In a strange juxtaposition I will never really understand, my job of late has consisted of two main communication points: Covering the protests that clog the city (MatadorNetwork), and writing happy-go-lucky blogposts promoting Chile as a tourist destination (NileGuide).
And by the same token, in recent days, I’ve been in the news twice, once as a “haha, look how cute, Gringas blogging about Chile again (la tercera), and another to say, “despite US embassy warnings about staying in Santiago, the expats are unfazed.”
And we are mostly unfazed. It’s not that I don’t think it’s important (I do), or historic (it is), I just have to believe that Chile wants to remain stable every bit as much as I want it to. Education protests are rooted in an inequality that also is arguably good for tourism. On the one hand, there are high-quality goods and first-rate services here. On the other hand, you can afford to get a shoeshine, take a taxi or eat a hotdog on the street for poca plata (a low price, literally: little money). I am guilty of enjoying both elements of this, both being able to buy shmancy cheeses and sundried tomatoes, and yet being able to get a copy of a key made on the street for practically no money.
I support the idea behind the protests, and I am tremendously proud of the kids (and adults) who take time out of their day to walk the streets, make creative protest signs and busses and even giant heads, and bang on pots and pans and run laps around the Moneda and everything else they do. I unabashedly tell everyone that Chile is a great place to visit, not in spite of these activities, but perhaps even because of them. I’m happy to live in a place where when people see something they say something.*
*if you see something, say something is the slogan in the NYC public transit re: suspicious activity.
Me too! Scary, frustrating times, but happy to be here.
“Somewhere I read that the greatness of (Chile) is the right to protest for rights”- Dr. Martin Luther King
I am from Prague, Czech Republic, and I am quite interested about whats going on in Chile these days and still get ambiguous picture. Can someone explain, please?
PS: the reason for my interest is that the same economic model as you have in Chile was introduced here in early 90s, so I wonder whats going to happen here after 30, 40 years of “Friedman’s style liberalism” and thats exactly where Chile is now, so thats why.
Yes, I have felt this strange juxtaposition too. I spent yesterday, the first day of the Paro Nacional, with business guests from overseas in a 5-star hotel’s lounge. While news of the protests played in silence on television, we ate fancy cheese and pastries and talked about big international trade. And yes, I think involvement beats apathy any day.
Leslie, I can only imagine what that felt like! I spent it on the streets (and will spend parts of today on the street as well), and it still surprises me. And yes, involvemement! I wonder when we’d ever see something like this in the states.
I wouldn’t say that everything being is cheap is going to always be good for tourism. I guess it depends on the tourist you are interested in. I mean, if prices go up but that means there are more activities and places to see, better roads, more to do etc than it can be positive. Plus if you don’t have the huge gap of have and have not it can become a safer place.
And the protests aren’t going to drive people away…as long as its put into context. If you’ve come from a situation where you feel people don’t take much of a stand for anything, it can be nice to see that fire. Now when the NY Times compares it to uprisings in the Arab world, as they have done, that’s possible damage right there.
I teach at a school in Estación Central and what kills me is the students’ apathy to what is currently happening in their country. Today we had a paro reflexivo and I asked the students how have the protests impacted their lives. I wanted to know how they were feeling. I wanted to know how they felt about the current situation, not only in Santiago, but in Chile. The students responded that they weren’t affected by the protests and that they were bored. I asked them to write essays about the current situation and I received, at most, a paragraph. The majority of students who did not come to school today, did not come because they were attending the marchas on Alameda, but because they saw this as an opportunity to miss school for the day. The kids who did come to school did not want to participate in the actividades culturales. The students at my school want change, but I believe the change begins with them. Apathy is not a good start.