After the first game at home, I decided to go celebrate super Chileno style and go to Plaza Italia near the center where the victory parties are always held. I went via metro, not expecting too much craziness at 10:30 in the morning, but when I stepped off the metro at my stop, I realized I was wrong (you saw that one coming!). My nose started burning, I realized everyone around with covering their noses and mouths with their jackets and scarves, and the entire station was in disorder. I assumed someone had left some sort of stink bomb in the metro, so I hurried with hundreds of other people to get above ground. But when I got out, the stinging got worse and what I saw was a chaotic amount of people running around, eyes dripping, banners sagging, and looking rather frazzled. The carabineros (the police), were all around with their helmet shields over their eyes and batons in hand, some on horseback, most on foot, attempting to control the crowd. I was all alone in the apocalypse, but I was fascinated. A tank looking vehicle drove about 200 feet from where I was and sprayed a gas something into the air, and that's when I realized: tear gas. I turned to walk the other direction and luckily met up with my friend, and like a good little girl, I went back into the metro and went home. El Fin.
Hm, terrible story. If you are easily made worried, stick with that version.
But here's the real deal: ...like a good little adventurer, I wanted a better look at the source of the excitement. To be honest, even though carabiners were yelling at me to turn around and most people were running away, I wanted a peek at the madness' center. So I crossed the street with my friend to see the comotion first-hand. Luckily/unfortunately, we came too late to see the celebrating or anything substantial, just confetti on the ground and crowds of reporters on the sidewalk. When we walked by them, we saw a man that looked equivalent to a chief of police being interviewed by a civilian reporter. Seemed fairly calm at first, but as we approached more, a group started gathering around the two and the policeman began raising his voice. He got in the reporter's face and kept yelling and yelling as the others around him began yelling back in protest. And they were not nice words from either end. As the policeman stormed away, the people started laying down the real deal insults: "You can't hurt innocent people because we're celebrating!" "We have our freedom now, you can't control us by fear!" "This is no longer Pinochet's government!" Oh yes, they brought the Pinochet accusations, and it got real. From here, my better judgement switch turned on, and my friend and I bolted out of this potential war zone. Our nose and mouths still covered, we headed towards the nearby cafe where we planned on studying away the afternoon. This proved difficult however after we witnessed such madness and our lungs still burned, so we lashed out the situation among ourselves. If everyone was just celebrating, why did the carabineros drop the tear gas? Is it ok to hurt innocent people to control a crowd? Is it ok that the government interfere with a party if no one is getting hurt? Is pre-emptive semi-violent crowd control ok?
What we did conclude and what was confirmed after talking with out Chilean friends and families was that the authoritarian attitude of the Pinochet days in Chile is not dead. The Carabineros are the number 2 employer in all of Chile, that is to say that there are many thousands of policmen payed by national government. Piñera once used their forces to keep curfews and control protest (among other atrocities), President Bachelet used their forces in the south after the earthquake to control the looting and keep control, and now President Piñera used them after the world cup to stop the party. Of course the ties between the three are not necessarily making too deep of a statement as they are all very separate situations, however the carabineros are a widely used resource by the government. And the people accept this as part of life. As my papá said, "If the carabineros didn't do anything, the people would be partying all day, they would never leave! They had to break it up sometime."
Switching back to the mundial, the 2nd and 3rd games I also returned to the infamous Plaza Italia for the celebration, but those times I missed the tear gasing part. So much cheering, so much singing, so much happiness! The big street from downtown's heart all the way to Providencia's center (about 3 miles) was closed for celebration, and it is such an incredible feeling to be surrounded by an entire city cheering for their country. Again, crazy energy!
Today was the last game of the mundial and we lost to Brazil. It was a good fight though, and I mean, Brazil is Brazil, so I am proud we made it this far! You might be saying to yourself, "we?" And I say back yes, we. I am be proud to be an American, but I am also proud to be here when this adopted country of mine has overcome a lot of odds to come as far as they did in the ultimate super bowl.