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Politics is such a thorny subject.
That's normal, I guess. As long as there are two different opinions on how to do stuff, there might be confrontation.
I prefer to avoid confrontation, but when things get as ugly as they did in Chile these last years, the moment comes when you can't look away any longer.
I got registered to vote back in 1989, but I never felt compelled to take part in elections of any kind after that year, so I never updated my voter's registry, which included my old home address in Pichilemu, a beach town three hours south west of Santiago.
However, my interest in voting grew deeper as political events developed in Chile since October 2019. I want to vote now, but for that I will have to fly to Santiago and travel to Pichilemu from there.
Anyway, what are we voting for?
In a nutshell…
October 2019. The Transportation Ministry announces that the Santiago metro and bus fare will be raised by 10 to 30 CLP (about 5 to 20 USD cents at the time). A small amount, but it adds up to previous raises. Hell breaks loose. Students and other users start evading payment…
…and stage protests.
November 2019. The protests turn violent. After weeks of a nationwide wave of vandalism, looting and violent rioting which included the burning of whole Metro stations…
…an agreement is made to write a new constitution for the country. Our current constitution was established in 1980 during the Pinochet regime and is blamed as the root of economic inequality in Chile. A new constitution would pave the way to a better health system, better education, etc. According to this agreement, a referendum will be held in order to decide on whether to dump or keep our current constitution.
October 2020. The apruebo ("I approve") option wins. A group of 155 citizens (aka Convención Constitucional) will be elected to write the new constitution. The election is held in May 2021.
July 2021. The elected members of the Constitutional Assembly are set to begin their work. However, things go wrong from the very beginning. Some highlights:
The opening ceremony is boycotted by some of the elected members of the Convention.
As months go by, eyebrows rise in disbelief as we learn what kind of proposals are making their way into the draft of the new constitution. We were asking for a better health system, but the president of the Assembly - a member of the Mapuche original people - wants to "found Chile again" and rebuild it from scratch…
…by creating a "pluri-national" state with segregated justice systems for different original peoples.
We were asking for better retirement plans, but the Assembly is ready to get rid of the Senate.
Many of us start wondering if the Constituent Assembly isn't going a bit too far. We have the impression that the left-wing-majority Assembly is more concerned with giving back the land to the original inhabitants and eliminating all counterweight to the government in the Congress than improving social services. In fact, the new constitution doesn't even contain a definition for private property and the provisions in the old constitution on how to compensate land owners after an expropriation are done away with. We are very worried.
As if all this wasn't bad enough, a series of scandals like…
…some members of the assembly partying wildly at a hotel in Concepción during a "work visit"…
…one of the vice presidents of the Assembly having lied about having cancer in order to be elected for the Assembly (he actually had syphilis!)…
…some members dressed like Pikachu and a blue dinosaur in the Convention premises…
…and a never ending series of attacks, insults, threats, political interference, and all imaginable kinds of misconduct, end up sinking the Assembly into discredit.
Fed up, the secretary asks the president of the Assembly during a session "Qué vamos a hacer con este circo?" (What are we going to do with this circus?"
The final product - the draft for the new constitution - is a monstrosity.
Here's an example of a "pearl of wisdom" taken from the REVISED draft:
Article 116: “The Chilean nationality is lost … by cancellation of the nationalization letter, unless it has been granted as a result of false declaration or fraud."
However, the government is desperately promoting the approval of this draft and calls to "approve it, then fix it." . In fact, it has been criticized for actively (and illegally) campaigning to approve the draft and has linked its own success or failure to the new constitution being approved or rejected.
Well, I'm not buying it. Chile is ONE long and beautiful country and ALL Chileans must be equal in the eyes of the law. I don't want anyone to take over the Congress with no competition, and I don't like Pikachu wearing the presidential band.
So it's time to roll up my sleeves and…
Voting on accepting or rejecting the new constitution will take place on Sunday, September 4.
I think I can fly to Santiago on Friday 2, and come back on Monday 5.
JetSmart is the cheapest option: 27000 CLP (30 USD). Una ganga!
You can see the details of the price on the left.
I wonder why they charge and administration fee. I thought it was charged only when you went to a brick and mortar office. Anyway, the price is so low that I can't complain.
By the way, administration fee and all, I still think I'm lucky. Precisely today, as I write this report, I came across the news that the Argentinean government is planning to levy even more taxes on air travel. Flying in Argentina is already terribly expensive! According to IATA, flying in Argentina is EIGHT times more expensive than in Chile, and 54% of the price of a plane ticket in Argentina is made up of taxes! Insane! Read more here.
Well… where was I…??
Ah, I already have my ticket to go and cast my vote.
I'll leave on Friday 2 at midday, and will come back to Valdivia on Monday 5, the day after voting. I'll have to ask for a day off at work.
Easy as pie.
Or so I thought.
…AT LEAST FOUR TIMES!!!!!
Can you believe that???
The first announcement comes on July 26.
The outbound flight is still OK. A difference of only an hour or so.
But the return trip… I can't fly on voting day!!
So I reject the change for the flight back home, ask for a refund, and buy a new ticket on Sky.
From then on, I get at least two more messages announcing changes in the schedule - on August 9…
Luckily, it's always within the day. But it keeps me on edge.
Two days before the flight, JetSmart lets me know that I can check in. I do it joyfully from my cellphone. I enter all my details, but when I press the final button…
…a little plane turns around and around and around… forever!
After several tries I eventually put down the phone with a tsk. I'll try later.
But no matter when or where I try, the process always stops at the little plane!
In the meantime, JetSmart pushes me - "Hola! Your flight is nearly here. Save time and check in now."
It's the same thing the following day. I can't go beyond the circling little plane.
But JetSmart is determined to destroy my nerves - Hola! Less than 24 hours for your flight. GO AND CHECK IN!!!!
The morning of the flight I'm still working at school. I keep trying to beat the little plane during a recess. In the end, I ask a colleague if I can use her laptop in case there's a problem with my phone or my laptop.
But nothing works!
I give up. They should be able to solve this at the counter, shouldn't they? Just don't tell me I'll have to pay them for printing my BP!
I arrive at ZAL very early. Something tells me that I'll need time.
A lady in a thick coat (it's a cold day today) is working frantically at JetSmart's counter. She's on her own, and you can tell that she's not having a good day. I wonder if she'll be willing to solve - or even understand - my problem with the check in process.
When my turn comes, I do my best Xi Jinping pose and tilt my head to the side a little.
Cómo le vaaa?? (How do you dooo??) I ask with slanted eyes to show that I'm smiling underneath my mask.
But this woman is a stone, impervious to my charms.
Before she freezes me with her sight I hold my cellphone in front of her eyes, with the little plane circling on the screen. I have been busy all this time keeping the screen on until she can see it. I explain my problem.
She looks at the cellphone screen and evaluates in silence for a second. I smile for myself. Gotcha! It's evident that there's a problem here, and you can't blame it on me. Hah!
Your ID, please, she demands at last.
I triumphantly place my ID card on the counter and she examines the computer screen for a minute or two. She looks troubled.
Then she takes out her own cellphone and types a message. When she finishes typing, she connects the cellphone to a wall outlet. I'll be right back. I have to wait for a reply. Wait here, she says as she points at a space between a standing banner and a baggage scale. Then she puts her cellphone on the display of the scale and leaves.
I squeeze myself into that space and wait in silence. Is it my impression, or I just got a new job as the guardian of the lady's phone?!
About five minutes later I hear a ding. It comes from the lady's phone! I'm crossing my fingers. But she's nowhere to be seen.
Seconds later, another ding. This one is a chirp. It's my phone! Mail from JetSmart!
And that's how at 12:37 - less that an hour before boarding starts - I get this second confirmation of the itinerary…
…and I can finally check in!
Relieved, I take this photo of the main hall before…
ZAL has done quite a job enlarging the boarding room. This new corner used to be offices, if I remember well.
The bathrooms are also new, and quite spacious.
If someone complains, I'll pretend to be crippled. Ha.
It's 13:13. CC-AWQ will be here in five minutes.
There it is.
When it comes to economy class, most airlines are much the same, but JetSmart is clearly the most basic of the three main Chilean airlines, though not necessarily the most inexpensive. Their cabins are very simple. Their seats are hard, can not be reclined and have no power outlets. You can't get more legroom for an additional fee.
No free snack, but they do have a simple BOB menu.
Being lunchtime, I think I'll order one of their sandwiches.
It's not even hot, but it's filling.
The Andes look beautiful around Linares now that we're having some respite from a 13-year-long drought.
The Andes and the Cordillera de la Costa as we descend into SCL.
Sincerely, I prefer a remote position rather than…
…the long walks along the second floor now that this whole terminal is dedicated to domestic flights.
Now the bus to Pajaritos metro station and then to auntie Cecilia's until tomorrow, when I'll take the bus to Pichilemu and cast my vote against Pikachu and its gang. :D
The next day, a bus takes me south along the Panamerican Highway with wonderful views of the valley of Santiago and the snow capped mountains. Spring is here…
…and even the stony hills around Santiago…
This area some 30km south of Santiago is called Angostura, where the Andes and the Cordillera de la Costa meet. Those dry trees covering the hills are not really dry. They are espinos (Vachellia caven) and they bloom in spring with the most beautiful and fragrant flowers that resemble little yellow pompoms.
South of Angostura is Monticello hotel and casino.
Agriculture is very important in Chile. Actually, the fruits and vegetables at our local greengrocer's leave much to be desired…
…because the best produce is exported.
There's a high probability that the apples in your supermarket come from these trees. (Provided they're apple trees. I have no idea! Ha)
About halfway to Pichilemu we pass Pelequén, the town where I grew up. Can you believe that I used to be an altar boy in that pink church? I was so cute! haha. A famous religious image (Santa Rosa de Lima) is kept there (actually, it's just a pretty nightmarish wire framework holding a head and hands of clay. I've seen it) and there's a yearly pilgrimage on August 30. The church used to be much more beautiful, but earthquakes have destroyed the tower twice and now they built those… boxes, one on top of the other. I guess they got fed up with rebuilding it! Haha
And that hill… it was my playground.
Running after my cousins in the foothills in the 80s. Oh, how happy we were.
I cast my vote early and then go for a walk. My parents lived in Pichilemu in the early 90s, and I used to spend my summer holidays with them, but never came back after that, so this is my first visit in decades!
I walk down Ortúzar Avenue towards the sea…
…starting at our old house, which has been turned into offices. What those people don't know is that this house… is haunted!! Well, I don't believe in those things, but try to find an explanation for this:
The front door opens into a long hallway that splits the house in two. The curved side on the left used to be the living-room, then came the kitchen and then a room that was always locked and contained some belongings of the house owners (the house was rented). On the right side were the bedrooms. The whole hallway floor was the same red tiles you see here, and there were some old, heavy, white, metal seats along the hallway. The legs of the seats were covered with rubber caps.
Well, one summer morning I was awaken by a long brrrrrrrr. It was like the sound of the rubber caps of the metal seats against the tiles of the hallway, as if someone had been dragging the seats around.
I looked at the time. It was 9 in the morning, a day as sunny and bright as this one. "Hm," I thought. "It must be my mother or auntie Olivia cleaning up." I got up and went out of the bedroom. All the seats were in place in the hallway. My mom and my auntie were in the kitchen. I asked if someone had been dragging the seats around in the hallway. The looked at each other with wide-open eyes, and then at me. No, nobody had been doing that, and yes, they had heard the sound before, and there was no explanation for it. (Place horror face here)
I love how they have fixed the old sidewalks and made them suitable for people with special needs. The is the corner of Ortúzar and Aníbal Pinto, the two main streets.
Some meters before the beach I find lots of new bars and restaurants.
And then Plaza Prat, a park overlooking the Playa Principal (main beach)
The Costanera (sea front)
These surf boards remind us that we are in the "World Capital of Surf." Isn't that a bit presumptuous?
Maybe, but Pichilemu is quite popular among surfers, indeed.
This wooden path is new as well.
Very convenient for a stroll along the beach.
From here I can see the old Ross casino - which is a cultural center now - and the palm trees of Ross Park, which I'll visit later. Yes, you guessed. There used to be a rich guy called Ross here. Agustín Ross was a banker and he bought some land in Pichilemu in the 1890s. He built the hotel and casino, and a park next to it.
Avenida Ortúzar seen from the beach.
Ahh, it's great when you have the whole beach for yourself. How I'd love to sunbathe a little. I need some vitamin D!! But you wouldn't believe how self-conscious I am. It's paralyzing. I'll walk a little more until I see no-one around.
I find a good spot and lie on the sand. These guys soon start circling me and land very close. They must be wondering what is that jelly-like thing on the sand.
A blob fish, perhaps? Whale poop?
I lie there for about an hour - without sunscreen, which I'll regret dearly the next day. On my way to Ross Park I discover lots of new shops and restaurants along the sea front.
Good time for lunch.
I order this fish "a lo pobre" (a la poor-man) which means "with fries, caramelized onion, and fried eggs." You can order many things a lo pobre, including beef and fish. If you ever visit Chile, I strongly recommend you try merluza. It's one of our best fish. I couldn't believe my eyes when I found it in Punta del Este, Uruguay, much more expensive than here. (What you see in the photo is not merluza, anyway, and I didn't like it much)
And I finally make it to Parque Ross.
As you see here, Mr Ross had a taste for palm trees. These are Canary island palms (Phoenix canariensis)
I doubt he brought them from the Canary islands, though.
According to all-knowing Wikipedia, this species of palm tree is widely spread and a favorite in gardens around the world.
However, this park is unique around here, and a nice reminder of times gone by…
…when Pichilemu was an exclusive resort for the local elite.
I admire the landscape for a while, breath in deeply the crisp breeze from the sea…
…share some cake crumbs with this little fellow…
…and consider making Pichilemu my future hometown. Yes. After the sad events of this year, I'm seriously considering a change. I want more sunny days. I need to be closer to my family. And Pichilemu has changed so much for the better. I felt so good here today. Yes. Who knows. Pichilemu looks like a good place…
So, what happened with the new constitution?? Was it approved?
Well, I keep checking the results online on the bus back to Santiago that night.
This is what I see:
(Apruebo = "I approve"; Rechazo = "I reject")
I recline my seat, lean back, and close my eyes with a wide grin underneath my mask, happy that my country has a new opportunity to make things right.
JetSmart simply takes you from A to B. Basic cabin, the simplest seats. Enter multiple changes in the flight schedule and a mess with their reservation system, and you might prefer Latam or Sky Airline.