The time I missed out on a demonstration gone wild in Valparaiso
“I got caught up in this crazy demonstration in Valparaiso yesterday!” the British guy in front of me says as he fishes out his iPhone and starts showing me pictures of carpets of tear gas, people running with scarfs covering their faces, water cannons and heavily geared riot police detaining demonstrators.
“In Valparaiso, yesterday?!” I look at the pictures not quite understanding what I’m seeing.
“Yeah, I had taken the bus from Santiago and was walking from the bus terminal towards the center to join in on a free tour of the city when I got caught up in it. It was crazy, like a war zone!”
The day before I was also in Valparaiso, and I was watching the demonstration – or demonstrations, people were opposing both the building of a mall near the pier and of the rising cost of education in Chile – but the demonstration I saw was nothing like the pictures on this guy’s iPhone. People were playing drums, dancing, it almost seemed more like a parade than a demonstration, and if it hadn’t been for the riot police hanging around on the sides you wouldn’t for your bare life even suspect that this could turn into anything violent.
I feel a pang of jealousy as I look at the pictures without really understanding why, I rarely get jealous, and it’s not like being tear gassed, sprayed with water cannons and running away from riot police is the kind of situation I prefer to be in. I got “caught” up (curiosity got a hold of me) in a wild demonstration in Oslo on my way home from work once, and I can tell you that getting tear-gassed is neither fun nor very comfortable, it’s horrible. It’s just that those pictures – and they are pretty good photos as well – those are exactly the kind of pictures I wanted to take, the pictures I waited around for, and here this guy just walked straight into it without wanting to and took “my” pictures.
But still I couldn’t understand it, it was as if we had been in two parallel universes. I had been waiting around, walked around, ended up at the plaza where they were holding rallies, people had started to dissipate, everything seemed to end, it seemed like the demonstration had actually gone through peacefully. Maybe it happened later, maybe it happened at another place, I don’t know, the only thing I know is that I missed it and that it annoyed the hell out of me. But I guess it was just as well for my eyes and throat.