Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day of the Youth Combatant

Today marks an important (and usually destructive) day in Chilean history.  In Spanish it is called Día del Joven Combatiente.

It all came about during the military dictatorship that lasted from 1973 to 1990.  There was a protest against the Pinochet dictatorship on March 29th, 1985 in which 2 brothers were killed by police.  As a result, there has been violence on this day ever since then as a way of striking back against the police and military and also remembering the brothers who lost their lives that day.

Sure enough, in class today some of my students told me about disturbances earlier today.  In the Estacion Central area of Santiago there were Molotov cocktails being thrown in the street during the morning rush hour.  (Molotov cocktails became the English vocabulary word of the day.)  Estacion Central is also the neighborhood where the 2 brothers were killed, so most Chileans expect things to happen in that area.

Everyone is advised to be careful and to get home early this day, and so I am relaxing at home and beat the rush hour traffic.  Apparently buses and taxis will stop running because they become worried about getting broken into or attacked, and it´s common to expect to see protesting, tear gas, and water cannons throughout the city.  Many Chileans leave work early and it´s common for businesses to close early too.

Much like the earthquake on Sunday, this is something that is completely normal for Chileans.  They have become used to protests and striking back against authority, and one can see the roots of this in the Chilean classroom.  (It´s common for elementary to high school students to do whatever they want in class and have no respect for the authority of teachers).  While it is something that probably horrifies those of you reading this, it is part of Chile and part of the culture.  Protests and the resulting violence and chaos have strangely become normal for me, and I´ve accepted it as a part of the culture and experience of living in Chile.

I came across a new article with a description of what happened on this day in 2007.  It has some pictures of the destruction and conflict in it to give you a real idea of what it gets to be like.  Rest assured that I do not live anywhere near where this happens, and I am sure to stay clear of the chaos.

So, would you like a Molotov cocktail with your dinner tonight?

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