Chileans will head to the voting polls to elect a new President of the country, as well as several local representatives, and perhaps new political leadership. This poster appeared almost cemented to this street sign.
I have seen this above image in several places around the country of Chile. However, my Google search about the image and it’s meaning has not been fruitful. So I next conducted a Google image search of the picture and was lead to the historic image of Tommie Smith (below). Smith, a member of the US men’s track and field team, during the 1968 Olympic Games raised his black gloved first triumphantly in the air as he stood in the first place winner’s position on the raisers. His message was strong and clear as another member of the victorious men’s track team joined him in raised black fists as a sign of solidarity with other Blacks back in the United States who were struggling and dying in efforts for social justice during the American Civil Rights Movement.
I have come to notice that the people I’ve met in Chile are not very open when discussing their personal political preferences as folks in the US appear to be in this area. I’ll admit that often during a one-on-one private conversation one may get some dialogue on issues of politics and moreover specific political candidates but, those conversations are rare and typically don’t occur in open-public spaces. Recently, I was offered some insight into this phenomena when someone shared with me that there is still a legacy of fear (particularly among older Chileans) surrounding a period of political oppression brought about during the time of the Pinochet Presidency. For those unfamiliar with Chilean history, the ascendancy of a military leader to the position of President of Chile, during 1973, was facilitated by a military coup and overthrow of a then democratically elected President Salvador Allende.
There is a long standing historical records of United State’s attempts to interject itself into the both the political and economic affairs of Chile. However, it was specifically under the Presidency of subsequently impeached President Richard Nixon that US involvement in the affairs of the Chilean government were questioned. Accusations swirled suggesting US support of the military coup, making North American involvement in Chile’s governmental affairs most untenable by contemporary standards of democracy and free enterprise.
So the pumped and raised fist of the late 1960s and early 70s has for many become an image meme, depicting solidarity and political resistance against oppressive power merchants who have lost sight of the goals of democracy. It has become an international image that many Blacks and non-Black Americans evoked as they fought and died for racial justice and political agency during that epoch.
However, things are changing in dynamic ways both in the US and Chile. I was told by the same person explaining to me about a Chilean dark period under a dictatorship that many of the young Chileans today don’t hold the same fears. The youth feel much more free to express their political grievances without fear of retaliation. Also mentioned was the fact that people have become so focused on creating a “better life” for themselves and their families that sustained political activism among many Chileans seems futile. Impressions reign that many politicians cannot be trusted and that they simply want your vote but not your sustained civic engagement per se. Boy!! That’s an account that sounds all too familiar to me.
Well, this blog post allowed me a chance to reflect upon my own experiences leading me to offer a prayer for an election season that leads to positive political changes and civic engagement amongst the citizenry in both Americas. And that such engagements advances the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness for all people. 🙂
P.S. I really think it’s so cool that they hold elections on a Sunday in Chile allowing for maximum citizen participation.