I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never celebrated International Women’s Day. I know the date—although I probably rely on the Google doodle as a reminder—but I don’t think I have ever done anything significant to commemorate the movement for women’s rights.
As we discovered, the “Día Internacional de la Mujer” is widely observed in Chile, even though it’s not a public holiday.
Yesterday, a stage was set up in front of the Palacio de La Moneda, the seat of the President of the Republic of Chile. I asked one of the carabineros what was going on. “Well, it’s for International Women’s Day!” he replied, slightly surprised.
Right. This must also explain the sudden number of vendors selling flowers instead of corn or hot dog.
I begged Feng not to buy me a rose because it makes me sad when they die, but I took note of the two main events of the day—a gathering on Plaza Italia and some mysterious celebrations—the carabinero wasn’t very forthcoming—at 8:30 p.m. in front of La Moneda.
Plaza Italia, also known as Baquedano, is a huge roundabout often used as a focal point for demonstrations. With Bellavista and Cerro San Cristóbal to the north, Providencia to the east, Ñuñoa to the south, and El Centro to the west, it’s a convenient access point and I walk through it at least once a day. Plus, it’s easy to find with the unmissable “Torre Celular,” the Telfónica tower shaped like a huge cell phone.
I was curious to see how Chileans would acknowledge the day and bring awareness to the many issues women face. Would they march, chant, picket?
Chile opted for meaningful and peaceful performances instead. For instance, a woman wearing pants, a shirt and a tie and a man wearing a dress and high heels slowly stripped down to their underwear, on which a question mark was drawn. I liked it. A few metres further, women in a single file wear wearing placards—“I have to be… hard working/ asexual/ a mediator, etc. It was both inventive and eye-catching.
Later in the evening, we walked to La Moneda where we were surprised to see that Michelle Bachelet, president of Chile (and the first woman to hold this position in her country), was giving a speech, probably one of her last ones since she is leaving the office this Sunday. Her supporters seemed very emotional and frankly, so was I—the right wing is coming back to Chile with Sebastián Piñera…
Oh, and the flowers sold in the street? As far as I saw, 80% of them were bought by… women, for themselves.