SANTIAGO – After performing the opening dance for comedian Jorge Alís at the Festival of Viña del Mar Wednesday night, eight black dancers said they were singled out and approached by the Chilean Police of Investigations (PDI) for proof of identification. Several of those dancers told Chile Today why they felt discriminated against that evening.
It was supposed to be a memorable night and a chance of a lifetime. Eight dancers of different nationalities were chosen to do the opening dance scene for comedian Jorge Alís at the Viña del Mar festival, but what happened after the show shocked them. A PDI officer went to Alís’ dressing room to ask for all of the dancers’ documents, leaving them confused as to why it appeared that they were the only ones that night who were asked to provide documentation after the show.
“It was a very ugly experience,” said Bamba Ousmane, who lives in Santiago but was born in Senegal. “They didn’t ask the Chileans for their identification.” Ousmane has been dancing and performing African style choreography for years.
Chilean television actor Luis Fuentes Monsalve was working on Alís’ team that night and he called the situation “a terrible shame” especially because there is a lot of documentation that is provided long before the talents hit that very important stage. “We had everything in order” document wise, said Fuentes Monsalve.
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Jean Salazar Aspiazu is an Afro-Ecuadorian who has been living in Chile for 15 months pursuing his dream of becoming a model and dancer. After having performed in Chile and Latin America in general, he felt a sense of pride with his team in the dressing room as they celebrated a successful show. However, that sense of joy disappeared after the ordeal.
Salazar Aspiazu told Chile Today he believes that this was clearly racism and xenophobia on a night that was supposed to unite Latin America. “I think and believe that this was a case of racism because whether or not we were foreigners, the fact that we were there means that we had already been registered and with the necessary credentials.”
Several of the dancers told Chile Today that upon being approached by the PDI officer in regards to their documentation, which had already been provided, they thought it was a joke being played on them because part of Jorge Alís’ comedy show was about how immigrants, especially immigrants of color, are mistreated in Chile.
Elva Marina Castro is from Colombia and currently pursuing a career as a model. She was the last person to hand over her proof of residency to the officer. She said that she has gone through discrimination here in Chile because of her unapologetic African esthetics such as her afro hairstyle but that that night was different. “Since I’ve been in Chile, I’ve never felt more discriminated against than in that moment,” said Marina Castro.
“I feel outraged and discriminated against for obvious reasons. I felt sad because I couldn’t understand why in that specific moment.”
Marina Castro said that she wants to live in a society where people respect each other and do not make assumptions about each other. “You should never generalize people. For example, I’m Colombian and it’s sad to know that many Chileans think that Colombian women are prostitutes and that Colombian men are drug dealers,” said Marina Castro.
The PDI’s response
The PDI has released a statement after the controversy stating that “these audits are carried out in knowledge of the production and at the most appropriate time, so as not to hinder the normal development of programming.”
However this is not the first time that Chilean police forces have been accused of racially profiling people. Related reports pop up regularly on national media.
Anthony Hill is a multimedia journalist for Chile Today. He was born in the Bronx, New York and is currently living in Santiago, Chile. He double majored in journalism and political science at the State University of New York at Oswego. Before coming to Chile Today, he was a reporter for the NBC station in western Massachusetts.