“You know when people come here and want to get a taste of el Valpo, they almost need to just go and get lost and disappear by themselves,” said a BMX bikers as he was flying down the hills of Valparaiso, Chile.
And in a town known for its extreme hills and windy roads, it’s easy to get lost. That’s exactly what BMX bikers Chris Van Dine, Aaron Chase and Brian Lopes set out to do when they decided to take us on a ride down “Valpo’s” hills with a GoPro.
“It’s like a sensory overload when you’re flying down through the streets,” one of the bikers said. “You only have to let off the brakes for a second when you’re going blurry fast.” But in spite of their unbelievable speed down the hills, the bikers gave us an incredible tour through the streets of the colorful city by the Pacific, former town of poet, Pablo Neruda.
Thousands of observers gathered in parts of Chile and Argentina on Monday to witness a rare and stunning total solar eclipse. The natural phenomenon is the second solar eclipse to be visible in Chile in the last 18 months.
Because of the perfect timing this time around, this year’s eclipse was especially breathtaking.
The sky got especially dark this year because this eclipse occurred both during the summer in the Southern Hemisphere and closer to the middle of the day. The sun was higher in the sky, making the change from lightness to darkness especially stark.
A solar eclipse happens when the earth, the moon and the sun are in total alignment. It’s a phenomenon that is actually rare in most solar systems. Our solar system is unique in that our moon is the perfect size to be able to block out the sun.
Thousands of people traveled hundreds of miles, some even camping out over night to get the chance to observe the rare phenomenon. The biggest crowds gathered in the Araucanía region 500 miles south of Santiago, Chile’s capital. The gatherers were wearing face masks and special protective glasses so they could watch the eclipse without damaging their eyes.
The solar eclipse had special significance for the Mapuche indigenous community in Chile.
“In Mapuche culture the eclipse has different meanings — they talk about ‘Lan Antu’, like the death of the sun and the conflict between the moon and the sun,” said Estela Nahuelpan, a leader in the indigenous Mateo Nahuelpan community, to the Agence France-Presse (AFP). “It refers to the necessary balance that has to exist in nature.”
In Mapuche legend, during a solar eclipse, the the sun temporarily dies when it battles against an unknown evil force known as “Wekufu”. Indigenous expert Juan Nanculef told the AFP that the Mapuche people used to light bonfires and throw stones and arrows into the sky to help the sun in its fight against Wekufu.
In days past, the Mapuche community would consider an eclipse like this a bad omen. There is still a bit of superstition that lingers around the phenomenon. A man named Diego Ancalao, who is a member of the Mapuche community, told CBS News that the last solar eclipse in 2019 was followed by civil unrest in Chile as well as a global pandemic.
Here’s to hoping that this eclipse is a sign of all of the good times ahead!
Earlier this month, a police officer in Santiago, Chile was captured on video pushing a 16-year-old male demonstrator off of a bridge. The boy fell into the canal below, fracturing his wrist and suffering head trauma. He was transported to the hospital and is in stable condition.
The violent video sparked an additional wave of protests against the Carabineros–Chile’s militarized national police force that the officer was a part of.
Before the video surfaced, witnesses who were protesting voiced their anger at the police officer’s actions and demanded that he be brought to justice. Initially, a spokesperson for the Carabineros, General Enrique Monrás, denied any wrongdoing on the part of the officer, claiming that the boy “lost balance and fell”.
Monrás claimed the police force even had footage that refuted the purported events. But when the footage of the boy being pushed over the bridge went public, there was no question as to what happened.
The footage of the incident went viral in Chile, prompting a surge of demonstrations and protests in Santiago–a city already racked with civil unrest.
Days later, Chile opened up an investigation against the police officer, saying the officer “gave false information to the Prosecutor’s Office” and had “abandoned the victim” after throwing him off the bridge. The officer’s lawyer says he was following procedure. Nevertheless, by then the damage had been done.
Following the incident, protestors threw red die into the canal, making it look like it was running red with the metaphorical blood of protestors. The protests are part of an ongoing civil unrest that was sparked by economic inequality in Chile as well as President Sebastián Piñera’s failure to address the people’s concerns.
To make matters worse, the Piñera government has responded to the protests with excessive violence.
In the last year, Chile has been making headlines for permanently blinding protestors with rubber bullets. Protestors claim that Caballeros are deliberately shooting people in the eyes, aiming to blind them for life.
This most recent incident has simply served to bolster the protestors’ claims that they are being treated brutally by the Chilean government. “The police are violent. We can’t bear it anymore,” said a protestor named Carmen Soria to Al Jazeera News. “They’ve raped, tortured, run people over, blinded others, and now, they’re throwing people in the Mapocho river. The government doesn’t want us to protest, doesn’t want us to gather together, but they don’t care that we gather in the busses and in subways like sardines to go to work.”