Tag: Chile

The Migrant Human Library: an experiment of social inclusion

Imagine to be seated in front of a perfect stranger who is telling you a story, his life’s one. Imagine that this stranger tells you about a trip he made in the past on foot, by plane, train or boat to reach a new place and a new life. Imagine coming close to the fear, hopes and expectations of a person who has left his country with the awareness of becoming a migrant. This simple mechanism is at the basis of a unique experience of meeting the other: the Migrant Human Library. This moving experiment of sharing and meeting between people has been realised in the city of Talca, the capital of Maule Region, situated 259 kilometres south of Santiago de Chile, Chile. To make this possible was Colectivo MIGRA, an organisation created in 2014 with the aim of supporting the process of integration and positive cohabitation between the local community and migrants. MIGRA is working to grant the respect of human rights in a society that has experienced a great increase in the migratory influx, especially in the last two years.

Photo by Claudia Pérez Gallardo and Sebastián Quezada

The idea to create a meeting with migrant tales rises from the necessity to generate spaces in which people can be involved in creating a shared collective memory, and to break stereotypes in order to create a more inclusive and intercultural society. The concept of the human library is not new: it first appeared in the years 2000s in Denmark thanks to the work of the NGO Stop the Violence, when a group of young people decided to fight against all kinds of discrimination, violence and prejudice in their country. After that, the experience was replicated in more than seventy countries all over the world. Thanks to MIGRA, the Human Library arrives for the very first time in Chile, where it focuses on the thematic of migration, with the hope that it might be re-proposed and implemented in several other social contexts.

Realising a migrant human library is not difficult. What is needed is a simply decorated public space where the human books will wait for their readers – or better, listeners – who will choose their story with the help of librarians. The experience lasts twenty minutes, during which migrants share their life stories with listeners, who can ask questions and satisfy their curiosities. All the participants do is take some time to sit and talk, in order to get to know and understand each other better, and thus adding something to the process of learning to live together and share the same territory. The importance of simple initiatives like this one reflects the need to generate more spaces of encounter between different cultures and social groups, especially in those cities that today are experiencing a deep change in their traditional identity.

Cover Photo by Claudia Pérez Gallardo and Sebastián Quezada

When Sport Doesn’t Rhyme With Soccer

As we Italians are well aware of, soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world. Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, you name it: each continent has plenty of countries that go crazy for this game. No wonder every 4 years the World Cup competition becomes an international affair that almost nobody can resist. However, not every country is so fond of it or, even when they are, some are equally passionate about other traditional sports. That’s why, right in the middle of the European championship that gets huge international coverage, we decided to go against the tide and pick the most fascinating non-soccer related sports in the world. Here’s our list!


Cathal Noonan/Inpho/Irish Time
Cathal Noonan/Inpho/Irish Time

Imagine a sport that allows you to kick the ball or punch it. A sport where you can score 3 points by sending the ball into the other team’s goal, but you can still score 1 point even if you kick or punch the ball between two upright posts above the goals, over a crossbar 2.5 metres above the ground. That’s Gaelic football and Irish people are crazy about it! In fact, it’s Ireland’s most popular sport with 34% of the population following it. Boring feet-only traditional football has less than half the followers.


Getty Images Sport
Getty Images Sport

Looking for a little of sport rivalry? Your first guess may be football, but what many of you don’t know is that cricket animates rivalries so fierce that would make the most passionate soccer fans turn pale in comparison. The first registered international cricket match was played in 1877 and saw Australia beat England, shaping a long term antagonism between the two national teams. After Australia defeated England on English soil in 1882, a young London journalist even wrote a mock obituary to ‘English cricket’, suggesting that its ashes would now been taken to Australia. For this reason series between the two countries are known as ‘The Ashes’ to this day.

Cricket rivalry is not just limited to England though! The sport is also extremely popular in former British colonies, with the most notable rivalry known to this sport being that between India and Pakistan. The antagonism is so fierce that The Observer has even included it among the ten greatest rivalries in the history of sport.


Although Europe is definitely the most soccer-oriented continent, there are five European countries that surprisingly don’t care that much about soccer. Many of you probably don’t know that people in Latvia and Lithuania are fond of basketball, while the northernmost Baltic state, Estonia, holds skiing as its favourite. The last exception is Finland, where most people play ice-hockey, the reason presumably being that even if they tried playing football, they wouldn’t be able to get rid of the ice!


Getty Images Sport
Getty Images Sport

Although Chinese people are huge soccer fans and the sport is gaining more and more popularity every day, not that many Chinese practice it yet. Could that have to do with the fact that China’s national team has qualified for the World Cup only once in his entire history (and even then lost all the matches it played)? Maybe, but jokes aside, besides western games such as soccer and basketball, traditional martial arts are also very popular in China. The most common of them is probably taijiquan – known among westerners as tai chi – a kind of boxing made of slow movements, that combines control of breath, mind and body and is also regarded as form of meditation. Taijiquan’s popularity is so widespread in China, that if you went for a morning stroll in the parks of any Chinese city you would probably stumble across a group immersed in daily practice.


Richard Dunwoody/The Adventurists
Richard Dunwoody/The Adventurists

Squeezed between taijiquan-devoted China and football-addicted Russia, Mongolia’s sport choice makes the country stand apart. Football doesn’t even figure among the most diffused sport, as Mongolians prefer archery, Mongolian wrestling and horse racing. Clearly, this has to do with their glorious past as warriors, that seems still alive among the population (don’t forget that Gengis Khan was nominated “Man of the Millennium” not many years ago).



While football is definitely the most popular sport in South America, Chileans are really fond of another game too – the rodeo chileno. Reasons for its popularity abound. The game has a long tradition- it was born about 400 years ago during the colonial period – and it’s just insanely cool. It consists of two riders (huasos) riding big horses around a middle-moon-shaped arena trying to stop a bullock by pinning it against large cushions. It’s basically a much less gruesome version of the Spanish corrida but with cowboys instead! No wonders in 2004 rodeo matches in Chile got even a wider audience than football ones.

The rodeo might be the most popular sport in Chile, but the title for the most ancient one goes to palín –  a game similar to hockey which dates back to over a thousand years ago. Palín originated in Southern Chile among Mapuche people, the biggest ethnic group of the area. Palín is not just a sport, but also a ritual celebration that aims at strengthening relationships between individuals and communities. Despite its pacific intents, in an attempt to undermine Mapuche culture and traditions, palín was declared illegal in 1626, with the pretext that it promoted sexual promiscuity as both men and women could play it. Nevertheless palín survived until today and it has even been recognised as national sport in 2004.

Lucia Ghezzi, Sara Gvero, Emilia Marzullo, Margherita Ravelli

 Territorio y Acción Colectiva – when people shape territories

It is extremely hard to define which path to development the societies should follow. It is even harder to establish which kind of development can be considered as sustainable. But I strongly believe that when people become protagonists and crucial actors of their own territories, this should be perceived as boosting development processes.
This is the reality that I found in Talca, Maule Region, Chile. Here, I spent few months to take the final internship of my master degree in Local Development at the University of Padua. I arrived in Chile with the will, the hope and the desire to put in practice my academic background and I had the opportunity to work for Surmaule, an NGO working for 10 years in the city of Talca. The peculiarities of this association are the deep commitment for the public issues and the strong bond with the different social actors in order to encourage and promote the territorial transformations and processes of change. Through the training, education, collective work, the empowerment, the articulation of the actors and the analysis of social processes, Surmaule boosts the democratic and participative construction of the society. In 2015, the NGO developed 12 different projects with the communities of the city and the region, enhancing their capabilities to create networks, manage and impact the public agenda.

Las Américas, Talca
Las Américas, Talca

Among the several projects, I chose to work as a trainee in Territorio y Acción Colectiva– TAC” (Territory and Collective Action).  This project was born two years ago and aims to enhance the capabilities of local actors, by turning them into the motors of the development of their own territory, by means of prioritisation of actions and planning strategies. The project has been implemented in three neighbourhoods of Talca (Las Américas, Territorio 5 and Unidad Vecinal 46), in the northern peripheral part of the city. The projects have been carried out in the different neighbourhoods in different moments, but the methodology used has been the same for all the territories.

The process consists in 5 steps: first, meeting the inhabitants and trying to understand with them which are the most relevant problems of the area; second to organize an educational process during which people bolster their knowledge about citizenship and democracy; third to map their territory and identify where and how the several problems appear; fourth to produce an assessment of the social study of the territory in which people can describe their territory, its needs and potentialities and define their strategies of action. Finally, the inhabitants and the most important actors of the neighbourhood establish a territorial table, whose aim is to start debates and dialogues with public authorities in order to take actions and initiatives to improve the territories.  Thus, problems such as housing, transport, connectivity, environment, security, communitarian equipment, public spaces, communication and services are proposed to be solved by people with bottom-up strategies and perspectives.

The formative phase in the territory Unidad Vecinal 46
The formative phase in the territory Unidad Vecinal 46

In that way, people get to know, understand and strengthen their own territory. The latter stops to be seen as a given, fragmented and dead space and, thus, it becomes a social construction and product in which inhabitants become active actors of their area, by defining their needs and identifying their potentialities. Territories become territorialised, that is to say that people foster their capacities to stimulate processes of transformation. Moreover, in the perspective of collective action, people have, on one hand, the opportunity to build up processes of common knowledge, identity and values and, on the other, have the possibility to influence the relations of power and the decision-making processes  that often define and shape territories with a top-down perspective.

Urbanization in Talca
Urbanization in Talca

 In Chile, cities are often the product of the neo-liberal policies implemented during the Pinochet’s dictatorship that dominated the state for 17 years. This kind of city produces itself spatial fragmentation: the division of the space perfectly responds to the model centre/periphery and creates smaller territories. This dichotomy splits the city in smaller spaces. Each one of these “smaller territories” is more and more characterised by social and economic homogeneity and provoke inequalities among the different parts of the same cities. Not all the citizens have the same opportunities and access to the city: the peripheral areas still remain in a situation of segregation and social exclusion. Through the possibility to question and re-think their own space, the citizens are granted the chance to redefine and claim their right to the city.

Territorio 5 public report of its activities
Territorio 5 public report of its activities

The importance of experiences like TAC is to offer a concrete and alternative model to the individualised society. People start to build bond ties with their space, creating a background of trust and communication. Territory is being collectivised through the valorisation of its specificities and the empowerment of its human capital. The challenge that should be maintained and always called out is to incite and encourage the collective work of the civil society. The latter might always preserve its proactive role and be able to define its own ideal of territory and neighbourhood, by stimulating inclusive, democratic and participative processes

Contacts and information: 


Luchamos para crear, creamos para vencer

Ci troviamo nel Sud-Ovest dell’America Latina, nel lembo di terra che si estende dal 17° parallelo fino alle terre antartiche. Ci troviamo in Cile, un paese complesso, ricco di storia dura e di bellezze. Un paese che fino ai recenti anni Novanta ha vissuto il peso di una delle dittature più violente e assassine. Dopo il golpe al governo socialista Allende, venne trasformato da Pinochet nell’esperimento neoliberale dell’America Latina. Un Paese, nelle cui vene scorre ancora il sangue dei morti, dei desaparecidos e degli esiliati.
In Cile l’eredità del governo militare si vive, è presente nella Costituzione degli anni ’80, modificata negli anni ma mai abrogata. È presente in quei diritti sociali non pienamente garantiti, ma lasciati alla feroce logica della democrazia di mercato.FOTO2

Il diritto allo studio è uno di questi. Studiare nelle università statali in Cile significa indebitarsi. Una carriera quinquennale, equivalente al nostro diploma di laurea, può costare dai 10.000 euro ai 32.500; cifre, queste, che variano a seconda della città e del tipo di facoltà e percorso di studio. Il sistema di borse di studio vigente lascia fuori la stragrande maggioranza di studenti, pertanto l’unica scelta della gioventù cilena per accedere all’educazione universitaria è quella di contrarre debiti. La “questione studentesca” è un tema molto delicato e discusso, il movimiento estudiantil resta attivo nelle lotte e, quest’anno, ha invaso le università con domande di democratizzazione e gratuità dell’istruzione. Da Arica a Punta Arenas, più di 26 università hanno sperimentato lo sciopero generale e l’occupazione come forme di lotta per riaprire ed accelerare il dialogo con le rettorie.
Ci troviamo a Iquique, nel Norte Grande. Le spinte centraliste il più delle volte mettono sotto riflettori ciò che accade nella Regione Metropolitana di Santiago, oscurando tutte le altre zone del Paese. Iquique ha una forte coscienza studentesca: nel 2006, anno del movimento dei pingüinos, gli studenti medi che riempirono le piazza e le strade ottennero, oltre alla riduzione delle tasse d’iscrizione, la creazione di un Consiglio per la qualità dell’educazione; nel 2011, anno che rappresentò una vera e propria sfida per il movimento studentesco, le università iquiquegne restarono in “toma” per ben otto mesi, lottando contro un sistema educativo statale finanziato soltanto al 25% dalle casse dello Stato e per il restante 75% dagli studenti. Iquique visse da città protagonista entrambi i movimenti e anche quest’anno gli studenti sono tornati a manifestare per un reale diritto allo studio. Qui, sono due le università statali che hanno resisistito in “toma” per diversi mesi.

In prima linea i ragazzi dell’Arturo Prat, organizzati nel Bloque Social, nato nel 2011 nelle facoltà di Trabajo Social, Psicologia e Sociologia e riformatosi quest’anno con un’adesione trasversale. La nuova ondata di protesta segue due filoni di lotta paralleli: da un lato la democratizzazione delle università a livello nazionale, dall’altro una serie di proposte per migliorare il sistema educativo a livello locale. Il primo ha a che vedere con una più egualitaria partecipazione degli studenti nel dibattito per costruire la riforma per una istruzione pubblica (Reforma de la Educación Pública). Si chiede che l’abrogazione del decreto DFL 2, retaggio della dittatura militare e avvenuta soltanto lo scorso anno, diventi effettiva e che consenta, così, agli studenti e ai funzionari amministrativi di partecipare alla votazione delle istituzioni universitarie secondo il metodo della triestamentalidad. Nel concreto, si esige l’istituzione di un tavolo di discussione in cui siano presenti al 33,33% professori, studenti e personale amministrativo in egual misura. La funzione di tale organo è discutere e informare sul regolamento interno, sugli organi di rappresentanza e sul finanziamento dell’università.
Dall’altro lato, durante l’ occupazione, si è redatta una petizione per migliorare l’insegnamento e le condizioni di vita studentesca dell’università Arturo Prat. Ci racconta Diego, 21 anni al terzo anno di Farmacia, di come l’occupazione sia nata da un’esigenza degli studenti di contrastare le misure della riforma riguardanti la carriera docente. “Il progetto di legge del governo prevede che ogni corso universitario cileno possa tenere un solo esame che abiliti gli studenti all’insegnamento”, spiega Diego, “ svalutando del tutto la Facoltà di Pedagogia, atta alla preparazione di professori qualificati, creando così una nuova classe di professori impreparati e non formati adeguatamente. Abbiamo bisgono di professori preparati e che vegano formati in una facoltà specifica”. Dall’urgenza di queste istanze, iniziano le prime mobilitazioni tra aprile e maggio. La prima facoltà a scegliere la via dell’occupazione fu Scienze Umane. Da qui iniziarono le prime trattative con il rettore e delle vere e proprie simulazioni di votazioni degli organi interni alla facoltà secondo il metodo della triestamentalidad, proposto a livello nazionale. Sulla scia della facoltà di Scienze Umane, si mossero nelle settimane successive gli altri studenti che, a fine maggio, dopo due giorni di sciopero generale, decisero di riappropriarsi degli spazi dell’università. Tutto questo per aprire opportunità di informazione, dialogo e discussione con gli altri studenti.


Nei mesi di toma si organizzano workshop, incontri, proiezioni, giornate di autoformazione in cui partecipano studenti e professori vicini al movimiento. La vita in toma ha un sapore speciale, si fanno turni per cucinare, per pulire gli spazi e organizzare le attività. Si vivono giornate intense, di interesse partecipato e condiviso. Alcuni studenti partecipano alle riunioni con la Rettoria una volta a settimana. Si scrivono su carta le proposte nate dalla condivisione di idee e si preparano tre temi di negoziazione: la democratizzazione dei processi interni, la gratuità dell’istruzione a livello nazionale (così com’era garantita nel governo Allende) e la petizione interna. La motivazione degli studenti é forte e ció li porta a continuare la lotta fino ad ottenere ció che chiedono a voce alta. “Crediamo che l’istruzione non sia un bene individuale, bensí collettivo”, continua Diego “Quando uno stato ha una buona educazione pubblica e gratuita, la societá ottiene un valore aggiunto che va a beneficio di tutti. É cosí che piú persone possono contribuire, con la loro conoscenza, allo sviluppo del Paese. É per questo che continueremo a lottare per garantirci un futuro”.
Dopo quattro mesi di occupazione, ottenute gran parte delle condizioni richieste nella petizione interna, gli studenti decidono di tornare a lezione. Dai mesi di lotta si ottengono, tra le varie cose, più pasti gratuiti, asili nido gratuiti per i figli degli studenti dell’ateneo, un sistema di connessione a internet efficiente, un progetto per finanziare il trasporto degli studenti residenti nelle città limitrofe e l’apertura di un tavolo di discussione in cui parteciperanno i rappresentanti del movimiento estudiantil. Si festeggia, gli studenti si dicono vittoriosi ed entusiasti della lotta. Ma consapevoli che nel secondo semestre li aspetterà un compito ancora più difficile: mantenere vivo il dialogo democratico e la partecipazione nei processi decisionali.


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