We woke up late on the 7th day of their trip. Our plan was to relax a bit then go out to Concho y Toro Winery for a tour (Chile is famous for its wines, can’t you tell?).
Gram and Mom and I went shopping in the morning for some souvenirs while dad and Gramp rested. As we walked to the shopping center, we saw some students walking in the street chanting about fee hikes – we mostly disregarded it.
When we were done, mom and I ran around the corner to grab bottled water for everyone. We had been noticing all morning that the shops had their metal gates down so that you had to enter the shop through a small door in the gate that was protected by a security guard. We had brushed it off all morning as it being early so the shops were just opening. But as we walked the block to the store, we began to see men in green riot gear and police in bright yellow vests stopping traffic. We hurried up and bought our water, and walked briskly back to the hotel. When we rounded the corner of San Antonio a block down from the hotel, we began to see people with red puffy eyes coughing and wiping their faces. They’d been tear gassed.
“Hold your breath mom,” I yelled back to her, and we ran for the hotel. We could feel the smoke bomb burn a bit in the back of our throats but we weren’t bad off – never directly in the spray.
From our hotel window that faced the street, we could see the students chanting on the corner. The water cannon was used twice to disperse them, and when that didn’t work they sent in the green men in riot gear. It cleared up the protestors on our street, but the traffic was in gridlock for the better part of the day.
In the corner of the picture you can see the water cannon spray
When I asked my house sister about the protests, she said she didn’t like to participate in them. “They always end the same way,” she said, “the police throw water or tear gas and the students run away.” They were protesting the fee hikes. Last year the protests got so bad that they arrested students and held them until they’d missed so much school they had to repeat and pay for another semester.
I think that’s amazing.