CULTURE Social Crisis

From Matapacos to Pareman: Symbols of the Chilean Protests

SANTIAGO – The unrest in Chile the past few weeks has been historic. Collective energy continues to propel the current social movement forward in its quest for social equality, dignity, and justice. Along the way, many inspiring “heroes” have been drafted into the cause: el Negro Matapacos, Pareman, la señora de morado, and Baila Pikachu, just to name a few.

In the crucible of the current social crisis in Chile, many new pop culture symbols have been forged or rediscovered. Equal parts jester and jouster, they give strength to the movement through powerful and playful imagery.

El Negro Matapacos

El Negro Matapacos—or “Black Cop-Killer,” in English—is probably one of the most popular symbols of resistance for the Chilean cause. 

The black stray dog became the spirit of the 2011 student revolution in Chile, after people noticed him joining every student march, defying tear gas and riot police in Santiago. Negro Matapacos earned his name for never hurting a student or civilian, but always turning aggressive against police, barking and attacking them on sight during protests.

When not escorting protests, Negro Matapacos roamed the Central University, University of Santiago, and the Metropolitan Technical University, threading his way through the crowds with a jaunty red handkerchief around his neck. Beloved by students, he died of old age on August of 2017, under volunteer veterinarians’ care.

Negro Matapacos was subsequently canonized in documentaries, songs, murals, and other works of art. 

Today, his image is back stronger than ever for the current movement in Chile. He has even become an international symbol, recently popping up in protest art at New York subway fare evasions, after a provocative incident had many out rallying against police violence and racism.

Chile’s most revolutionary furry friend has become an immortal reminder of resistance to oppression.


Other Chilean superheroes were not born by spider bites or radioactive accidents, but by particular acts of presence.

Face covered against the teargas, shirtless, and armed with a stop sign as a shield, Pareman was first spotted on la Alameda in Santiago, during a protest that eventually turned violent. 

His unintentional heroic stance, stop (or “pare”) sign, and the mystery around his identity, earned him the names “Pareman” and “Captain Pare.” His image quickly went viral and became another symbol of revolution and resistance.

In fact, after Pareman was compared to Negro Matapacos, illustrator Guido “Kid” Salinas and writer Sebastián Castro created comic about Pareman and the revolutionary stray dog. Salinas has made the first page available through Twitter. (The two collaborators are also authors to the popular Chilean comic saga “Guardians of South.”)

La señora de morado and Baila Pikachu: The Rage and the Fun

The pictures of la señora de morado (“the purple lady,” in English), also referred to as La Naná, were taken in the middle of a protest being suppressed by police. Photographers spotted a woman in a bright purple dress directly defying the police by hitting their vehicles with a stick.

The red handkerchief covering her nose and mouth and the thin wooden stick in her hand could not possibly stand against the teargas or armored vehicles around her. Nevertheless, such were no obstacles to her rage, and her picture, too, was shared and quickly popularized. La señora de morado, fighting the police directly, became an image of bravery in the face of the most powerful.

“Baila Pikachu,” on the other hand, strikes a humorous note. As seemingly out of place as possible, the popular yellow character from the Pokemon saga is now a mascot for the Chilean movement, after a person in a giant Pikachu costume was seen dancing with protesters in late October.

The giant Pikachu was first seen excitedly dancing to the chant “¡Baila, Pikachu!”—or “Dance, Pikachu!”, in English—from the protesters, who found in the character a reason to laugh, cheer, and connect the social movement with a bit of fun. Soon, the chant became the name and “Baila Pikachu” was born.

Behind the mascot is Giovanna Grandon, a 44-year-old school bus driver who started wearing the Pikachu suit to bring some joy to the protests, which can sometimes be soul-crushing and wearying to the bone. “[I want to] collaborate with the [people’s] wellbeing, and try to bring a message of support, that we get together as a people, to be more empathetic with each other,” she says in FayerWayer.

Illustrator Nicolás Ahumada and many other artists recognize these characters and their underlying meaning as a tool for civic union. In fact, he illustrated a scene of the most popular heroes of the Chilean protests – Negro Matapacos, Baila Pikachu, the purple lady, and Pareman, in an epic crossover, to make a mass call to march on Nov. 8.

In the Chilean protests, these civic heroes not only bring their stories and messages of hope, they also transcend to become images of resistance and persistence. In this way, these Chilean pop culture symbols unite the public pushing for change, and they will likely continue to inspire and be celebrated by future generations.

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