The March on Valparaíso (and a brief overview of some Chilean Politics)

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Valparaíso

The plan for today was to visit Valparaíso, a beautiful, multicolored, port city. The houses there are all stacked in the hills, and the options to get to the ones at the top of the hills are; A. take a maze of zig-zag streets or B. take a funicular to the top. To save on time we took the funiculars, but I’d love to go back and explore the more “scenic routes”.

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Valparaíso

We go there a little later than expected because there was a protest taking place today. The streets were filled with students who were marching for better standards for public education.

The students marching to protest
The students marching to protest

I didn’t realize this before I came here, but in Chile, there is a huge gap between public and private education. Alejandra was telling me the other day that many families, who aren’t very religious send their children to Catholic school because the quality of education is so much better. The problem is, only wealthier families can afford to send their kids to private schools and it’s nearly impossible to achieve success in Chile without this sort of education. The poor are doomed to this perpetual cycle of poor education, which leads to a low-paying job, which leads to poor education for their children.

While the protests did change our plans a bit, it was interesting for me to learn about such a hot-button political issue going on here.

With the upcoming election (on November 17th) politics are sure to be on the minds of most informed Chileans and this particular election is particularly interesting because it between two female candidates (a first in Chilean history), both of whom were daughters of Generals during Pinochet’s reign. Michelle Bachelet (who was the first female president of Chile about 3 years ago) is a socialist and her father was tourtured to death for apposing Pinochet. Her opposer is Evelyn Matthei, an economist with a more conservative viewpoint. Her father was also a general, but one who supported Pinochet.

This September 11th is also the 40th Anniversary of Pinochet’s coup, so the family history of these two women is even more accentuated and really reignites a lot of old unresolved feelings about that period of history, in the hearts of many Chilenos.

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