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The present photo essay seeks to visualize the resilience of a transport system and how it exposes deep social differences in Chile. On the 18th October 2019 a social outbreak started, first in Santiago of Chile, to then expand the rest of the country. This seemed a moment of transformation, a turning point to address many unjust features of Chilean society, many of them related to inequalities and among them, to the experience of discomfort in public transportation. In reaction to the massive protests, subway stations were closed, train schedules were adjusted and train frequency reduced. As public transport service was temporarily reduced bikes started to emerge, people forgot the underground world and started walking the streets, appropriating bus lanes and car lanes. Due to the COVID19 pandemic that started shortly after, the city slowed down even more and urban mobility came to a halt in many ways. Paradoxically, once mandatory quarantine ceased, the dynamics of transport were re-established. The uncomfortable daily ride that was a topic of demonstrations has been resumed unchanged, in the same inhumane fashion already perpetuated for decades. The only appreciable post-COVID19 and post-demonstrations transformation is the obligation to wear face masks, as a new addition in people’s outfits. The first and the third set of photographs reconstruct the timeline of a subway ride, starting with images of the platform and continuing onto the subway wagons. The second set of photographs captures the demonstrations on Plaza Baquedano -or as the protesters dubbed it Plaza de la Dignidad (Dignity Square)- and the pedestrian and bicycles traffic, following overground the underground route of Line 1, the main line of Santiago’s subway which was suspended during demonstrations. We offer a general introduction to each section and then we present the photographs, hoping to encourage the reader’s own reflection on the complexities, fictions, and inertias experienced in the global south.
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Volume 5, No. 1/ Jan-Jun 2022 Righting the city - THE URBAN TRANSCRIPTS
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Crowded but With Masks: On the Resilience of an Unfair
Mobility, Reflections From Santiago, Chile
Fernando Campos-Medina, Iván Ojeda-Pereira and Josefa Mattei
Volume 5, No. 1/ Jan-Jun 2022 Righting the city - THE URBAN TRANSCRIPTS
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The present photo essay seeks to visualize the resilience of a transport system and how it exposes
deep social differences in Chile. On the 18th October 2019 a social outbreak started, first in Santiago
of Chile, to then expand the rest of the country. This seemed a moment of transformation, a turning
point to address many unjust features of Chilean society, many of them related to inequalities and
among them, to the experience of discomfort in public transportation.
In reaction to the massive protests, subway stations were closed, train schedules were adjusted and
train frequency reduced. As public transport service was temporarily reduced bikes started to emerge,
people forgot the underground world and started walking the streets, appropriating bus lanes and car
lanes. Due to the COVID19 pandemic that started shortly after, the city slowed down even more and
urban mobility came to a halt in many ways. Paradoxically, once mandatory quarantine ceased, the
dynamics of transport were re-established. The uncomfortable daily ride that was a topic of
demonstrations has been resumed unchanged, in the same inhumane fashion already perpetuated for
decades. The only appreciable post-COVID19 and post-demonstrations transformation is the
obligation to wear face masks, as a new addition in people’s outfits.
The first and the third set of photographs reconstruct the timeline of a subway ride, starting with
images of the platform and continuing onto the subway wagons. The second set of photographs
captures the demonstrations on Plaza Baquedano -or as the protesters dubbed it Plaza de la Dignidad
(Dignity Square)- and the pedestrian and bicycles traffic, following overground the underground route
of Line 1, the main line of Santiago’s subway which was suspended during demonstrations. We offer
a general introduction to each section and then we present the photographs, hoping to encourage
the reader’s own reflection on the complexities, fictions, and inertias experienced in the global south.
First moment
The experience of a subway ride can be heaven or hell. It has always depended on when in the day
you are taking the ride. For most users, everyday commute is a torture, travelling in the morning and
coming back in the afternoon. The daily experience on transportation is on average stressful,
suffocating, and uncomfortable. In October 2019, when the ticket price was raised for the third time
in that year, social rage unleashed. Price increase was the final straw that led to what has been named
“The Chilean October”. Under the statement “it’s not 30 pesos, it’s 30 years” (“no son 30 pesos son 30
años”), a raise of 30 cents in the public transportation ticket exploded/tipped, the outrage provoked
by countless daily abuses perpetrated for decades. Social rage, of some, went against the subway
itself. Many stations of the transportation network stopped operating for many months.
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The capsule, by the authors.
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Human sea. Source: Authors.
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Faces. Source: Authors
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Against the current. Source: Authors
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Relaxation (?). Source: Authors
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Living at full pace. Source: Authors
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Contrasts. Source: Authors
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Daily tiredness. Source: Authors
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Second moment
During the “Social Outbreak” of October 2019, several heterogeneous demands were advanced
seeking the dream of a new social pledge (Araujo, 2019). The break with former injustices was total,
after everyone sought a better quality of life and by extension a socially and territorially integrated
city. The word “Dignity” resonated everywhere and on the wave of this renewed emotion, the central
location and heart of the protest was renamed to “Square of Dignity”. The rage of some citizens burnt,
and destroyed some subway stations. Many stations were closed to avoid them becoming the target
of anger and indignation of large groups of people, expressing themselves through public spaces.
Many people, as subway service was suspended, turned to the surface and took long walks to attend
the massive protests, walking the subway route above ground. These journeys were performed as
groups, in collective ways, with songs and conversations about a new country. A journey much closer
to the idea of equality. This are the scenes before the arrival of the pandemic and quarantine into the
country.
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Going out to society. Source: Authors.
Resonance. Source: Authors
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Building public space. Source: Authors
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Third moment
Over time, seeking to restart business after months of quarantine, the authorities proposed a “new
normal”. An everyday life where social distance is seen as the solution to the urgency of avoiding the
spread of the virus. In line with the proposed distancing, one would expect that suffocation on public
transportation during peak hours would just be unwanted but that social distancing between
passengers would be prescribed to avoid infections. Remarkably the expected transformation did not
occur, not as a result of the “Social Outbreak” nor of the pandemic. The experience of an urban
transport system that reproduces social injustices is still here, currently the only difference is the
addition of mandatory masks. There has not been a significant change in the social experience of
mobility. The virus seems to be just an accessory to a still chaotic urban mobility. Every day, in the
morning and in the afternoon, people squeezed by a crowd in the subway resent living in a society
where marginalization is a social, economic and cultural fact, and nowadays a public health issue as
well.
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The capsule 2. Source: Authors.
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Human sea 2. Source: Authors
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Faces 2. Source: Authors.
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Against the current 2. Source: Authors
Relaxation (?) 2. Source: Authors
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Living at full pace 2. Source: Authors
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Contrasts 2. Source: Authors
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Daily tiredness 2. Source: Authors
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Notes
1. Donoso, S. and Sehnbruch, K. (2020). Social protests in Chile: inequalities and other inconvenient truths about
Latin America’s poster child. Global Labour Journal, 11(1), 52-58.
2. Badilla, M. (2020). When a Social Movement Quarantines: The Power of Urban Memory in the 2019 Chilean Anti-
neoliberal Uprising. Space and Culture, 23(3), 286292.
3. Fernandez, R y Moreno, C. (2019). Feminismos en las revueltas. En Hilos Tensados para leer el Octubre chileno (pp.
273-297) Santiago de Chile: Editorial USACH.
+
The work presented in this article has been produced as part of the “Estímulo a la Excelencia Institucional (PEEI) de la Facultad
de Ciencias Sociales de la Universidad de Chile mediante su Concurso de Fortalecimiento de Productividad y Continuidad de
Investigación (FPCI) 2019-I” Project.
NOTE
The work presented in this article has been produced as part of the “Estímulo a la Excelencia
Institucional (PEEI) de la Facultad de Ciencias Sociales de la Universidad de Chile mediante su
Concurso de Fortalecimiento de Productividad y Continuidad de Investigación (FPCI) 2019-I” Project.
BIOS
Fernando Campos-Medina is an sociologist with a Master in Housing and Urbanism, a PhD in Environmental
Sociology and in Urban Sociology. He is an Assistant Professor at the Sociology Department, University of Chile,
and Director of the Territorial Sociology Lab (TSL) in the same Department.
Iván Ojeda-Pereira is a Sociology graduate and a Master’s student in Political Science, at the Public Affairs
Institute, University of Chile. He is part of the Territorial Sociology Lab (TSL), at the Sociology Department at
University of Chile.
Josefa Mattei is a Sociology student, at the University of Chile, and part of the Territorial Sociology Lab (TSL), at
the Sociology Department at University of Chile.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
This article reflects on the connections between space, social movements, and urban memory by analyzing the effects of quarantine on the massive Chilean anti-neoliberal movement. It explores two aspects of the quarantine that have unsettled and challenged the spatial dimension of collective action: restrictions on transit through the city and the imposition of hygienic measures on infrastructure and social interactions. The article suggests that these aspects represent a concrete threat to social movements, while at the same time push to strengthen alternative spaces and repertoires of action. It concludes by illustrating the role of urban memories on the potential continuity of the mobilizations and their demands.
En Hilos Tensados para leer el Octubre chileno
  • Fernandez
  • C Moreno
Fernandez, R y Moreno, C. (2019). Feminismos en las revueltas. En Hilos Tensados para leer el Octubre chileno (pp. 273-297) Santiago de Chile: Editorial USACH.