If you saw a teenage girl holding a Chilean flag on the side of Douglas Street last weekend, that was Fernanda Carvajal.
The 15-year-old is a Santiago resident living in Oak Bay as an international student attending Vic High. Meanwhile back at home, her friends and family are in the midst of civil unrest unlike anything since the country’s social oppression experienced during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet from 1973 to 1990, Carvajal said.
To curtail the recent protests, the Chilean government declared a state of emergency and sent military troops into the streets. There’s also a 7 p.m. curfew. And while social media videos of excessive military violence against the protesters are spreading around the world, there is also a peaceful protest underway known as cacerolazos.
In cacerolazos, which stems from the word casserole or stew, residents bang pots and pans with a spoon. It originated in Chile in 1971, and restarted under the Pinochet regime (until it ended). It has been used in Argentina and other nations since then, and now it is underway in Chile once more.
“You can hear this banging all around your neighbourhood and you know, the protest is on,” Carvajal said, saying it’s how her family protests. “It’s too dangerous to go outside.”
It’s driven the teen to mark up her country’s flag with the translated phrase “the people fight and resist” in Spanish, with “They’re killing us” written in English.
She’s taken the flag to the streets of Victoria and Oak Bay.
Carvajal was on Douglas between Broughton and View streets for two hours on Saturday and Sunday and was standing along Oak Bay Avenue on Monday afternoon.
“It’s hard being away from my country and watching things getting worse, and I want to do something for them,” Carvajal said. “We want a better life. Salaries are miserable and transit costs so much of our wages.”
Chile’s current protests started last week in response to the Chilean government’s announced increase in transit fares. Thousands took to downtown Santiago to protest, and not for the first time this year. This time fires were lit to a factory and other buildings and the government has reported between five and eight people dead because of them, with at least 11 casualties attributed to protests and military clashes.
“Everything is getting worse,” Carvajal said. “In a state of emergency, the military can shoot people, and they’re shooting people,” added Carvajal, who doesn’t believe her government’s reports.
Adding fuel to the protest is the allegation that the wealthy president, Sebastian Pinera, hasn’t paid taxes in 30 years despite being widely regarded as a billionaire, Carvajal said. Despite a retraction of the transit fare hike, the protests have continued, and so has the curfew.
On her phone, Carvajal watches social media videos, one after another, of the Chilean military dragging Santiago residents away in scenes of excessive military brutality.
Not enough is being done, and not enough is being talked about, she said.