Carlito or Camila Vallejos Biggest Fan

185 grams!”
Carlos Alberto Orrego knows his oranges. Just by looking at them he can determine their weight – almost as perfect as the old-fashioned metallic scale he uses. After all, fruits and vegetables have been his business for more than 40 years. Carlos, or Carlito, as his costumers affectionately call him, is a famous figure in Santiago, a city of 7 million and capital of Chile. Stationed centrally in the bustling Plaza Italia, during the last few decades, not only millions of people, but Chile’s history has passed right before his eyes.
The fall of Chile’s dictator Pinochet, the big celebrations after soccer games and now the student protests; whenever Chile is moved by something, it happens right here next to me in Plaza Italia.Of all the events he has witnessed, the recent student protests have fascinated him the most. Specifically, he has been charmed by charismatic student leader Camila Vallejo: “She is so sweet and intelligent and pretty!” he says, smiling and blushing, his eyes to the ground.
When Camila Vallejo was chosen as Chile’s Person of the Year in 2011, it did not come as a surprise to Carlos. “It is incredible how she managed as a single person to motivate an entire nation to get out on the streets, march after march, after march!”
Even though he admires Camila Vallejo, he does not like to be called a fan. “Fan is a word you use for teenagers who like Justin Bieber.” He frowns.
However, Carlos’s dedication to meet Camila Vallejo in person proves that say what he will, he is indeed one of her biggest fans.
At first, when Camila Vallejo started to give interviews on TV and her picture made it to the front page of newspapers, she seemed unreachable to Carlos. However little did he know, his stand was only two blocks away from FECH headquarters, where Camila Vallejo runs the student organization.
Terms like ‘FECH’ or ‘student organization’ mean very little to Carlos. But one thing he knows almost as well as his avocados and tomatoes (and oranges) are his customers. Many of them are university students. So one day he ventured to ask a couple of these students if they knew Camila Vallejo. The students told him that they went to university with her and that her office was actually just around the corner.
Once I learned that Camila had her office so close, I got cheeky and asked if I could visit her, and maybe get a picture of her.” There it is again, Carlos’ timid little smile. Every time a student came to his stand to buy fruit, Carlos would ask for Camila. Finally, his persistencepaid off; one day he could not believe his eyes, but there she was– Camila Vallejo herself, standing right in front of him. And although she did not have a picture of herself for him, she had stopped by so that he could take a picture of the two of them together. “I was so flabbergasted; I could not believe my luck!” Now, this picture is enthroned at the very top of his stand, right above the oranges, for everybody to see. He gave it a title: The best day of my life.
In his 40 years as a street vendor, the day when he had his arm around Camila Vallejo was by far the best moment of his life. “She is just as charming and smart and beautiful in person as she is on TV!”
Although for others Camila Vallejo is now “only” the vice president of the FECH, to him she is still number one. He will keep supporting the students’ movement in Chile. “It is the students’ right to ask for a free education. My nephew studies at a university here, and my brother accumulated a gigantic debt – just so he could pay for his son to have an education. That is not right!”
Carlos hopes that eventually, President Sebastián Piñera’s conservative government will give in to the students’ demands and reform the Chilean system of education.
Finally, there is one question left: What does Carlos’ wife think about his picture with Camila Vallejo? “Ahh…” Carlos dismisses the comment as if waving off flies. “I am not married. And Camila is and always will be the only woman in my life!”