2.08.2012

 

Public Escalators in Medellín

I found the following article an interesting, funny, and sort of thought-provoking piece. It's kind of self-explanatory, so no introduction needed. Surprisingly, although the word "escalator" has a Romantic root (to climb in Spanish is escalar), the word for escalator in Spanish is actually "electric stairs" or "mechanical stairs."

source: sospaisa.com; sign translates: "What pride! We live in the only 
neighborhood in the world with public electric stairs [i.e. escalators]"

Medellín celebrates its new escalators, by Jenny Carolina González.
published in La Tercera, Feb 2, 2012.

Andrés Felipe and his friends spend their afternoons going up and down. Like an amusement park ride without an end, they enjoy themselves on a steep metal structure, yet it's far from being a game for children. At their young age, they haven't been able to understand that, actually, the public service escalators, the only like this in the world, are an advance in the wholistic development of one of the most troubled neighborhoods in Medellín, which is situated in the Northwest of Colombia.

Constucted in Barrio Independencia Uno in District 13, located on one of the hills of the city, the escalators were conceived as a solution to the mobility problem affecting twelve thousand citizens that daily had to descend 350 steps to connect with public transportation, commerce, health services, and neighboring areas. 

With three "metro-cables" (cable-cars), which provide transport options to two districts and one adjacent area, the capital of the department of Antioquía, with 2.5 million residents, is a pioneer in providing access to the high-altitude parts of the city. In this case, geographic conditions did not allow for cable-cars, and so it wasn't possible to replicate that form of transportation.

The work, which cost $6 million US, and will be completed in March, spans 185 meters with six two-way escalators which will be covered and whose monthly maintanence of US $40,700 will be taken on by the mayoral office of the city.

"The climb up would exhaust us, because there were many flights and to up with purchases was not easy [...]" tells 20-year old Yaneth Pérez.

[...] "The escalators, more than a engineering project, is a social project; it is a conveyor belt for social processes within an enlightening urbanism that beginning with infrastructure generates culture, coexistence, employment, and social reinsertion," explains Margarita Angel, chief of EDU. The project will bring with it a courthouse, the recovery of public space, the construction of urban walkways,  a major high school, parks, and playground equipment.

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2.07.2012

 

Nicanor Mania at UdeC

Related to the previous post, the University of Concepción is getting in to the action, honoring regional poet Nicanor Parra, who is once again being promoted for a Nobel Prize. They have either allowed or commissioned graffiti artists to recreate some of his famous visual jokes on their walls, and hung a huge, sort of unreadable and yet striking banner on their clock tower with the text of one of his works.

Here's a selection of the art with ROUGH translations:



"You ask me that question? / But you ARE antipoetics!"


"No nuclear weapons / Let's stop at flyswatters"


"GREAT / And now who will free us from the freedom-fighters?"



"THE ORACLE'S RESPONSE / Whatever you do, you'll regret it!"


"SHUT UP ALREADY! 2,000 years of lying is enough!"








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2.06.2012

 

The Campaigns for Parra

My favorite poet, a phrase which I concede sounds rather pretentious and ridiculous, recently died. Another poet whose wor I enjoy, Nicanor Parra, is creeping ever closer to his 100th birthday, but last year won the most important prize in Spanish-language literature, the Spanish government's Cervantes Prize. Both poets have a tendency to write about everyday things with irony, but not cynicism. The main difference is that Szymborska writes in a formally poetic and often "pretty" way, while Parra gleefully tossed aside poetic floweriness and cat himself as an "anti-poet". And I may add that both can be pretty damn funny. (One favorite line from Parra: I don't believe in the peaceful way / I don't believe in the violent way .. I don't even believe in the Milky Way).


Well, given that Nobels are not given posthumously, there's been a new uptick in campaigning in Parra's favor before time runs out. Even ex-president Michelle Bachelet has written a letter to the Swedish Academy in his favor. The following article, from a magazine with a hilarious-to-me name, Que Pasa?, explains the history of attempts to get the Swedish Academy's attention and get Parra the Nobel.


The Campaigns for Parra
by Antonio Díaz Oliva

Universities from the US to Chile to Europe. Politicians, academics, and devoted fans. There is a long history of agitation so that the anti-poet receives the Nobel Prize for Literature. This year, it seems, there will be one more try.

The first time was quite early: it was 1969 and in the United States a small group of students got organized. It was the first campaign to nominate Nicanor Parra for the Nobel Prize for Literature. It was, to say the least, an arduous task. Parra's oeuvre had been translated into English (by beatnik poets with whom the Chilean had a great affinity and friendship) and the antipoet was rather experienced - he was already 55 years old. Yet as a literary figure he had to struggle against other Chilean and Latin American intellectuals, as this was the epoch in which the Boom was at a rolling boil. "In effect, it was a low-level campaign," recalls Patricio Lerzundi, the journalist, poet, and academic who was then residing in the US and was pulling the strings of the campaign. "We made some efforts to get in contact with students at other American universities and well-known Latin Americans, but at this time the campaign for Pablo Neruda had already began. And that, of course, threw some water on our party." And the rest of the story is already known: a couple years later, in 1971, Neruda was boarding a plane to Stockholm to receive the Nobel.

Thus the extensive history of campaigns which have been launched to get Parra the Nobel prize has a premature beginning. Since 1969, there have been other attempts at, let's say, a smaller scale. But it seems they haven't made enough noise for the Swedish Academy to take note of the Chilean poet; there have been other factors that worked against him: mainly, Parra's low visibility outside of Chile. Or, better said, the sporadic nature of his publications in countries such as France, Germany, the US, and, of course, Sweden. "At least in the US, in the academic world, he and his work became rather well-known early in career. But we ought to recognize that in university classrooms very little poetry, and even less foreign.language poetry, is read," says the American academic and scholar of Parra's work, Marlene Gottlieb.

Gottlieb was in charge of organizing the campaign of 1995. And, perhaps along with the campaign of 2001, this was the most important one, although there was others in the 90's. At least, it generated a decent amount of noise. Beforehand, there was another in 1993, but it wasn't comparable to the campaign of 1995, led by the aforementioned academic, which had the Instituto Cervantes of New York as its official nominating institution. As well, there was the campaign of 2001, in which people like José Antonio Viera-Gallo were involved and which, until now, has been the campaign with the most media coverage. To all of these, we must add the current campaign which is being led by Chilean, American, and European universities and among others will include the celebrated Peruvian critic and Brown University professor Julio Ortega as one of its leaders.

This time, the college that started it all is Diego Portales University. As well, universities such as Pompeu Fabra (Spain) and Leiden (Holland) are taking part in crafting the document which will be sent to the Swedish Academy at the end of January. The National Council for Culture has also been helping.

The Nobel and its paradoxes
Julio Ortega isn't a new name in this. On the contrary, he has long followed Parra's work. It was in 1964, when the poet visited Lima, invited by the Peruvian writer José María Arguedas, that a 22-year old Ortega heard Parra give a reading and his left stupefied. He wrote an article for a newspaper, "Parra and Paradoxes" and Argudas himself wrote to congratulate him. Ortega recalls: "I realized that to converse with Parra's poetry was to be part of a group of practitioners of the most contemporary language: a language that invites us in as interlocutors." According the Peruvian professor, this is one of the keys to Parra: that many readers feel a kind of community around his work and figure.

Some years later, when he was a student at Yale, Ortega had a chance to meet in person the author of Artifacts [i.e., Parra]. And they spoke for hours, establishing a connection that is still alive. And not only that: in 1991, Julio Ortega was part of the jury for the first Juan Rulfo Prize, which was given to Parra in the Guadalajara Book Fair that year, when the antipoet gave his now-classic "Guadalajara Speech" that, not for nothing, contained towards the end a little comic poem titled "After the Rulfo, Time to Dream about the Nobel?" with the line, "If they didn't give it to Rulfo / Why will they give it to me?"

Together with Ortega, Marlene Gottlieb has been one of the other academics that have helped popularize Parra's work. She began to read the Chilean's poetry when she was a student at Columbia University, around 1966. And she was the author of the first thesis about the poet written in the United States. She notes about her participation in the campaign of 1995: "Basically, I called academics, and, as they knew well Parra's work and taught it in their classes, they totally agreed that it was time for him to receive the Nobel. Then I wrote the letter and they signed it". She brought together 300 intellectuals from around the world to sign the document. There were receptions and conferences in various cities and universities, but mostly in the United States, which give a somewhat international touch to the campaign.

A few years before, there was another attempt, the campaign of 1993 which had the University of Concepción as its official sponsor. At that time, José Antonio Viera-Gallo was a congressional representative for the city of Concepción and got in contact with the people in that university's Spanish department (a group who were mostly "Parrians"). "The problem in those years is that Parra hadn't published a "Complete Works" in Spanish, unlike now. And though he was known in some academic environments in the US, his work had not been fully translated into English, French and Swedish. And when it was translated, it was rather intermittent, when there should be a certain continuity in that." explains Viera-Gallo.

What he remembers most from this instance is that they began to see the first signals of support from Parra's fans. Graffiti and flyers appeared in the streets of Santiago, something that has been maintained until today - near Parra's house in La Reina and in other places as well, it's common to see references like The Nobel for Parra!. This campaign, happily, was coming from his staunchest fans. The people who read Parra, but not from the academy. 

[... in 2001 there was another campaign...] "The people of the Academy are quite distrustful. They didn't approach us at all," remembers Viera-Gallo, who in 2001 was the senator from Concepción and also the most active politician in the campaign. "What they did recommend to us with this: to have the collected works translated into Swedish. And it also wouldn't be a bad idea to have Parra give a reading in Stockholm."

[...About the Nobel,] "Parra just laughs, he takes it seriously and also not so much," says the journalist Lerzundi. "The last time that I saw him, when I asked him if he was thinking about the Nobel, he answered no, but he was working on his "Stockholm Speech" just in case." Some even joke that the anti-poet should put out a book that collects just his poems and other writings about why they should give him, or why they haven't given him, the Nobel prize. "It's a distracted prize [??]. There have been great moments of sudden attention, but Parra is in good company: Borges, Kafka, Joyce, Rulfo" says Ortega. "The only constant about the Nobel is its capacity to surprise. The Swedes do that with great success."

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1.28.2012

 

Tsunami step-by-step

The journalistic organization CIPER has just put out an exposé of the various errors that led to chaotic and contradictory information from the goverment in the hours after the earthquake of February 2010, which helped lead to many deaths in the ensuing tidal wave (some people even went back down from the hills after hearing that a tsunami was not coming, only to be surprised a short time later). It doesn't seem to be a huge national story, but certainly there's keen interest in the most effected areas. And a judicial investigation is ongoing, which recently made a bit of a splash by indicating that ex-president (and likely candidate for another term) Michelle Bachelet was going to be questioned in the matter. The following is just the beginning of a very long article.

Tsunami Step-by-Step: The Scandalous Errors and Omissions of SHOA and ONEMI
by Jorge Aliaga Sandoval and Pedro Ramirez, January 18th, 2012.

In Valparaíso, the officers of the Navy Oceanographic Service (SHOA) didn't reverse the cancellation of the tsunami warning, even though the the oceanographic on duty warned of "destructive waves". In Santiago, staff of the National Emergency Office (OMENI) learned of the wave that devastated Juan Fernandez and still didn't give warning. In the next two hours, enormous waves killed 36 people. These are only two of the dozen gave errors committed by civilian and military authorities that had to be masked for security reasons on the morning of February 27, 2010 and which this investigation from CIPER (Center of Investigative Reporting) unveils for the first time.

3:34, zero hour

The soft rocking put him on alert. He woke up as the earthquake was just beginning and instead of becoming frightened, he sharpened his senses. When the bedroom began to shake furiously, his wife jumped out of bed to safeguard the children. He didn't lose his cool or seek refuge. Unlike the almost 12 million Chileans throughout the six most populated regions of the country that woke up terrified, Jore Henríquez Cárcamo got up and against his survival instinct, he tried to measure the force unleashed by the earth.

That morning, the 27th of February 2010, Henríquez was the chief of the National Emergency Office (ONEMI) of the Biobio region. In technical terms, he was what´s called a "trained observer." In the darkness he gauged the creaking and crunching of the surrounding buildings, the bucking of the furniture, and the crash of things that shattered on the floor. But the clearest sign that the quake would become a tragedy, he could barely keep himself standing. He calculated the intensity on the Mercalli scale and immediately thought about the chance of a tsunami, as he was only three kilometers from the shore in San Pedro de la Paz. Henríquez picked up his phone while the earth continued to release lashes of energy and dialed the number of the ONEMI central office in Santiago. He knew that communications would collapse as soon as the ground quieted down.

One of the three staff members on duty at the High Alert Center (CAT) answered his call. It might have been the night manager, the radio operator or the driver. On the fly, Henriquez reported that the quake was intensity IX or X on the Mercalli scale. On the other side of the phone, they indicated that current information pointed only to a degree VII. Henríquez got angry:
- Look, you son of a bitch, this is an earthquake and it's IX or X.

Henriquez had never talked about this with his ONEMI colleagues, until during a reunion dinner, in April 2011. When Carmen Fernandez, the ex-director of ONEMI who resigned after the earthquake heard Henriquez's story.
-I felt my legs buckle when I heard it- Fernandez later told CIPER.

Henriquez's story leaves evident which in the early morning of the earthquake, one of the three staff members on duty at CAT dismissed a key piece of information to evaluate the early possibility of a tidal wave. That morning's log, officially put out by the CAT office, erroneously indicates that in the Biobio region the earthquake was only a Mercalli VIII.

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1.26.2012

 

Failed anti-smoking law = more years of coughing for me

It was only a year or two that Chicago had a strict anti-smoking ordinance before I moved to Chile. And yet, I had quickly grown acustomed to eating and drinking and watching bands in clean atmospheres.


In Chile, it's different. For one thing, everyone smokes, and I mean everyone. I think I've met about 5 people in 3 years that don't smoke. From sweet, goody-goody girls in my class to vaguely menacing 14-year olds wearing expensive Pumas and NY Yankees hats, to fruit vendors wearing wide-brimmed straw-hats and hawking cantalopes on a horse cart, they're all equal at the moment of asking "got a light?"


In that regard, it's sort of shocking that, for a brief time, it seemed smoking was about to be banned in restaurants and bars. Already there are two anti-smoking regulations: one, all cigarettes have graphic photos of the effects of smoking - I believed, for like a year, that one brand was called "infarto" until I learned that it meant "heart attack". Two, all restaurants must have a non-smoking section, usually a few chairs behind a useless frosted half-wall.


Well, the hope of change was great while it lasted.


Deputies Take Out the Article that Would Have Banned Smoking in Restaurants and Bars

The Anti-Tabacco Law, dealt with last week in the Lower House, has generated a series of reactions both within the Congress and in civic organizations. The discussion has centered on the removal of the article which sought to garantee "spaces 100% free of smoke" in enclosed public places, such as bars, casinos, restaurants, and discotheques. Specifically, this phrase was rejected by 47 representatives of various stripes, while it received only 42 votes in favor as well as 11 abstentions.

The current law only establishes the separation of smokers' and non-smokers' setions in these types of  places. The rejected initiatives was much more restrictive. Among parliamentarians and civil society groups, there were two stances on the polemical article. For some, it is important not to infringe the liberty of smokers in enclosed public places, while others point the emphasis on the right of the state to safeguard the health of Chileans, especially the workers in smoke-filled places.

The conservative representative Karla Rubliar stated in a letter to La Segunda that the spirit of the bill is not being fulfilled, since people are currently permitted to smoke in enclosed public spaces. "Chile is leaving incomplete international agreements which it has committed to. And the gravest thing is that its permissiveness is damaging the health of the population. On the contrary, her counterpart on the far right, Felipe Salaberry, showed his contentment with the voting results: "without damaging the liberty of people to avoid smoke, public leisure places, like restaurants and bars, should have a smoking section, as the law established years ago."

The president of the Chilean Respiratory Illnesses Society, Carolina Herrera, has a completely differing view. As she explained in a letter sent to La Tercera, the removal of the article is "inexplicable" and will mean a step backward, since for the first time a consensus had been acheived among the various postures. "The excision of this article is a threat to the entire law currently under modification, because it violates the right to health of workers in pubs and restaurants, on exposing them involuntarily to smoky environments."

The organization Tabacco-Free Chile, directed by Sonia Cobarruvias, also criticized the measure. As well, the president of the College of Physicians, Enrique Paris, who showed and discontent and called for considering the employees who are affected by cigarette smoke. "We should think of the health of users [i.e. smokers] as well as workers exposed to smoke in these businesses. We could have the case of a pregnant woman who is a waitress and working in a business where smoking is allowed. Who will play the workers for the medical treatments they might need?"

CIPER Chile, unsigned blog, Jan. 25, 2012

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1.23.2012

 

Students expelled for occupations

The student movement in Chile is taking something of a summer break. Although who knows what's to come: in recent student federation elections, even more radical candidates than the previous year's were chosen in various universities, including the emblematic University of Chile.

But often it's forgotten here that the movement began with high school, not university, students. And there leaders are being systematically expelled from school. I have translated about the first half of a long investigation in the matter by CIPER, the only news source in the country that seems to do serious investigative reporting. And although the details may seen somewhat eye-glazing and local, the stories of the student's lives are quite interesting, I think.

More recent news is that some of the expulsions have been ruled illegal, as political persecution or simple misuse of power (ie, the police should investigate crimes, not a school system). But the majority of expulsions were done under the table and are otherwise unaffected by the ruling.


In the High Schools of Ñuñoa and Providencia, Massive Expulsions of Student Leaders
by Catalina AlbertJuan Andrés Guzmán y Rossana Farfán, published Jan. 13, 2012

In the municipality of Providencia, there are 62 students unenrolled or expelled. In Ñuñoa, 109. No organization or agency has yet carried out a complete national count of the massive punishment of the students who took over their schools, and the government remains committed to a more organized punishment in the future: an Anti-Occupation Law, which would allow student leaders that call for marches to be taken prisoner. Getting ahead of this law, the mayors Sabat (of Ñuñoa) and Labbé (of Providencia) have already expelled or left unenrolled 24 spokesmen from schools taken over in 2011. With this drastic method, the authorities are looking for a 2012 without such social unrest.

"The comments of Mayor Sabat were slanderous. What he said was quite far from the reality within the high school. There was discipline, calm, happiness." says Silvio Rivera, one of the young men who remained in the National Girls' Boarding School during the take-over which lasted from June to January. That was Silvio's response to the denigrating comments made last Wednesday by mayor Pedro Sabat, who said that the takeover of the boarding school had turned into a "whorehouse." He accused that the men had been allowed to enter, that many girls were living with male students [from other schools], and the cost of repairing the school would be $200 million pesos ($400,000 US) due especially to the destruction of the computers.

"I am a sad, poor mayor that has made a gigantic effort so that my schools be the best places possible," said Sabat in the emotional roller-coaster day that followed his initial statement. He also said the authorities had been completely disrespected, using a colorful phrase.

Silvio Rivera is one of the young men who were on site during the take over. He is the brother of a student, Colomba Rivera, who was in her first year at the said school. He assures that "no one was looking for a slut at the school. If we were there, it was so that nothing would happen to the girls, because the school is located near the neighborhood Rosita Renard, which is a dangerous place. Silvio remained with his sister until November, and says that "the people who were there were committed to the student movement."

The National Girls' Boarding School has 559 students. Colomba Rivera explains that in June, 70 percent of them supported the take-over to join the national student movement for quality education. "This was not a whorehouse; we had convictions. The males that entered came to protect us. But even so, criminals broke in and robbed us anyway." That is she believes the 40 computers disappears, a robbery of which Sabat accuses the students.

While the public discussion has focused on the sexual and criminal accusations, the municipal education system has left unenrolled 109 young people in Ñuñoa and 62 in Providencia, according to a count by CIPER [the journalistic organization that published this article]. The families of these young people have had to deal with these expulsions themselves, since the Ministry of Education hasn't even counted how many students are in this situation, looking for a new school after being punished for the mobilizations of 2011.

The comments of Sabat, as well as other authorities like the mayor of Providencia, may make it seem to these families that the mobilizations were just a disturbing party, with sex and violence, without any useful objective or noble cause.

After mayor Sabat's declarations, his daughter, the deputy Marcela Sabat, said that her father was "not temperamentally in the best of places". In the following hours, Sabat apologized for losing his cool, but did not retract his accusations. In fact, he called the occupying students "little fools."

Having a clear picture about what occurred is important not only for the public record, but also because these days Congress is discussing the so-called "Anti-Occupation Law," urged by the Ministry of the Interior. The Law is also known as the Hinzpeter Law, named for the Interior Minister who has been a target of relentless student criticism. The act seeks to sanction "invading, occupying, or looting educational establishments" and could gain public sympathy if the collective memory of 2011 coincides with mayor Sabat's: degenerate behavior, robbery, and violence.

Amnesty International has been very critical of the proposed law, saying that it would take away fundamental rights. For Ana Piquer, executive direction of Amnesty International, the most troubling aspect is the word "disorder," which is vague enough to allow action against students for various reasons. "The lack of clarity in the concept "disorderly conduct" could bring along fundamental threats to the rights of assembly and protest," signaled the lawyer.

Getting Rid of the Leaders
One of the articles of the proposed law allows the authorities to punish with jail time leaders who convoke marches which end up in violent clashes. The bill proposes "to establish clearly the criminal responsibility of those who participate, of who have incited, promoted, or fomented disorders or other acts of force or violence that implicates certain grave acts such as paralyzing or interrupting a public service..." 


The constitutional lawyer Patricio Zapata has said about this rule: "Don't be confused. The idea, in this case, is not to punish the encapuchados [hooded, violent protesters]. Note that it also doesn't seek to punish those that incite violence. The goal is rather to punish those who convoke a social mobilization that ends in disorder. It's not necessary to have wanted this result, it's enough to have foreseen it as possible." The article reminds this lawyer of a proposal by Pinochet in 1983 to "criminalize organizers of protest marches."

But before this bill has been approved, the municipalities of Ñuñoa and Providenca are already sanctioning leaders of the takeovers with what they have at hand: expulsions and cancelations of enrollments. CIPER's count indicates that in Ñuñoa and Providencia, 24 student spokesmen have been left out of the public school system. The majority of these young people don't belong to any political group; their leadership was formed spontaneously during discussions between students. Their expulsion represents a heavy blow to the organization of high school students, and makes one think that in next March [beginning of 2012 school year], few students would be willing to lead protest movements, as they would be risking expulsion and even jail if the Hinzpeter Law is approved.

Various educational establishments have put into force a new measure: they demand that students, on enrolling, sign a commitment that in 2012 they will not mobilize. This is the case at Liceo Tajamar, a girls' school in Providencia. The administration delivered to its 1,165 students - to sign "voluntarily" - a promise not to participate in protests or takeovers the following year. The same thing happened at Liceo Alessandri, the only difference being that the students' parents or guardians signed the document of "apoliticism." In Ñuñoa, according to students at Liceo José Toribio Media, the 1,127 students had to sign obligatorily a promise not to get bad grades, misbehave, or participate in mobilizations.

It's possible that the schools are just getting rid of students that provoked destruction and theft, as the mayors allege. The important thing is that in the review done by CIPER of the expulsions in Ñuñoa and Providencia, no records were found regarding these accusations. Although in some cases, the schools followed certain existing norms for expulsion, in most cases the students simply found that they had lost their place for next year, without possibility of appeal. This happened in Liceo Tajamar, where students were notified on the final day of registration, vitiating any recourse as stipulated in the student manual, such as an appeal to a committee of teachers.



I Don't Regret It
Scarlett Bravo is one of the student spokesmen expelled in Providencia, and like many of the students that exercised leadership in 2011, she is an outstanding student. She is 17 years old and was a junior in Liceo Carmela Carvajal de Prat, a nationally recognized girls' school.


Scarlett was living in Angol, and in 2009, when she was selected for this high school, she came to live in Santiago along with her mother and brother, while her father remained in the south working. There are plenty of high schools in the 550 kilometers that separated Scarlett's families, but - and this is the motivation for the student complaints of 2011 - practically none of them are like the Liceo Carmela, which offers its students an almost secure path to university. One indicator is that the school obtained 42nd place among the almost 3,000 schools that took the PSU standardized university entrance test.

"For us, it was difficult to decide to separate, but we knew it was the high school where my daughter had to study" says Scarlett's father.

It was Liceo Carmela's attraction of distant students which mayor Cristian Labbé referred to when, confronting the student takeovers, he announced first the closure and then the massive expulsion of protesters. "85 percent of the students in Providencia are from outside the city and receive an education from which 99 percent enter university, and yet they bite the hand that feeds them. No more! We're going to focus on students from Providencia," said Labbé.

Labbé thinks that the students that arrive there should be grateful for the education that the municipality offers them. And Scarlett felt grateful, but just didn't stop thinking about those who didn't have the same luck. Now she is one of 10 students not enrolled in the school. They expelled her for having participated in the occupation of the ex-Congress building, when the then-Minister of Education was trapped. Scarlett admits that in this action she broke a pane of glass.

"It was rather stupid. Everyone was banging the other windows to make noise, and I joined and it so happened the window next to me was crystal. I knocked it and it broke. It was an accident," she says sheepishly. As for the months of occupation in Liceo Carmela, she reflects: "I don't regret anything, I feel more proud than disappointed. We managed to wake up the girls within the school and that will stay with me: that they don't just feel good getting good grades in math, but that they want to be more socially conscious women."

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1.20.2012

 

Heartwarming: Boy finds a new Dad!

Recently, I read the following heartwarming story. Enjoy.

The History of the First Single Man to Adopt a Child in Chile

Pablo Estrada (40) didn't have planned to be a father, but then he met Andrés (6). Although adoption law favors married couples, he struggled for a year and a half, until becoming his dad. He is the first that has achieved this.

Pablo doesn't remember details. He doesn't remember the topic of the conversation. In fact, he doubts that they talked about anything.at all. He doesn't even remember the exact date. In general terms, he can say that one afternoon in 2008, he arrived at the "Angels" Language School, in the borough of Providencia, because Ena, his girlfriend and a teacher there, had asked him to meet a child. To see how the child had transformed from an unbearable rouge into a child she had become hooked to. More from her insistence than from his own interest, Pablo was waiting in the yard to see who was this rascal Ena constantly talked about. When she called Andrés over, Pablo saw a chubby three-year-old, with a cleaned shaved head that rashly leaped through the nearby window and hugged him without even saying hello.

The hug he remembers well. It was warm, very tight. "It moved me. It was skin-tight." says Pablo, word-by-word. A few minutes later, he got back in his pickup and drove back to work, still disturbed. History shows that almost three years after that said, the so-called chubby boy became his legal son. Despite fatherhood not being in his plans, he struggled for this boy and became the first single man to adopt a child in Chile.

Pablo (40, architect) is not the first single man in Chile to try to adopt a child. But he is the first he has achieved it. Last year, 1,100 people attended the informational talks which are the first step in the adoption process. Just 8 were single men. Single women were a bit more common. In fact, nine of them managed to adopt in 2009, 2.1% of the country's total. In 2010 they only achieved six, and last year twelve. "They made me do exams with psychologists and social workers two times each, to complete my report. I assume that that's outside the norm and, perhaps, as I am single, they wanted to prove that I was really interested in adopting Andrés," tells Pablo. In fact, they incessantly harped on if he sure that he alone would take this great responsibility.

Days after his first visit with Andrés, he agreed with Ena to come visit the boy twice a week. Every Wednesday and Friday, Pablo and Andrés would play in the yard of the group home where he lived. Because of work commitments, Ena only come on Fridays. After a year, the pair asked for authorization to leave the home with him during their visits. The first time, they went to the zoo on Cerro Cristóbal in Santiago. It was a wonderful afternoon, but the trip back complicated matters. "He was crying, head-butting the wall. The kids there do that often. It was painful to leave him like that."

In his first three years, Andrés had more hardships than his share. He was a premature baby, his mother abused drugs and alcohol while pregnant, and he was born weighing barely a kilo and a half. He had a kidney operation as an infant. He was often hospitalized for various respiratory ailments. And there were consequences. He had retardation in his psychomotor development. It was difficult to learn to talk and walk. But none of that changed Pablo's opinion.

Andrés' birthday is January 21. A bit before this day in 2010, Pablo and Ena had a brief conversation that can be summed up in a phrase: the moment arrived. "When I became to visit him, I didn't have a concrete idea in my head, but I knew that I was going somewhere. I didn't see myself leaving him there and us continuing our lives. It would have been tremendously damaging for him. And for us," says Pablo.

Pablo and Ena decided to begin the process as a couple, but in a short time, Ena dropped out. The illness of only only brother forced for to center her energies on her family and the couple distanced themselves. The plan to adopt Andrés seemed to be falling through the cracks.

The Waiting Room


Pablo had to decide. If he stalled too long, Andrés would be taken to a new group home, since he would no longer be the right age for his then-residence. It seemed they were losing the way and all the work they'd already completed. "I tried to convince Ena to stay involved, but I came to a point where I simply had to continue solo. So I did.

"I didn't feel a disadvantage compared to the married couples were wanted to adopt. I thought it would be like that, but actually I had some advantages. Andrés and I had a affinity that he wouldn't have with anybody else. In the first year he was calling my Papa. If they let him call me Papa at the residence, I didn't think they would introduce him to other families. In their way, they were letting me know that Andrés was mine... and later some of the "aunts" [group home attendants] told me that was the case," explains Pablo.

It would not be easy. The biological mother appeared on the scene. A short time after Pablo began the process, the child's mother was called for an internal revision. "If she accepted, it could have thrown out the entire process. Fortunately, she didn't want to be involved. It was a big scare," he tells. However, she didn't want to see him. So when Andrés was declared available for adoption, Pablo felt relief.

The relationship that Pablo and Andrés established left in the dust the preferences of adoption law. Rolando Melo, national director of the Child Protection Service, makes it clear: the priority falls first to domestic couples, then couples from abroad, and finally to divorced or single people. But Pablo did it all backwards; first he met Andrés, then he decided to adopt him, and then he began the process. He was his dad two years before the judge of the First Family Court signed her decision.

New Family
Andrés's toys are perfectly piled up on a shelf with four cubbyholes. On the highest part are the stuffed animals, including two Barneys. Next to them, the cars: Rayo McQueen, a Formula One, a firetruck, and a bunch more. Below, there is a complete zoo of rubber animals. Next to them, superheroes. "As he's a bit naughty, when I began to bring him from the group home, he would bring a toy each time. I would ask him to return it, but he'd say 'Later.' He intuited that this would become his permanent room. Now it's full of toys."

Ina hallway of the house there is a clock that doesn't give the time, but has instead a photo of Pablo and Andrés. In the living room, there are three photos. Andrés appears in all three. In one image, he is hugging Pablo, in another his is next to a character of the Backyardigans, Tyrone. In the final photo, he appears with Pablo's parents.

Andrés is spending these summer days in Villarica, in the house of his grandparents. He was the first to arrive in the family, but he's the oldest grandchild. Next are two girls. Pablo says that he gets along fine with his cousins, and that Andrés follows his grandpa wherever he goes. Pablo's parents have played a key role. And, he says, he remembers something they said to him. "They did not expect my decision, but they said that they were proud. They are happy."

His parents came to Santiago last October 4, to accompany him to the adoption proceedings. Pablo had butterflies in his stomach, even though for a whole year Andrés had been coming to his house on weekends. He had felt like a dad for some time. "I thought that if they didn't give me him, I'd keep trying. Sooner or later, he would turn 18 and come to be with me."

Nothing turned out wrong that day. Andrés did his part, he entered the courtroom crawling, making everyone laugh. For him, it was a process. He was asked if he really wanted to live with Pablo. "He was alone with the judge. But it wasn't more than two minutes." After that, the First Family Court gave legal life to the new family. "We were so close. It was an impossibility that someone would get the idea to separate us."

That day, they had a barbecue in the house. Something simple, as it was a workday. Yet emotional. They were his brothers, parents, some friends, and also Ena.

Last names
"I asked Ena if she wanted to be the mom and she responded yes," Pablo tells. They are trying to restart their relationship, and she is becoming ever more involved in the task of raising Andrés. In the coming weeks, Andrés will take on two last names: one of hers, and one of his: Estrada Méndez [normal is Spanish speaking countries] While this happens, Pablo and Andrés will continue their routine. In March, he will begin first grade in a school in La Florida with a focus on social integration. Even on vacation, Andrés wakes up around 8 in the morning. Andrés goes to Pablo's room and asks to see cartoons. Pablo asked him to say "Good Morning" first, and then turns on the TV:

When they ask Andrés about his dad, they say he works and watches TV. Nothing else. Pablo has tried to make him a fan of the U [soccer team]. Besides a stuffed lion, he has a giant flag in his room and has taken Andrés to the stadium. But Andrés gets bored. There are also parts of his life that he hasn't forgotten. Like his friends. When Pablo's high school friends gave Andrés a welcome with plenty of presents, Andrés didn't go crazy about the presents. He was just happy to have friends again.

Pablo would like to have more kids. In fact, he always wanted many kids, but fatherhood came to him in a way he never thought. "Andrés and I simply met each other. And now he's my son. I just happened to meet him in an unexpected way."

La Tercera, Jan. 14, by Paulina Sepúlveda / José Miguel Jaque, in Spanish here.

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