Ximena Abogabir


Well, I believe that, for most Chileans, that is a day that is equivalent to an earthquake, that we always remember where you were or what was happening because those are days that mark you and you embrace in you life, that you are permanently remembering, and you like to talk about it, right? Eh, for me personally, that event and the days leading up to it were probably one of the most exciting moments of my life. Well, because I felt within the community, I felt a vibration where each person was a hero, an anonymous hero, who in some way took a risk for what was happening because they truly believed it was one of the most important things they would do in their life, which was to go and cast their vote, right? But also, the dark side, and well, the complicities that arose. I remember that I belonged to a campaign called “Compartiendo la Mesa” (Sharing the Table) that supported community kitchens for women who had nothing to eat. There was a unemployment rate of around twenty-something percent, so these women would ask for money or leftover food in the market, scraps of vegetables and fruits, and they would cook together. Afterwards, families would come with their pots and with great dignity, they would take the food home and serve lunch there. They wouldn’t eat there; it was a very dignified process, right? But we also collected money to support them with other food items. When a volunteer from “Compartiendo la Mesa” went to an office, they wouldn’t disclose who they were or what it was for. People would simply look each other in the eyes, have a moment of silence, and sometimes very little money would be donated. However, you would feel that you were part of such an important cause, knowing that in these cases, a Chilean family could have a meal. So, in that context, and also in the context of the end of the Cold War that was happening around the same time, the world seemed to be changing. The end of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and our plebiscite were all part of the same movement where ordinary citizens could make a difference.

I believe that one of the most beautiful things about the campaign was empowering the ordinary citizen because we knew that while there were leaders and people thinking about the campaign, the power resided in each one of us. I think it’s also a message that the end of the Cold War left behind, that the fate of the world is not solely determined by the rulers, but by the collective sentiment of the citizens. Therefore, we are not drops of water lost in the sea, but rather drops of water that form the wave of change. Every time I see the campaign footage, it moves me because those people put themselves on the line, they dared to stand out, to be the giraffe that raises its neck in a crowd that was mostly trying to hide, so that no one would suspect them and they wouldn’t face the full force of the dictatorship, right? So, the people who acted in that campaign truly exposed themselves, and they did it with great courage. But I believe that the tone of optimism, of all the possibilities that could come, that we could occupy public space, that we could be irreverent, that we met and embraced each other with joy—all these messages were very important, especially for a young generation for whom public space had become dangerous. Therefore, people tended to retreat to their homes, hoping that no one would discover what was behind their doors. So, to go out, to expand, and to do it with joy, humor, but above all with a lot of love and love for the collective, I think that was wonderful.

My three children got involved in public politics, and they are all so grateful for the opportunity, unlike their classmates of their generation, because in our home we discussed these matters. We received audiovisual and written material about what was happening, from Teleanálisis, of course, from all the videos that were made, from the magazines. We were subscribers, of course, and it was very rare. For example, my daughter was classmates with two Christian democratic leaders, and in all of her classes, they were the only three girls supporting the “No” campaign. I remember that she painted the “No” on all the lampposts on our block as a poetic act, especially the one in front of our house. How could I explain to a child that what she was doing was quite risky? I mean, well, she was clearly indicating that our home was for the “No” campaign, and that was definitely risky at that time. Each one of us got involved to the extent of our possibilities. That’s something that left a mark on my children. That’s what that day meant to me.

And the dark side, of course, was when the evening fell, and it grew dark, and we were all glued to the television. We were watching something like “The Road Runner” or cartoons, and the minutes were passing by, and somehow, we all guessed what was being discussed at that moment, which was nothing less than a new civil war. Therefore, there was a profound sense of relief when General Matthei entered La Moneda and said, “The ‘No’ has won.” We were at home with our family, and of course, we went out afterward to celebrate. We went out banging pots and pans to express our stance. Here, it was to achieve something we knew was so important for all Chileans: the return of democracy.

Well, the next day I imagine it was like when a painter stands in front of a blank canvas with a palette full of colors, feeling that, you know? Having all the palettes of colors, and now what each one would draw on that canvas would make what was the slogan “Joy is coming” a reality. I believe that all Chileans are a bit ungrateful, undoubtedly, joy could have been better, and the issue of economic recovery could have been faster. Undoubtedly, we could also try to preserve that sense of community more and not let individualism pervade us. That’s something that happened to us Chileans. But despite understanding that it could have been better, I believe that the step we took was an example for the world. About how with a pencil, you could rid yourself of a tyranny that was very harsh.