Hablemos de Racismo y Bordadoras por la Memoria—Culture and Resistance: Feminists of Two Generations

On Monday we attended an anti-racist cultural event, Hablemos de Racismo (Let’s talk about Racism) in the public square, Plaza Aníbal Pinto, in Valparaíso. The event was organized by anti-racist and immigrant rights feminist organizations: Brigada Migrante Feminista and La Radioneta on the second anniversary of the death of Joane Florival, a 28-year old Haitian immigrant woman who was beaten to death by police in Santiago in August 2017. (The police claimed her wounds were self-inflicted.)  Joane’s murder sparked protests and exposed police brutality and racism against immigrants. Haitians are immigrating to Chile to escape incredibly harsh conditions of life. Like many migrations, the Haitian migration is fueled by multiple crises that are the result of decades of colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialist domination, fascist dictatorships, and climate disasters. (see this analysis)

Although the crowd at the event was small (it was also mostly young people), the event was broadcast live by La Radioneta, a feminist community radio station. Like so many other events we have attended, cultural performances and arts of all kinds seem to be at the center of politics here. (Is this historical and typically Chilean? Or is it also that under the dictatorship the first forms of public protest were cultural events, since public meetings were prohibited?) Leaders of the FECH, the national university student organization, told me (Pauline) that they organized a cultural magazine under the dictatorship as the first dangerous act of protest after the coup.  

This dance, with the dancer incredibly playing drums on their back while dancing, is a Chilean cultural form historically performed by men. Women doing this performance/dance is a subversive act. Check out this video!

Bordadoras por la Memoria. Last week, I (Rico) attended an event in Valparaíso commemorating the AGECH (Asociación Gremial de Educadores de Chile), which was a Chilean teachers’ association that was started under the dictatorship in the 1980s. The event was sponsored by a political arts collective (Colectivo Peña El Brasero), held at a local high school, and included participation from a collective of women who have made it part of their work to never forget their sisters who were detained, tortured, killed by the dictatorship (1973-1990)—and pregnant. This collective, the Colectivo Bordadoras por la Memoria, are women embroiderers who have taken pictures of these women and embroidered huge art pieces emblazoned with butterflies. The embroiderers are contemporaries of those who are no longer with us in bodily form, but always in spirit. The Colectivo describes themselves as, “We are women committed to life, dreams, truth and justice. We embroider history to keep memory alive, for a future of respect to human rights.” Here is a video of part of the event, a musical tribute to AGECH, and it also shows the beautiful and moving embroidery.

Both of these events were inspiring but we wonder, do the generations connect? At each, not unlike in the US, there were people of mainly one age (though of course not entirely). Where do they/we connect the energy and new thinking of the present and the deep experience and wisdom of the past? This is also a question for us in the US. For example, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the murder of Fred Hampton in Chicago, and many people are paying attention to the Black Panthers’ vision of serving the people and creating a new world, while simultaneously turning the system upside down. Over the next few months, we hope to better understand how Chileans think about building inter-generational movements—and, as always, what can we learn from each other.

¡Hasta luego!

Pauline & Rico

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