Tag Archives: Chile

Ulises’ Odyssey, the Odyssey of Looking Back

Post by Juan Carlos Castillo, CLACS MA Candidate


Forced by his governor’s megalomania, Ulysses had to abandon his land to fight the city of Troy. Thereafter, he spent 10 horrible years confronting the many monsters and storms that opposed his way home. But this was Homer’s story.

Ulises –not Ulysses– passed through something similar, through an 30-year odyssey away from home. His biggest monster: the lack of affection from his family. His strongest storm: his memories of a broken past, or perhaps, his notion of a broken Chile.

Ulises’ Odyssey is the story about the rupture of the Chilean society exemplified through the rift that happened in Ulises’ family. The story is narrated by Lorena Manríquez, who is Ulises’ niece and also the director of this feature documentary. On October 16, the film’s New York premiere was held as part of the Fall 2015 CineCLACS screenings’ roster, to a packed house of over 130 attendees at the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center at NYU.  The event was followed by a conversation with the film’s directors Manríquez, and Miguel Picker.

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The State of Indigenous Peoples of Chile in Film and Conversation

indigenous shorts poster

On December 3rd and 4th, CLACS will host “wüne adngen/la imagen antes de la imagen: A Showcase of Indigenous Films from Chile.” This one of a kind event, aims at promoting a discussion on the state of the past, present, and future of the indigenous peoples of Chile. It will feature six shorts, from fiction to documentary, and conversations with renowned Mapuche filmmaker Francisco Huichaqueo, and the Director of the new Indigenous Peoples Unit of the Cultural Council of the Ministry of Culture of Chile, José Ancan.

This event is co-sponsored with the Embassy of Chile, and Hemispheric Institute at NYU.

The days’ programs are the following:

Thursday, December 3rd (6:00pm – 9:00pm), will feature the following films:

San Juan, la noche más larga (2012)
Director: Claudia Huaiquimilla
Short (17 min.)
Language: Spanish/English Subtitles

Te Kuhane o Te Tupuna (el espíritu de los ancestros) (2015)
Director: Leonardo Pakarati
(63 mins)
Language: Spanish

ILWEN La Tierra Tiene Olor a Padre (2013)
(35 mins.)
Director: Francisco Huichaqueo
Language: Spanish/English Subtitles

A conversation with film director Francisco Huichaqueo, moderated by Amalia Cordova will follow the screenings. This conversation will be conducted in Spanish.

Friday, December 4th (1:00pm-5:00pm), will feature the following films:

Director: Carlos Flores Pinedo
(10 mins.)
Language: Spanish

Director: Francisco Huichaqueo
(24 mins.)
Language: Spanish

MAPU MEW (2015)
Director: Guido Brevis
Short (50 mins.)
Language: Spanish

Chile’s Educational Reform

march (1)

President Bachelet’s government has taken the first steps to implement a much-needed reform in Chile. Nevertheless, its outcome is still unclear. This year will be crucial to determine the future of the policy, as the government enters the second stage of its Educational Reform. On Wednesday, March 4th those interested in the subject are invited to join the presentation “Confronting Inequality: A Critical Dialogue on Educational Reform in Chile” at NYU, sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Embassy of Chile.

On September 11th, 1973 Chile suffered the breakdown of its democratic system. President Salvador Allende and the government of the Popular Unity (Unidad Popular) were overthrown in a coup d’état that brought the rise of the military to power. The Military Junta was presided by General Augusto Pinochet and ruled the country in a highly repressive manner between 1973 and 1990.

The dictatorship pursued a radical break with the past by implementing neoliberal policies, which led to the overall transformation of Chilean society. Education is usually seen as a prime example of the process. The military oversaw an educational reform between 1981 and 1990 that replaced a state-centered educational model with a market-oriented system. This new arrangement would lead in time to the weakening of public education and the reproduction of the country’s existing socioeconomic inequalities.

Pinochet made sure that his policies wouldn’t be easily changed if he were to step down from Executive office. He did so by establishing high legislative quorums and introducing a unique electoral system (sistema electoral binominal) that gave a more or less even number of seats to the two most important political coalitions: the center-left Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia and the center-right Alianza por Chile. He embedded these rules deep inside the new Constitution of 1980, which was approved in a controversial plebiscite.

This was the institutional framework that Pinochet inherited to the Concertación governments (1990-2010). The setting clearly favored the political right by over representing their votes in the National Congress, turning them into key veto players that blocked –or converted to their liking– any possibility of reform. Thus, the Concertación was forced to play by the dictatorship’s rules, having to seek gradual reforms with an opposition that favored the status quo.

However, there was a growing discomfort with education in Chile. A series of protests began taking place in 2006 with thousands of secondary school students demanding the modification of Pinochet’s Organic Constitutional Law of Education (Ley Orgánica Constitucional de Enseñanza, LOCE). The protests proved to be effective. Socialist president Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010) ordered the formation of an executive committee –that included the most important actors concerned with education in the country–, whose objective was to draft a new educational law. The result was the General Law of Education (Ley General de Educación, LGE).

Many considered the Educational Reform of 2009 as being insufficient. Education was still highly stratified, while public schools continued displaying poor results in national and international tests. Meanwhile, higher education remained untouched, since the LGE had mainly focused on reforming the primary and secondary school levels.

In 2011 a new wave of student protests –this time at the university level– took over the country. They were the most massive protests to take place since the country’s transition from authoritarian rule. Students were demanding access to free, universal and high-quality education. They were also protesting for an end of profit-making in the educational system as a whole.

The government was reluctant to satisfy their demands. The center-right president Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014) granted some policies, but altogether missed the opportunity to find a solution for a problem that had dragged on for too long. At the same time, the student protests held a negative effect on Piñera’s government; his approval ratings fell to a historical low, while his coalition was shortly voted out of office.

The need of educational reform was one of the main issues present in the general election of 2013/2014. Michelle Bachelet made a series of campaign promises that fell in line with what students had been protesting for, such as free and universal coverage of higher education. Ms. Bachelet was voted back into office with strong electoral support and her coalition currently holds a majority of seats in both Houses of Congress, an important feature considering the high quorums needed for amending constitutional laws in Chile.

In 2014 Bachelet was successful in approving a Tax Reform. In 2015, the Senate approved the government’s electoral reform bill and after months of debate, approved the first part of the long awaited Educational Reform. This initiative put an end to profit in state-subsidized schools and to selective acceptance policies.

However, change has come at a high cost. The president has suffered from a fall in her approval ratings, while there has been an increase in political polarization (some opposition officials have even threatened to dismantle her reform as soon as possible). Many voices –from within and outside her coalition– have questioned if there is enough money to fund the Educational Reform or whether the setting is appropriate considering the current economic downturn stirring the country. It is expected that the Tax Reform will provide the funds for the second phase of the Educational Reform, which should focus on salary conditions, bringing public schools under national jurisdictions –as opposed to the current financing through municipalities–, and the much awaited free education for university students.

Posted by Lucas Perelló C., Applied Quantitative Research M.A. student at NYU

Writing Workshops and Jewish Writers in Santiago de Chile

My final week in Chile, I walked into one of Pía Barros’s literary talleres (workshops) and to my surprise, an announcement had been posted on the white board calling for submissions for the 2011 libro objeto (book object).  When I began this research trip, with the hopes of learning more about the libros objetos, I had no idea that I would get to see one in the steps of production!

July 21, 2011, Taller with Pia Barros

One participant in the taller reads his work while Barros (in the far right corner) and the other participants listen, before offering their critiques.

Helping to polish other writers’ submissions, reading my own short stories in front of some of my favorite Chilean authors, and listening to their criticism of each other’s work has given my research an unexpected realness, for which I am incredibly grateful.  Though several surprises, like this one, have taken my research in exciting directions, I realized this week that I still had not conducted a few of the interviews I had hoped to have done at this point.  Two individuals I had hoped to meet are Rodrigo Cánovas, a literary scholar, and Jorge Scherman, a Chilean author of Jewish descent.  They co-authored Voces judías en la literatura chilena (2010), the first book devoted to analyzing literature by Chilean Jewish authors. Continue reading

Jewish Chilean Responses to Pinochet’s Dictatorship

Wyse - Chile - Hidden Door

Tom, one of the leaders at Hashomer Hatzair, holding up the secret door (normally covered by a large rug)

This past week, I found myself lifting up a hidden door in the floor of Santiago, Chile’s Zionist youth organization Hashomer Hatzair.  Peering through the doorway at a dark basement below, I listened as Carlos Vasquez, a former member of the group, described how the room once hid books and people that the military regime (1973-1990) considered dangerous.

A central component of my research has been trying to explore how the military regime affected Chile’s Jewish communities.  My goal is to learn more about Chilean Jewish authors Andrea Jeftanovic, Cynthia Rimsky, Sonia Guralnik, and Susana Sánchez Bravo, and how they are representative (or not) of Chile’s Jewish communities from the 1970s to the present, especially in terms of how they discuss and construct Jewish identity in their writing.  Continue reading

Memory Models that Move: Thoughts after the “Bajo Tierra” conference

Memorial plaque at Urzante exhumation site

At the end of June, I attended a conference in Madrid that addressed many of the social, political, historical, and ethical debates emerging in response to the excavation of mass graves and the exhumation and identification of victims of political violence in Spain.  Organized by anthropologist Francisco Ferrándiz (CSIC, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicos), “Bajo Tierra” brought together a wide range of experts from across disciplinary fields in order to discuss the impact that forensic investigations of Francoist political violence have had – and are continuing to have – on contemporary Spanish memory politics.  For someone relatively new to the study of the Spanish historical memory movement, the three-day conference was an excellent opportunity to gain a more nuanced understanding of the social and political complexities that surround the application of forensic science to the study of the recent past.

For conference organizers, participants, and audience members, the symposium was also an opportunity to reflect on how different kinds of research protocols have evolved since the year 2000, when public support for exhumations first began to grow, thus breaking the long pact of silence put forth by an amnesty agreement made between political factions during the democratic transition.   In this sense, the conference was also an opportunity for those active in the historical memory movement to take stock of the different kinds of achievements made both within and without the realm of academia and to critically discuss new challenges that currently are emerging under Spain’s new, ever-changing memory landscape.  Although the exhumations occurring in Spain and the memory politics surrounding them were the main focus of the symposium, the conference also sought to situate the exhumation of “Franco’s graves” within a cross-national, comparative perspective.  Due to my own interest in the similarities and differences between post-dictatorship memory politics in Latin America’s Southern Cone and that of Spain, it was interesting to see the ways in which different strategies for historically, socially, politically, and judicially addressing violent pasts in Argentina and Chile have been situated as successful models for addressing Spain’s history of political violence. Continue reading

Chilean Jewish Activism and Augusto Pinochet’s Military Regime

Libros Objetos Published 1986-7

Barros's libros objetos represented one of only means of publication during the dictatorship for many authors.

Greetings from Santiago de Chile!  This afternoon, I had the opportunity to meet freelance journalist and human rights activist Maxine Lowy.  Over a pot of green tea, Maxine discussed how Chile’s Jewish communities responded to General Augusto Pinochet’s military regime (1973-1990).  Gracefully, she approached what I realize, now, is an unfair question, “Why did Chilean Jews overwhelmingly support the dictatorship, without making connections between the atrocities of the Holocaust and what was taking place in Chile?”

My question stems from trying to understand what it meant for Chilean Jewish writers to be writing about being Jewish during the dictatorship.  For example, in a climate of extreme censorship, author Sonia Guralnik published a series of short stories, El Samovar (1984), in which she discusses pogroms in the Ukraine.  Reading them, I wonder: was she implicitly critiquing the military regime in Chile?  Why did censors allow this book to be published, without permitting any questioning of its own abuses? Continue reading