What’s really happening in Chile?

The social unrest and constant riots beginning on Oct. 14 have really taken a toll on Chile, which appeared to be the most economically and politically stable country in South America, as reported by BBC.

This alleged reputation has proven to be just a façade when a significant amount of the population decided to protest against the numerous years of social injustice.

As a Chilean living abroad, it hurts to see my natal city in flames, but mostly it is sad to see how for years, hate, human rights violations, resentment and oppression have taken over the country, until the people couldn’t take it anymore.

On Oct. 18, the metro fares in Santiago were raised by 30 pesos (approximately $0.05 CAD). This increase was the straw that broke the camel’s back after many years of undignified living standards. A student collective spearheaded a movement that called for fare evasion, known on social media as #EvasionMasiva. The initial protests resulted in turmoil; supermarkets were sacked, thousands of people marched the streets, and the majority of Santiago’s metro stations were completely scorched, as mentioned by Vox. 

Eventually, it wasn’t just Santiago’s students anymore. The movement had reached other cities in Chile, and soon, millions supported the cause. Since the police force was unprepared to handle the situation, President Sebastián Piñera declared the country to be in a state of emergency. He sent the military on the streets and reintroduced a strict curfew that Chileans last experienced during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s.

Furthermore, Piñera went on national television to claim that the country was “at war” with its own people, a statement that infuriated the protesters even more. Piñera later rectified his claim by proposing an economic reform and cancelling the rise in the metro fares.  However, these measures did nothing to smooth things over.

By now you may be wondering, why is it that people continue to protest and refuse to go back to their routines? Chile has an enormous accumulation of wealth where one per cent of the population earns 33 per cent of the country’s wealth. The social inequality has continued to expand throughout the years to the point where the minimum wage is so low that people spend about 20 per cent of their salaries just on transport. They have unworthy pensions, a poor health system, high rates for student loans, a poor educational system, draughts, precarious jobs, collusions, capitalization of national resources, and so on. But most importantly, people are asking the government for a constitutional change. Chile’s constitution was changed by Pinochet in 1980, and still remains the same today – which epitomizes the extent of the dictator’s legacy and is key in understanding the people’s frustrations.

Today, the protests continue, and the movement has adopted the slogan “Chile has awoken!” Those who endure to march refuse to go back to their normal lives and resign to the degrading living conditions caused by Pinochet’s neoliberal economic model. According to The Guardian, 7,000 people have been arrested, at least 18 people have died, and the number of people who were abused by the security forces is high, yet unknown. Santiago’s metro damages go up to approximately $400 million and businesses have lost near $1.4 billion. Despite this, the majority of the people march in peace, they are out there hoping to achieve a dignified living and basic human rights. As stated by BBC news, on Oct. 24, protests broke the record for the biggest peaceful march since the 1990 when Chile returned to democracy. 

It is distressing to see Chile go through this situation, but it was also inevitable. The people can only take so much social injustice and poverty. The situation goes beyond choosing a side; the international, local and social media each portrays different fragments of reality. Nothing is black and white, there are many different shades in between. Chile needs to rise above its people’s differences, come together, heal by solving its embedded issues and invest in its future.

Graphic by @sundaeghost


Montrealers gather in solidarity with Chilean protests

Protesters in Montreal gathered on Nov. 2 in solidarity with Chilean protests against the government at the Émilie-Gamelin Place.

“People need to believe in making something better and building it together as a society,” said protester Julio Gajardo.
The protesters chanted in Spanish, “a united population will never be defeated!” They performed dances and sang Chilean songs, while others served traditional food, a form of rallying more pacific than the violence occurring in the South-American country.

Turmoil in Chile began amid government decisions to increase subway prices from the equivalent of $1.47 to $1.52, reported the CBC. The same article draws a comparison between military violence and the long-lasting regime of Augusto Pinochet.

“We feel angry, we’re feeling the same way as we did during the dictatorship of 1973,” said Andrea Astral, an organizer of the Montreal protest. “We’re living under the same constitution. But even though we feel a lot of anger, it feels good to see our country fighting for their rights.”

President Sebastián Piñera ordered the police and military forces in Chile to contain the crowds on Oct. 19 after violence erupted among the protesters. The situation has gone viral around the world accusing the Chilean police and military of violating human rights, reported the CBC.

Chile is one of the countries in Latin-America with a major increase in its economy. In fact, its GDP increased by four per cent in the past year, decreasing the rate of poverty. Nevertheless, Chileans are struggling to keep up with the constant increasing prices.

“All pensions are privatized in Chile, except the ones of the military. So if there’s money for the military, why isn’t there for everyone” said Gloria Martinez, a protester in Montreal.

“It feels good, it feels exciting. It’s the least we can do, living here, ” said Gloria Ramirez, another protester. “It’s not enough watching videos, sharing posts on Facebook. The important thing is to participate and be solidary to our people.”

“A feeling of belonging that I haven’t felt in a long time with the Chilean people, seeing that we can join together despite the distance and give support to our families, friends, our grandmothers who are seeing their grandchildren disappear,” Astral said. “We have to be present and do what is possible despite the distance.”


Graphic by @Tiyasha



World in brief: Deadly protests in Chile, Catalan pro-independence activists sentenced

Protests against the cost of living have now taken 11 people’s lives in Chile after a weekend of on-going demonstrations. The vandalism and violence were originally prompted by the rise of transit fares announced two weeks ago, which has since been suspended by President Sebastián Piñera. Yet, the initial reason was only a reflection of a deeper national frustration against growing economic inequalities. As reported by The Guardian, the state of emergency declared on Oct. 19 led to more than 10,000 military troops taking over the streets of Santiago, imposed curfew in major cities and the interruption of subway services. Such interventions haven’t been seen since the end of Pinochet dictatorship back in 1990.

Tensions in Spain have been rising as the Supreme Court sentenced nine pro-independence activists up to 13 years in jail. The sentenced leaders were judged on their role in the 2017 Catalan referendum which was backed up by more than half of the 5.5 million voters but deemed illegal by Spanish courts, reported Global News. The decision, which came on Oct. 14, led to an entire week of extreme protests by separatists. As more than 300 people have since been detained by the police, Catalan President Quim Torra, who initially called for civil disobedience, is now open for talks with the Spanish Government.

The White House finally backtracked and dropped plan after announcing that the next G7 would be held at Trump’s golf resort in Miami. The initial move was considered by many to be further evidence of the President using his office for personal gain. CBC highlighted that Trump was the first administration official to praise one of his properties for hosting the international summit. While it comes as one of Trump’s rare reverse decisions, his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said that he knows people think it looks lousy.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Exploring sound, space and sculpture

The three latest additions to Concordia’s FOFA Gallery incorporate various mediums and themes, yet all showcase the talent of Concordia alumni.

Among these works are Jerry Ropson’s the distance between outstretched arms (deadflag), Digital Erratics by Elisabeth and Tim Belliveau, and Sandra Volny’s Where does sound go, where does it come from.

The Belliveau siblings use a mixture of sculpture and video installations in their joint work, Digital Erratics. Tim recently completed his master’s at the university—this installation is part of his thesis. Elisabeth also attended Concordia where she completed her master of fine arts.

In the FOFA Gallery, the Belliveaus have displayed their respective pieces together. The common theme of exploration within the mediums of sculpture and moving images ties the vast installation’s components together. Digital Erratics includes sculptures from different materials, including glass, wood, ceramic and paper, among others. Video projections manipulate and experiment with moving images, stop-motion animation as well as the properties and aspects of colour. Digital Erratics thoroughly explores and experiments with its mediums, in traditional and contemporary ways, providing viewers with plenty to discover and consider.

Siblings Tim and Elisabeth Belliveau contributed their mixed media installation titled Digital Erratics to the FOFA’s current collection. Photo by Kirubel Mehari

Jerry Ropson’s the distance between outstretched arms (deadflag) is displayed in the York Corridor Vitrine of FOFA. The site-specific work is eye-catching, detailed and provides a new take on traditional viewing of art—the work is within the gallery, but only viewable outside of the space. When installing the piece, Ropson worked in the public space for several days, interacting with the audience and environment around him, further challenging the traditional forms of displaying art.

This installation focuses on the form of the flag, as a structure and material—a concept Ropson has focused on periodically since 2002. This piece also explores the conceptual and historical meanings behind the motif, including connections to both colonialism and concepts of nationality. “The meaning or specific connotations and uses of the flag have changed and morphed continually over the years,” Ropson said. “With origins deep-rooted in nautical history, warfare and land claiming, flags stand as just one more uneasy signifier of colonial history. The idea of the iconoclastic use of the flag is an important distinction.”

For Ropson, exhibiting in the FOFA Gallery was especially significant because this is his first exhibition in Montreal since leaving the city in 2009. This exhibit was also special for Ropson, as he and Elisabeth Belliveau worked on and completed their respective MFAs in fibres at Concordia at the same time, and previously exhibited at FOFA together in 2007. “It was so great to return to Montreal and see so many familiar faces at the vernissage, but also during the installation of the work,” Ropson said.

A variety of materials and mediums, including twine, ink, fabrics, vinyl and sculptural elements, were used in this project. The choice of materials and the placement of the individual pieces were important in this work. “I spent a lot of time considering the layout of the objects, and what went where and why,” Ropson said. “I also make very specific choices in the materials I work with. I utilize everyday materials that suggest the interrelations of social, cultural and economic structures.” His installation, the distance between outstretched arms (deadflag), also explores the flag’s ability to signify place and assert ideologies in a relatively conceptual way. There are a lot of complexities attached to such a simple material form, which Ropson aims to deconstruct in this piece.

the distance between outstretched arms (deadflag) by Jerry Ropson, a graduate of Concordia’s master’s program in fibres. Photo courtesy of Jerry Ropson.

Sandra Volny’s Where does sound go, where does it come from consists of a video installation accompanied by audio. The work focuses primarily on the subject of Chilean fishermen and their relationship to sound in the form of sonar. Volny, a Concordia MFA graduate, recently spent time in Chile with her art collective, Triangular Project, traveling the diverse landscape of the country and looking at the relationships different communities have with surrounding spaces.

Volny participated in a month-long residency while in Chile, and it was there that the majority of this art piece was formed. Volny had specific interest in sonar, and she looked at how it is used in the sea, both by animals and humans, in her artistic practice. The fishermen Volny centred the work around use traditional knowledge passed down through generations to navigate the sea.

The focus on the sea as a primary subject matter also addresses environmental issues. The piece highlights the contrast between traditional fishing and its more commercial forms, and depicts the ocean as one of the most fragile ecosystems in Chile. Volny’s main message for this piece is one of awareness and being present in one’s environment. “It’s about how you can navigate a space through sound, and about bringing an awareness to what’s around you,” she said.

With the addition of these new exhibitions, the FOFA Gallery connects with the Concordia community to provide diverse and exciting content, and showcases the talent of the school’s artistic community. The three exhibits explore varied and interesting themes, mediums and concepts, assuring the gallery holds something for everyone and provides students with a place to explore new insights, ideas and understandings.

These three exhibitions will be on display until Dec. 8. The FOFA Gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday. Admission is free.

Feature photo: Sandra Volny’s Where does sound go, where does it come from (2016). Photo by Richard-Max Tremblay.

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