Chile’s dog days

August 15, 2011

By Ivan Alvarado

Today it seems the dictatorship ended only recently….

A newspaper front page shows a dog participating in the demonstrations in Chile. It seems that anything can happen these troubled days around the world, so between slogans and statements it makes sense to write a blog about street dogs and demonstrations.

“Free quality education.” – Student movement
“Nothing is free in life.” – President Sebastian Pinera
“Education should not be for profit.” – Student movement
“Gang of useless subversives.” – Carlos Larrain, president of the ruling party
“We don’t need mediators, and especially not from the Catholic Church.” – Camila Vallejo, student leader.
“It’s going to fall, it’s going to fall….the education of Pinochet.” – Demonstrators.
“Education is a commodity.” – President Pinera.
“The government exaggerates the students’ claims to demonize them.” – Mario Waissbluth, expert on education.
“The only thing they [the demonstrators] want to do is destroy the country and us.” – Chile’s National Police.
“I’m a gardener and I want my son to be an engineer.” – Street graffiti.

With the camera on manual mode, shutter speed 1/1000, and my view limited by a gas mask, my 70-200mm lens changes focus with agility and it seems most often to lock on a dog running in and out of its view trying to capture a water jet aimed by riot police at hundreds of student protesters of diverse origin, all of them united under the conviction that a better education in Chile is possible.

The dog has its own battle. As the size of the demonstration grows and the police clash with protesters, the dogs’ excitation and desperation to grab the water jet increases. Street dogs that no one has ever trained or even thrown a Frisbee or a stick to, cannot remain indifferent. They enter the fight.

Although of mongrel origins, as they stand on the side of the demonstrators they suddenly become classified as of the “subversive” race. With their three years of age equivalent to 21 in human terms, their organization and attributes impress. But in exchange they receive only chemical-laced water.

From my position their battle seems obvious and focused, with no turning back. To them, the water jet is not impossible to capture and they prove themselves dedicated to the fight. These dogs want training as much as a Frisbee, and it’s not just for themselves but for the other street dogs in the neighborhood, in Santiago, or in all of Chile.

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