Select Page

I know I talk not a small amount of negative smack re: Chile’s campaigns. There’s the campaign that urges men not to be violent with their partners that leverages the word maricón. Despite Chilean assurances to the contrary, I feel the campaign is both sexist and homophobic.

However, negative trash talk aside, this new campaign for safe driving in Chile, manejatebien, stopped me in my tracks (or on my bike).

In Chile, and in many Latin American countries, when someone dies in a vehicular accident, the family of the deceased sets up a small shrine (animita). It can be a simple small house-like structure, or even just some ribbons tied to a post. Usually someone will come and spruce it up on the deceased’s birthday, maybe on mother’s day or children’s day, if the person was a mother or a child. Holidays are important times as well, leading to offerings and sprucing. Also, in the case of some animitas, they become shrines for other people as well, sort of “informal” saints, to which people light a candle or say a prayer. In Quebrada de la Plata, a bike and hike area at the end of Av. La Rinconada in Maipú, there is a shrine to a cyclist who died on a descent, and cylists will leave small offerings, even tubes and chains on the animita, in remembrance.

And now back to the manejatebien animitas. What I love about this campaign is that it is clear (at least to anyone from here) that what they’re saying is, there are 1600 people killed in vehicular accidents every year. Don’t become one of the next victims. Drive carefully, be cautious, etc. It also feels like a Chile-specific message, something home-grown and applicable here, not borrowed from some bigger and better-funded country.

Of course, you might argue that leaving burning candles unattended on the street (I took this near my house, but have seen several more around town) is dangerous, and you might also wonder if people will steal the contents of the fake animitas. In truth, yeah, probably and definitely. I saw two denuded little houses not that long ago, and one that had its back turned on the public, though I have seen no urban candle-started fires.

All in all, I have to give kudos for this great campaign, #manéjate, and I really hope it works to keep people safe. Would it work where you live? Or if you live in Chile, does it work for you?