How a Chilean Feminist Anthem Went Global and Empowered Women of All AgesPhotos by Annie Merkley Politics Features Chile
“I’m not guilty, not because of where I was, or how I was dressed! The rapist is you!”
Ten thousand female’s voices sang, shouted in alliance in Spanish in front of the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, on December 4th, 2019. Mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and friends congregated to protest violence against women and chant and dance. The sun blazed down on the crowd dressed in black on a sweltering 90 degrees southern hemisphere’s summer evening. They swayed side to side to a metronome-like drumbeat as sweat-staches formed on their upper lips. The throng’s emotion ranged from solemn, to fury, to laughing out loud as the group fumbled at times being out of sync learning choreography, to cheering with joy from a feeling of unity and of voices finally being heard. The focus was on women over 40 years old participating in the peaceful protest/performance, yet young girls to women in their golden years were in attendance.
December 4th’s gathering was a continuation of what started last month in Valparaiso, Chile, on November 18th when a feminist anthem sprang into action. “Un Violador en Tu Camino,” (“The Rapist on Your Way”) was composed by Las Tesis—a visual and audio feminist artist collective of four women in their thirties. The song’s intent was to call out the abuse, rape, and femicide suffered by women, and to shine a light on the questionable handling of such cases by police and the state. The title “Un Violador en Tu Camino,” is a play on the Chilean police forces slogan “Un amigo en Tu Camino,” (“A Friend on Your Way”). Las Telas created choreography to accompany the blunt lyrics and filmed the performance with a group of women wearing black blindfolds.
“The patriarchy is a judge, that judges us for being born, and our punishment, is the violence you don’t see.”
On International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25th, the performance was repeated in Santiago with thousands of women participating. The video was posted on YouTube and within days it went global. Sister performances were filmed and shared from Colombia to Germany, Mexico to France, England to Argentina, amongst other countries, and in numerous cities and towns throughout Chile.
“The patriarchy is a judge, that judges us for being born, and our punishment, is the violence you have seen.”
According to BBC World News, the massive gathering on December 4th began somewhat as a joke. Marcela Betancourt humorously tweeted that there should be a “senior” replication of “Un Violador en Tu Camino.” The idea took off like wildfire and the organization of the event was put together through the use of WhatsApp groups.
Betancourt reportedly chose the location of The National Stadium “Estadio Nacional” as an homage to the torture and killings that happened there in the 70s during the Pinochet dictatorship.
“The oppressive state is a macho rapist.”
One of the many women in attendance was Alicia Páez, 53, Pedagogy of English Coordinator at Universidad Diego Portales. She said that the reason it was important for older women to join in on this movement is because, “The younger generations have been telling us that we are not alone, and it’s not ok to be quiet.” Páez said that she felt the need to be at the gathering because of her family, gender pay inequality and, “If you ask women in the street, ‘Have you ever been a subject of abuse?’ I would say that four out of five say, yes. The time has arrived when we have to start thinking that this is not normal, and this shouldn’t happen.”
A 2015 statistics report from the Chilean National Statistics Institute stated that, 1 out of 3 women have been subject to abuse. “Imagine all of the people that just kept it as a secret,” Páez said, believing that the actual number of cases was much higher. She also said that there have been a number of instances where police have been accused for abuse against women.
“The rapist is you. It’s the cops. The judges. The state. The president.”
Chile has continued to see colossal protests since mid-October earlier this year when a hike in metro fare sparked countrywide demonstrations against stark social inequality—mainly peaceful though some with strikingly violent clashes between protesters and police. The current right-winged Chilean government (led by billionaire President Sebastián Piñera who has often garnered comparisons to Trump) has agreed to enter into talks with its opponents in April 2020 to make changes to the constitution. But this has not been enough to quench the flames of desire for serious social change. Páez believes that the December 4th assembly in front of the National Stadium was a combination of residual effects of the #metoo movement and the recent people’s uprising in Chile.
“Everything has to do with dignity,” she said, “so this is also [a demand for] dignity for women.”
When asked if when she was a young woman in Chile, if she ever thought that a congregation and unification of such a large stature of women could happen Páez said, “No, never, not in my dreams.”
As the sun began to set and the ever-present Andes mountain range turned deep hues of pink, ten thousand women passionately banded together in front of the iconic National Stadium. The beating of drums like a heartbeat, hands waving above a sea of heads, voices chanted, and intermittently belted out names of accused rapists cascaded through the air. The “senior” rendition of “Un Violador en Tu Camino” did its final take and came to a close. There was a feeling of enough is enough. Females of all ages are long overdue for equality and justice.
“And I’m not guilty, not because of where I was, or how I was dressed.”
“I always have faith in new generations,” Páez explained. “That happens a lot when you are in education, like, I trust my students and I’ve seen that the generations are improving every year. They are much better than we were at their age, so my faith is always in them.”
However, seeing women her mother’s age in their seventies coming together to also have their voices heard she said, “It’s never too late. That was the message.”
Páez said for many it was an idyllic experience. “Just singing it (the lyrics of “Un Violador en tu Camino”) and being there was liberating. No one wanted to leave! It was very, very powerful.”