wit:

Watching the march assembling, with political confetti (larger than party confetti) scattered on the aforementioned footbridge


Assembling before the march

Enthusiastic shouting

In front of La Moneda (presidential palace)

For dramatic effect, they’re evoking the death of “asignaciones” which has to do with how work is allocated. I can only assume that the gentleman dressed as a priest is not actually one, and that the effigy is of the director of Registro Civíl. Seems a tiny bit hyperbolic to me, but hey, it’s not my fight.

And that’s how we do things in Chile. I hope they get what they’re after. And I also hope they get to get back to work soon, because the country? It’s kinda paralyzed if no one can do what they need to do. I hate to think about the backlog, but will report back soon. And if I find my carnet you might just hear that shouts of joy from where you are. Even if it’s in Hungary.