|SANTIAGO — Chile is a country of a million faces – or nearly 19 million, to be more exact. Chile Today sat down with some of them, well-known for their contributions to science, arts, media, or sports. Here are the words of famous soccer player, Iona Rothfeld.
“I think Chile is more awake. You can feel it in the streets. We are no longer willing to support a system that doesn’t represent or protect us. I don’t think Chile is better than it was before, but at least now we know we’re not okay, we are awake, and we’re doing something about it,” said Iona Rothfeld.
Rothfeld is a well-known soccer player and activist for gender equality. For seven years, she was a member of Chile’s national women’s soccer team. Rothfeld is also the founder and current director of the National Association of Female Soccer Players.
In October 2019, when the social crisis began, Rothfeld was finishing her political science studies at the St. Thomas University in Miami. She recalls feeling helpless and even nauseous to be far away when it all happened.
“That night [Oct. 18, 2019], I was on the phone with a friend who lives near the square where people gathered for the protests [Plaza Baquedano, in Santiago Center] and I could hear a lot of noise in the background: helicopters, people screaming … She is a photographer, so she told me she was going to go out and take pictures. I asked her not to hang up the phone.”
Rothfeld says she got to live the night through the phone. While her friend was telling her everything she was seeing, she remembers hearing gunshots, screams, alarms, and a lot of commotion.
“I got to hear first-hand and confirm that everything I was seeing on the news and in social media was true. I had a hard time believing that this was happening in my country. The military was out on the streets, I saw videos of police officers hitting people, and it was all real.”
A few days later, Rothfeld got together with about 50 Chileans who were also in Miami, and they went to protest in front of the Chilean embassy. “We demanded that the military be taken off the streets. We were, in some way, trying to replicate what people were doing in Chile and alert others about what was going on.”
For Rothfeld, the events that followed the night of Oct. 18 were a result of a system that does not equally include everybody. “The belief that we were Latin America’s oasis was not real. It was just an appearance.”
“This system was built to fail us. There is no space to allow for things to improve, and the current Constitution has everything to do with it. Societies are constantly evolving, changing, and our Constitution does not allow the changes we need.”
Apruebo or Rechazo?
Last Sunday, Oct. 25, Chileans decided to write a new Magna Carta. The two options citizens voted on were Apruebo (to approve the writing of a new constitution) and Rechazo (to reject it). Rothfeld was asked about her preference before the plebiscite was carried out.
“Apruebo. Without a doubt, I am for the Apruebo option. I don’t understand the people that insist on maintaining the current Constitution. I think those who are for the Rechazo option are simply not well informed.”
“I think voting Apruebo is the only option that makes sense, and it is also the option for which the Chilean people are and have been pushing for years.”
A New Constitution
Rothfeld seeks three additions to a new constitution.
“Personally, I think a priority should be to give constitutional recognition to the indigenous peoples, to enshrine gender equity, and to broaden the right to a clean environment.”
Rothfeld said it is important for Chileans to recognize that the privilege to study or, have access to education or health, is not a privilege shared by everyone.
“It breaks my soul to know that there are people in my country who have nothing to eat. The inequalities in Chile are so evident and so big.”
Seeing Past The Immediate Arguments Of The Rechazo Supporters
Some of the arguments that the Rechazo defenders gave during the campaign period were the violent context in which the new Constitution would be written, and the uncertainty the process would bring to millions of Chileans who are still suffering the economic consequences of the social crisis and the pandemic.
“No one is supporting the violence. No one wants to see our country destroyed, but I think it is necessary to dig deeper and try to understand where the [violent protesters’] rage and anger are coming from. It’s people who have been stuck in poverty for years, without proper access to the law or to health and education.”
“To solve the societal problems we have, we should stop pointing fingers and start understanding the basis of the outrage. We cannot care more about the destruction of buildings than we do about the lives of people.”
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant