a ticket of safer passage
By Sara Alura
March 9, 2022
Santiago de Chile
We arrived in Santiago on March 7 at 6 a.m. All day we rested in Simone and Vale’s apartment, full of light and plants. In the evening we took a brief stroll through Barrio Italia which turned into a long walk to the south side of Parque Bustamante.
The summer sun stayed up until 9 p.m., surprising my tired body with awakeness past 10 p.m. On the corner by Parque Bustamante, we ran into AJ’s old friend, Victor Hugo. He came riding along on a small antique red bicycle and immediately launched into a thorough explanation of his body’s latest dolores.
AJ asked how the barrio had changed in the past few years.
“De día está tranquila pero de noche salen los venezolanos a robar. Trescientos entran al día al país, po. ¡Demasiado! Las primeras dos olas de inmigración fueron de los buenos: los venezolanos con educación, profesionales. No les tengo ningún problema a que vengan acá. Pero en esta última ola vienen puros narcotraficantes y delincuentes. Aquí mismo,” he gestured towards the intersection, “vienen veinte, cuarenta niñas venezolanas en la noche para hacer su negocio. Triste po.”
By day it’s quiet but at night the Venezuelans come out to rob. Three hundred enter the country per day. Too many! The first two waves of immigration were of the good ones: Venezuelans with education, professionals. I don’t have any problem with them coming here. But in this last wave only drug dealers and delinquents come. Right here, he gestured towards the intersection, twenty, forty Venezuelan girls come at night to do their business. It’s sad.
AJ chose to let the topic of immigration go. “Y ¿el barrio después del estallido?” And the neighborhood after the uprising?
“Todos los semáforos acá fueron destruidos. ¿Tú ves esos nuevos, como son reforzados?”
All of the traffic lights here were destroyed. Do you see those new ones, how they’re reinforced?
We looked. The new traffic lights had a thicker base of steel over five feet high. Much harder to rock and shake off their foundations.
“Pero ¿qué piensas tú?” preguntó AJ. “¿Valió toda la destrucción?”
But what do you think? asked AJ. Was it worth the destruction?
“Ooooh sí. La revuelta tuvo que pasar. Necesitamos el cambio aquí en Chile. Y que el gobierno cambié de generación.”
Ooooh yes. The revolt had to happen. We need change here in Chile. And we need the government to change generations.
On Av. Alameda during the Women’s March 2022 in Santiago. 8 March 2022. © Sara Alura Rupp
AJ and Victor Hugo decided to get a drink and catch up. Having slept four hours in the past forty-five hours, I excused myself and said I’d walk home.
“¿Pero cómo?” protestó Victor Hugo. “¿Cómo vas a dejar que camine sola?”
But how? protested Victor Hugo. How are you going to let her walk alone? he appealed to AJ, who shrugged.
“Ella vivió aquí tres años. Hizo dedo sola por todo Chile. Sabe cómo llegar a casa.”
She lived here for three years. She hitchhiked alone all over Chile. She knows how to get home.
“Bueno. Lo único malo que tengo es que soy machista.” Fine. My only flaw is that I’m machista.
I was too tired to argue much. Victor Hugo finally shrugged, told me to Ten cuidado, and we parted.
“Your white feminism doesn’t help me.” // “NO FEAR” – Av. Alameda, Santiago. 8 March 2022.
It was about a two-mile walk back to the apartment. The sun had gone down and street lights cast yellow-green puddles of illumination through the dark. Bicyclists, more than I remembered seeing in years past, slipped between the pools of light on the bike lanes. The air was still warm from the day’s heat. I passed bars and restaurants with people relaxing at the sidewalk tables, a sight I hadn’t seen since before the estallido.
On the long residential blocks between commercial areas, where there were less pedestrians and less illumination, I noticed that my body had, as if on cue, turned alert, tense, ready. At the sound of footsteps running up behind me, I whipped around early enough to react in defense. A male jogger in neon shorts ran past. Innocent of any bad intention.
My mind instantly fell into its old pattern of irritation at the need to be so alert.
Would AJ, who would be making the same two-mile walk even later than me, walk with the same burden of apprehension? Why must the decision to walk home alone, as an adult in a relatively peaceful neighborhood, have to come laden with so much risk?
“Let me know when you get home.” // “Friend…did you get home?”
“Non-binaries against all authority” // “Fight like a woman” // “I refuse that one day my daughter disappears.”
As I passed through the dark, walking fast, purposefully, every once in a while checking behind me, I cursed the logic of The Way Things Are:
Many men have made the world unsafe for women. Therefore making necessary or at least convenient the presence of a male companion to pass more safely through the unknown risks of a nighttime stroll. If one rejects this male protection, she does so at her own risk, as well as invoking the consternation of the good men and women concerned for her safety.
I had chosen to reject my boyfriend’s offer to walk me home and instead asserted my ability to do so alone. I loathed the sneaking feeling of regret when I imagined how easier this walk would have been with his maleness at my side like a ticket of safer passage.
A woman dressed in the Mapuche flag raises her fist in front of La Moneda, the presidential building.
“Being alive should NOT be an accomplishment.”
Yet the walk, beyond my thoughts, was uneventful. I turned onto the last few blocks. A man walked past me, limping and carrying several bags.
“¡OYE, RRRRICA!” HEY SEXY! he shouted at me when he was a safe distance past me.
“¡MMMMMMWAH!” He smacked his lips in a loud kiss.
I hadn’t come all this way debating the patriarchy in my mind to keep walking in silence.
“FUCK YOU!” I yelled back at him.
He smacked his lips in response.
I kept walking, taking stock of whether or not I really felt angry. Or whether my “fuck you” had made me feel any better. It hadn’t. I thought of the story of my grandfather as told to me by his nephew:
“I used to ride in the backseat of his van when he and my dad would go to the fish market early in the morning in L.A. Men—white and brown—would yell slurs at him for being Filipino. And your lolo and my dad would just tense, look straight ahead and choose not to react.”
I thought of our visit to the King Center, the photos of the Kings and their compatriots practicing the way of non-violence—faces calm, unmoving, dignified in the face of hate and danger. What would the daily practice of non-violence look like for a feminist, when so much of what we experience merits an aggressive response?
I thought of the righteous feminist rage graffitied on almost every wall I passed. I did not regret showing the acosador my anger. He needed the lesson (and many, many more) of seeing some consequence to his disrespect.
But both he and I had continued on our opposite paths unchanged by the encounter: he to catcall at the next mina to come his way, me to continue cursing The Way Things Are until I arrived tense, irritated, and exhausted at the safety of the apartment door.
March 17, 2022
I remember the words that came over me in the midst of the first once comunitaria I organized several years ago in Valparaíso. It was a beautiful debacle of housed and unhoused neighbors enjoying a shared once [Chilean tea time or evening meal] in the plaza. Despite my best intentions for the event, it was rife with sexual harassment.
As I watched in dismay as the evening unraveled at the edges, the words washed over me: “No sé cómo ser mujer. No sé cómo ser mujer y a la vez buena humana.”
I don’t know how to be a woman. I don’t know how to be a woman and at the same time a good human.
Then as now I often lived out my womanness from a sense of defensiveness. A knowledge of my grave vulnerability. A sense of my unseen-ness.
To live as if the world were already as I desire it.
Where a woman knows she is sacred, each of her steps celebrated by her Mother Earth.
Where she witnesses her blazing intelligence, wisdom and glory even when no one else does.
She walks as if a flame, casting out the darkness that tries to invade her from all sides. She glows in order to truly see her Self. Its goodness. Its joyful worship of its own existence. Its rightful place on Earth, wherever she goes.
Don’t you see? If [a woman] is ever gonna make it in a male-dominated power structure, she’s gotta eat, breathe, drink, and sweat self-esteem! – Quote from “Rugrats,” 1993
“They wanted to burn us and we became FIRE.” – Santiago de Chile. 8 March 2022.
And this fear? And this rage? And this grief?
I must transform them. My alchemy begins with language, with writing down the grief and then resurrecting it aloud, once I’ve had time to put the words in order.
For that, I need solitude. Daily. It’s not too much to ask. It’s my due. It’s the workspace within which I can submit myself to the magic I am called to perform. I do not need to ask for it. I am fully in possession of my powers to declare the borders of my energy, time, and attention. To claim what is fully
[Before I can finish the sentence, AJ sits down next to me at the kitchen table, asks to share my maté, and launches into our plan for the day: a bus out of Puerto Montt, then a ferry to Chiloé. How does that sound?
That sounds fine. Could we talk about this later though?
Oh, sure. I get it. This is your time to write. Sure. I’ll just sit here then.
Oh. Well then I’m done writing for now.
Are you really?
I can’t write well with someone sitting right next to me.
If you wanted me to leave, you could’ve just said so.
What could I have said? Go away? There’s nowhere for you to go. There’s just one table in this place.
Yup, just like that. ‘Go away.’
All I wanted was an hour to myself…I wasn’t trying to kick you out.
So you’re good if I stay?]
This is travel writing like you’ve never read before…
Travel Diaries: Patagonia is a series based on Sara Alura’s diaries written during her two-month journey hitchhiking through Chilean Patagonia.
Find more photos and videos from Sara’s adventures in Patagonia on Camino Libre’s social media!
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