MARCHAS or what’s up with all these Chileans on the streets?

As an innocent citizen, life has become significantly more complicated in Santiago in the last year. All of a sudden, the Alameda (Santiago’s main street) is blocked, the Metro might not stop at certain stations any more (tear gas alarm) and every once in a while a random stone might fly RIGHT past you. Welcome to Chile’s wonderful world of the marchas (= protests, demonstrations). I have been to many many marchas, because I had to write about them, because I was curious, because I somehow got sucked in by the crowd or simply because I felt the need to let my anger out at some cop (P.S. I do NOT recommend the latter!). At these protests I have met hippies, grandparents and their grandchildren, rockers, teenagers, couples, teachers, communists, environmentalists, housewives, bankers, dancers, homeless people and even Nazis. I have had great conversations, I have danced, sung (only way you can get me to sing in public is if I can join a chorus of 15.000), got hit by rocks and water cannons, I saw how cops beat down old people and young children and how hooded protesters beat up the cops – so I have had my fair share of marchas. Since there might be one or two persons out there who do not enjoy the thrill of the protests as much as I do, I decided to put together a little encyclopedia so next time it smells like tear gas, you know what’s up.
Aysén
Region in Patagonia. All Patagonia is controlled by president Piñera’s (→ below) government. All? Only one small region of indomitable Patagonians still holds out against the invaders. Until Piñera gets so pissed that he sends a whole battalion of pacos (→ below) down south. Not the best idea he had. By February 2012 all of Chile is out on the street forcing president Piñera finally has to backpedal.
Camila Vallejo
Pretty chick you might have seen on TV once or 10.000 times. Not a singer, nor the new IN-actrice but a student leader who became the voice and face of the student protests 2011, fighting for a better and affordable education at Chilean Universities. Now she’s not around so much any more but hey, would you if Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez were your two new BFF?
Camilo Ballesteros
Say who? Exactly!1
Encapuchados
Literal translation: The hooded. Some punks that show up at almost every marcha competing over who throws the first stone at the cops. Conspiracy theorists say, they are payed by the government to villainize the protesters. Note: going to a marcha, you might consider leaving your hoodie at home, it might get you arrested.
Funa
Get together to dis somebody or something.
Giorgio Jackson
Camila Vallejo’s side kick.
Guanaco
If you get an unexpected shower, it probably came from a guanaco, Chilean for water cannon (and no, I have no idea how you say that in Spanish!)
Hidroaysén (Patagonia sin represas)
Hydroelectric project in Patagonia (the veeeeery south of Chile). Started the marchas in May 2011. It was the environmentalists who went out on the street first, protesting against the Hidroaysén project. The government says about HA: Chile needs more electricity; protesters say about HA: it destroys the most beautiful landscape in the country.
Ley Hinzpeter
Chile’s secretary of interior, kinda the boss of the cops – so you can imagine how much the protesters just LOVE him. For his part, he wasn’t quite cool with all these protests so he came up with a bill (Ley Hinzpeter) trying to put anybody in prison who “disturbs the public order” (whatever that means…). Result: Now even more people are out on the streets protesting against the Hinzpeter Law.
Pacos
If you hear somebody shout that, RUN! Yeah, the cops in Chile are pretty chilled in general but not around 100.000 protesters who have declared them their Nº 1 enemy.
Sebastián Piñera
The president, or Chile’s George W. Bush.
Students
Good education in Chile is expensive, only the very rich can afford it. Scholarships are scarce, student loans put families in debt for decades and the teachers just suck. (Just quoting there). The PC version: education sucks.
Various
With the begin of the marchas, Chile entered a new phase of social mobilizations. After many years of duck and run – internalized from the time of the military regime of Augusto Pionchet, 1973-1990 – 2011 became the starting point for various social protests, for example environmentalists, workers, women’s rights activists and LGBT groups.
1Though objectively not true, so I’ll give him a footnote. Along with Camila Vallejo member of the Communist Party, ran for mayor in Santiago’s Estación Central hood.   
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