Paige: You are listening to “Coffee with Gringos.” I’m Paige Sutherland.
Ian: And I'm Ian Kennedy.
Paige: So today, given the news and situation in Chile, we have to talk about protests. They've been going on now for a couple of days, and they have really changed the city. So, we're going to go into it, obviously—our perspective as foreigners because we're not from here. Kind of, you know, what we think about it, what we've seen and, you know, how it's different from some of our experiences back home. So again, if you get lost, check out the transcript and audio guide online. So, Ian, Friday—there were protests all week but they were students just kind of jumping the fares—didn't really pay too much attention to it. And then Friday, things really escalated. What was your reaction when the president declared a state of emergency?
Ian: Yeah, so when I read about the high school student protests with the metros, I kind of thought it would just be another protest like you see around here, normally. But then as the day went on, it was clear that things were escalating, like you said, and things weren't going to gonna slow down. And then with the announcement of the state of emergency, with the implementation of martial law, seeing everything that was going on—the looting, the arson, all that—it was really clear that this wasn't just some fluke. It wasn't just some normal protest. We've seen things really devolve from there and we're witnessing it in real time now. So, something we didn't expect to report on, it's not something I expected to happen while being here, but I can understand the reasons why things are the way that are now.
Paige: Definitely. I mean Friday, like you said, I think, you know, student protests, there's a lot of protesting here, so I didn't really think too much of it. And then, when the metro shut down on Friday, I was out teaching a class in Providencia and I was like, “The metro’s down? I'm, like, three miles from my house, like, how am I going to do this?” And everyone thought the same thing, so everyone grabbed a Mo-bike, a scooter. I don't think I found one for two miles, so I just had to walk and it literally felt like the world was ending, because everyone was walking. There was traffic everywhere, it was like everyone is trying to run away from something. It was something I've never seen before. Were you out when the metro went down?
Ian: I wasn't, I was at home during the time so I was kind of just following it through my friends, through social media, through the news. But yeah, like I said, it's very palpable it was happening and things weren't going to calm down. And then, you know, once on Saturday when the curfew was implemented that was also something new that I don't think I expected to experience. And it seems really real, whenever a state of emergency gets announced, and a curfew gets put in place, and you're hearing sirens and helicopters twenty-four-seven and the protesting. So yeah, it's clear that things aren't normal right now.
Paige: Absolutely. Friday, you know the metro shutting down I think turned the city upside down, because 2.8 million people use it daily. I mean, it’s something a lot of people use and rely on. So, I think when that shut down, it was kind of, like, crazy. And then Saturday, I went to the protest down in Plaza Italia and that's when I was like, “Oh, this is a movement and this isn’t stopping anytime soon.”
Ian: Yeah. And so, there's a lot of different news and different sources and things being spread. There's a lot of misinformation, a lot of things that people aren't sure about, but I know that you’ve been on the ground yourself reporting. And so how about you tell us what you, yourself, have seen at the scenes of the protests in different parts of the city. What's really happening?
Paige: Yeah, I mean I talked to a lot of the protesters and I think they're just, they're very angry. I think the metro fare was just kind of the tipping point—it was just the last straw of we're in a country where there's so much income inequality. You know, prices of everything have gone up from electricity, water, gas and then this metro fare. And wages have not kept up. So, you have a population that is living mostly on credit, and has been for years, and have just, they're fed up—they want change. And so, I think these demonstrations, as you saw, like on Saturday morning, I woke up to the banging of pots. That it's not just students, you know, high school and college students, it's everyone. Everyone agrees and is in support that this income inequality needs to change. And, I think, talking to a lot of the protesters, given Chile’s history with the dictatorship, turning the security over to the military was just kind of a slap in the face. I think it brings people back to a very repressive time. And so, if anything, it added fuel to the fire.
Ian: I was gonna say, I think, not just for the young people who didn't really even live through the dictatorship, it's been sad for me to see older people—it's very noticeable on their faces they're very concerned. It's almost like there's like post trauma from the dictatorship that's coming back. And so, a lot of people are nervous that there's going to be a return to this kind of rule or the chaos that, you know, gripped the country for a couple decades, almost.
Paige: You can't escape it. I mean, there's soldiers manning the metro, big stores, just patrolling on the streets. I mean, it's a weird feeling and having a curfew—we’ve had curfews now for a couple of nights. Like you said, you hear helicopters over your head while you're sleeping. Things are different, you know, tanks—military tanks—on the streets, so I can only imagine if you live through a dictatorship how this would make you feel. The president's rhetoric has also angered people because he says “we're at war”, and people are like, “We're not at war. We just want you to listen.” Like, we're not…everyone I talked to you said they don't condone the violence, the looting, the criminals, the people that are burning and doing all these things are small subset. The message of the protests is that we want our quality of life to improve—they separate themselves from the criminals.
Ian: And in any movement, you're gonna have a few bad eggs that really, kind of, spoil things for the image for the movement. Again, this is what the media sources also like to spread also, right? It's more interesting to show people looting and smashing cars and windows than it is to show thousands of people gathered together just peacefully protesting. So not only do you have kind of selective showing of what's happening, but you’re not seeing the whole picture. And so, I think that's important for people to understand too that it's not complete chaos everywhere. But that's what gets shown in the news.
Paige: Absolutely. I mean, obviously violence and destruction sells papers, right? So those are the photos that are going viral. I think the other big thing I've heard from a lot of the protesters was this idea that President Piñera, who is a businessman, has a lot of wealth, and has been going around the world, you know, displaying Chile as the best country, the best economic country in the world and the region, it’s amazing. And a lot of people at home don't see that. I mean, a lot of people here aren't making enough to pay for food for the week. I mean, $500 USD a month is the minimum wage here, which is nothing. I mean, Chile is a very expensive country—you can't live on $500 USD a month, especially if you have a family. So, I think a lot of people are just fed up. You have this president that's going around saying, “Chile is amazing.” And they're saying, “Not for us, only for the wealthy,” you know. So, I think, also when the president says “Okay, we're going to, you know, get rid of the fare hikes,” they're like “You're not listening. That's not enough. Like, we want systemic change, we want big changes.”
Ian: Exactly. And now's the time, you know, I've heard the government say things like, “With the money we're going to have to use to rebuild the subway system, we could have built these schools, these hospitals.” But they didn't do that before the tragedy happened, before the protests, so again, it's trying to understand what's truth and what's fiction and what the real intentions are here. So, yeah, it's just, it's obvious it's reached the boiling point. People are fed up. The quality of life is just not what it should be, especially, like you said, for a country that in the eyes of the world, economically is, you know, so prosperous—low inflation, things like this. On paper it looks great, but in reality, it's not great.
Paige: I mean, I was talking about this with my boyfriend last night, because the only reference point I know is the US, where I grew up. And when you compare it to quality of life here, I mean, in the US, the majority of people do not send their kids to private schools, right? You go to the public school because the public school is funded. Here, if you have enough money, like middle class people are sending their kids to private schools because the public is so underfunded. Like, that's not okay, that you, to get by in life, you have to go to a private high school? I mean, in the US, no one really goes to a private high school. And here, 70% of the population is on the public health care. That's huge. In the US, most people have private insurance because they can afford it. So, you kind of have a majority of the people that are forced to live on these public social systems, and they're not good and they're not funded. So, it's kind of like a lot of the protesters said, it’s a long time coming. It's not just this metro fare hike. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, right?
Ian: Yeah, exactly like what you said. And that's another thing, I think a lot of people outside of Chile or without that context, they look at it and say, “Oh, you know, it's a few cents on the subway. You know, what's all the outrage?” But like you said, it was just the tip of the iceberg—it was the last straw. There's so many underlying problems that have been affecting the people for so long, that it was “enough is enough”, you know. Yeah, it's a real shame that it's happening and it's like a lot of people have said, “it's not 30 pesos, it's 30 years” … of repression, of mistreatment.
Ian: And so, again, so for people outside of that context, I think, again, it's hard to, to understand what's really happening, where the anger is really coming from. And so, I'm trying my hardest, as well, to put myself in the shoes of the Chilean people because as a foreigner, I can't truly understand the situation. I can really just observe and try to understand people's opinions. So that's what I'm what I'm trying to do and hopefully things will improve.
Paige: I think what's crazy—not to move away from Chile—but in the world, I mean, we’re at the time that's exploding. Like, you could go online right now and you'd see a similar protest in Barcelona, in Hong Kong. I mean, all over the world, people are putting their hands up and are just fed up with their governments. And even in the region, too. I mean, it's crazy.
Ian: Right. Yeah, you have the recent Ecuador situation here, as well.
Paige: But yeah, I mean being on the ground here talking to protesters, I honestly have no idea when it's going to end. And what the solution is because, obviously, what they're asking for is not going to change overnight. I mean, these are systemic problems, like you said, that have been going on for 30 years. The president can't just, you know, snap his fingers and improve the quality of life for people. So, we'll see. He said he's meeting with politicians this week to talk over some policy changes, who knows.
Ian: With politics, you never really know. So, hopefully, like I said, hopefully things improve for everybody soon.
Paige: Well, for those people who are out protesting, just remember, be safe. Take care of yourself. And remember if you get lost, check out the audio guide and transcript online. Thanks again for listening.
Ian: We'll see you soon.
Key Vocabulary, Phrases and Slang:
1. to escalate (verb): become more intense or serious.
a. Things escalate very quickly when people are angry.
2. implementation (noun): process of putting a plan into effect.
a. The implementation of the study program helped the students’ test scores.
3. martial law (noun): military control of a government.
a. There have been many times in history when countries have implemented martial law.
4. looting (noun): stealing of goods, usually during a war or a riot.
a. Looting from stores is very common during riots.
5. arson (noun): purposefully starting a fire to property.
a. The criminal was arrested for arson this weekend.
6. fluke (noun): something unlikely, not serious.
a. She thought the riots were a fluke until the protestors continued without stopping.
7. to devolve (verb): to get worse.
a. The situation devolved whenever they received the bad news.
8. to witness (verb): to see something happen.
a. They witnessed the attack that happened on the street.
9. to go down (went down = past) (phrasal verb): to stop working or functioning.
a. The electricity went down just as they were trying to start the machine.
10. palpable (adjective): noticeable, obvious.
a. Tensions were palpable as the two groups came towards each other.
11. curfew (noun): rule/law requiring people to stay indoors during certain hours.
a. They country issued a curfew for all of its citizens.
12. to put in place (idiom): to establish or position.
a. We need to put in place some rules for our course together.
13. to rely (verb): to be dependent on something.
a. The people rely on the government to provide them with help.
14. to spread (verb): to extend or stretch something.
a. The motivation and passion spread quickly throughout the people.
15. tipping point (noun): point when small changes or decisions become larger and more important, usually causing a change.
a. Missing his son’s school play was the tipping point that made him quit his job.
16. last straw (idiom): the final problem or decision that causes someone to lose patience for something.
a. The increase in subway fares were the last straw for the workers.
17. to keep up (phrasal verb): to maintain the same level as someone or something else.
a. They always try to keep up with each other whenever they are playing a game.
18. fed up (adjective): unhappy, annoyed.
a. She is so fed up with her job.
19. slap in the face (phrase): insult or criticism that isn’t liked.
a. Telling them to leave and never come back was a slap in the face.
20. repressive (adjective): restricted, limiting freedom.
a. The leaders of the country were very repressive against the people.
21. to grip (verb): hold tightly, to restrict.
a. She gripped the metal bar with all her power.
22. manning(verb): to watch, control.
a. He was manning the ship for the entire trip across the ocean.
23. patrolling (verb): to watch, observe.
a. They patrolled the streets looking for anyone who wasn’t following the law.
24. to condone (verb): to accept, tolerate.
a. Their boss doesn’t condone them wearing jeans to the office.
25. subset (noun): part of a larger group of something.
a. The program has many subsets that can be studied.
26. bad egg (noun, slang): a troublesome person, someone not nice or causes trouble.
a. That boy in her class is a bad egg.
27. to spoil (verb): to ruin or destroy something.
a. The criminals are spoiling the movement for everyone.
28. to go viral (phrasal verb): become well-known, popular.
a. Her videos started going viral on YouTube.
29. to display (verb): to show.
a. She displayed her money when she went into the restaurant.
30. hikes (noun): increases.
a. They experienced price hikes for all the imported food.
31. boiling point (noun): point when anger becomes violent.
a. Emotions reached a boiling point and they started fighting.
32. prosperous (adjective): successful.
a. The farmers had a very prosperous season with their grows.
33. funded (adjective): financially supported.
a. The program was completely funded by the government.
34. to get by (phrasal verb): to survive.
a. The people get by on only a few dollars a day.
35. tip of the iceberg (idiom): only the most visible part of a much larger problem.
a. The metro fares were only the tip of the iceberg for the problems the country has.
36. outrage (noun): intense anger, unhappiness.
a. There was lots of outrage over the treatment of the people.
37. to put yourself in someone else’s shoes (idiom): think or understand from someone else’s perspective.
a. I try to put myself in other’s shoes so I can understand their problem.