A quick look at the role of women in the Chilean Left

I know I’m way behind on this, having been busy with my own protests here in the midwest as part of the Occupy movement, but I am amazed and filled with joy to hear that women and girls are playing such a large part in the widespread Socialist unrest in Chile.

THIS is Girl Power: Liceo Carvajal in Chile, currently occupied by its fourteen-year-old female students

Students of one of the most prestigious state prep schools for girls have taken over their school in hopes of agitating for universally free university education. You’ve got fourteen year old girls facing down the cops, talking to lawyers, and self-governing an entirely self-sustaining insurrection in their own school.

In the wider Chilean student resistance, known as the “Chilean Spring”  one of the major leaders is Camila Vallejo – current president of FECh (Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile) and a prominent member of the Communist Youth in Chile,  who has been hailed as the spokeswoman and a major new figure for the Chilean far-Left.  In a country still scared by the decades-long right-wing dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, now facing a global recession, figures such as Vallejo offer hope to many who still hope to live in a progressive Leftist country. Not surprisingly, her good looks have attracted quite a few comments, including those from major celebrities, to which she has responded: “You have to recognise that beauty can be a hook. It can be a compliment, they come to listen to me because of my appearance, but then I explain the ideas. A movement as historical as this cannot be summarised in such superficial terms.”

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8 thoughts on “A quick look at the role of women in the Chilean Left

  1. LadyG says:

    THIS IS SO COOL. I can’t wait to learn more about her!

    It shows my norteamericano-centrism that I hadn’t even thought about what the Occupy movement could mean for Latin America. Venezuela needs one really, really badly.

    • M Marian says:

      Ah, but is the inspiration the Occupy movement, or is it the “Arab Spring”?

      I would guess the latter rather than the former. : )

      • LadyG says:

        Isn’t that your middleeastern-centrism talking? :-p

        But seriously, an interesting point. Looking forward to hearing other opinions.

        • Emmy says:

          Oh, no, definitely Chile is not at all inspired by Occupy, as it’s been going on months and months before Occupy even started. It is influenced heavily by both the Arab Spring and the Spanish/Greek ‘indignados’ movement, but it also basically has its roots in Chilean history and Chilean problems (shadow of Pinochet, role of universities in social change, etc.).

          I don’t know if Venezuela could use an Occupy – they face a completely different type of problem than we do. In fact, I know they absolutely should not use ‘Occupy.’ The language of “1%” in particular is irrelevant. Any major movement there will probably draw much more from the Arab Spring, as M suggests.

          Broadly, one should be very suspicious about transplanting movements to other countries. Particularly in Latin America, the solution must have predominantly indigenous roots – see Jose Carlos Mariategui’s “Seven Essays” for more on the Latin American situation.


          Occupy is merely an American approach to the global problem of capitalism – sure, other countries, particularly in Europe, have adapted the model, but countries as radically different from us as Venezuela, etc. will need other methods,

        • LadyG says:

          you’re totally right — the Occupy movement is particularly inappropriate in socialist countries.

          I think what impresses me so much about OWS is the grass-roots success at calling out the media and finding viable alternative solutions to getting their message across and information to their followers.

          Which, of course, was happening during the Arab Spring. I just wasn’t paying attention to it…

        • chortlevork says:

          I agree that its dangerous to uncritically adopt another country’s social agenda, but it can be useful
          1. if they share similar problems induced by similar assumptions and bases of power
          2. to adopt political tactics from other movements even if the content is different. e.g. the whole idea of the occupation is to Stay There All The Time. this is not something i’ve seen in american protest movements before. i can’t help but speculate that this was inspired by the occupation of tahrir square in cairo.

  2. Emmy says:

    @Chortlevork (wordpress commenting formats be damned!)

    1. It’s definitely applicable to countries along the liberalish capitalist spectrum, like, say in Europe. Here’s an Australian perspective, in which the author is very honest about the limited applicability even in her own country. Her politics are not watertight, but it serves as a decent example: http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/10/25/why-do-we-need-an-occupy-australia/

    However, Venezuela absolutely does not have similar problems/similar assumptions/bases of power, and it could be argued that it does not even need a dramatic social uprising at this point.

    2. We are in agreement here. Tahrir was completely an inspiration to Occupy, as it was for the Wisconsin occupation of the capital less than a month after Tahrir, and the later movements in Chile and Spain. We are definitely in their debt (no pun intended). Speaking of debt, the Greek protests since 2008 and Paris in 2006 may have inspired the Arab Spring, but I haven’t really read much on this relationship.

    • chortlevork says:

      1. well, i might feel that venezuela needs a dramatic uprising against chavez, but its character would probably not be terribly “social.”

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