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How the past is reflected in the present – An expose on the images of an Arican Football Match.

Posted by cegan on August 13, 2013

The past is often seen in present cultural experiences. This was no different when I went to Arica in 2010. It has been three years, but after waking up with this idea at 6:00am on a Monday morning, I had incredible interest in the question. How do the images of force and security reflect a nation’s past?

When I arrived at Arica’s Football Ground, I was shocked at the photo of a heavily armoured vehicle. I remember the feeling still today, I felt intimidated, a little scared of what sort of experience I was about to experience and whether it was worth me attending a match – despite being a lover of the world game.

https://fbcdn-sphotos-e-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/40276_419862718460_3869184_n.jpgHeavily armoured Police Vehicle

At no stage, did I even think there was a riot in hand and it seemed to be complete overkill for an event that was fairly relaxed in nature, particularly as the game ended in a dour 1-1 draw – not the fluent latin American play I was expecting.

But there were other images of force that I was perplexed to see. Particularly the police carrying batons, to deal with any pitch invasion.
https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/40272_419862858460_5952197_n.jpgChilean Police

They are in very army like uniforms, they are imposing characters and they give the impression of a heavily armed state ready to counter any disobedience with brutality.

But its an even more powerful symbol in a sport that is at the heart of working class latin America.
The symbols of state power v socialist values of the community.

The TIFO that was unveiled by the home fans, links back to a more childlike image of rivalry and a semblance of US cultural influence that has been embraced in a continent of American hostility.

https://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-frc1/45489_419862183460_8007118_n.jpg Simpson TIFO

So we see that football is a reflection of the culture surrounding the region. Not just abstract from the culture of the local community.

In the truck strike in 1972, prior to Pinochet’s coup, Arica had been a stronghold in workers revolution against the middle and upper classes. The Transportation Owners strike tried to test the resolve of Socialist President Allende. As the negotiations took over to ensure order within the country, Allende had ordered that the workers of Arica return the factories that they were running due to the strike.

“Through the transportation owners’ strike that began on October 11, 1972, the Chilean bourgeoisie attempted to use its continued control of distribution to put Allende on the defensive. Workers in many areas had won significant control over production…shopkeepers closed their shops in support of the transportation bosses; doctors, lawyers, dentists and other professionals added to the atmosphere of panic by also joining the strike.
But masses of workers took things into their own hands, ensuring that supplies continued to circulate by taking to the streets and commandeering trucks and vans. They set up factory committees to organize distribution without the bosses and to protect production against sabotage”

“Finally, Allende launched a campaign for “social peace” together with the commander in chief of the army, who was given control over internal security. What “social peace” meant was soon clear to some workers at least. Where they had occupied factories, for instance in the town of Arica in Northern Chile, they were told to allow the old bosses to take over again. As the bosses did so they sacked the militant workers…”(International Socialist Review, Issue 6 Winter 1999)

So class divide has been a long and continued story within Arica with powerful unions and protest. In 2010, this was a common occurrence on the weekends we stayed in the Northern Chilean City.

https://fbcdn-sphotos-f-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/40801_419865278460_221955_n.jpgUnion marches

And this photo with the hammer and sickle tells us that the socialist passion has not been totally eroded from present day Arica.

Hammer and Sickle

The story of socialism in Chile is that it has been defeated by the neo-conservatism that was secured under the right Pinochet government in the purest sense. There may be Socialist politicians in Chile but they are not seeking to reverse the now present capitalist ideology.

This under-current that could threaten the status quo in Chile, provides the impetus for the symbols present in a largely working class social environment that is a football match in Arica.

Why does the state have such strong symbols of force?

In my reflections it is because a society still has memories and experiences of the past. In Post Pinochet, there is a view amongst many that the economy is better and thus it was worth the human rights abuses. With Human Rights abuses excused by many, particularly those in the middle and upper classes who have the political power, there is a skewing of morality of how strong state power should be.

As an Australian, I have seen more drama at a Cricket match with police officers in blue, with divide between fans and the state unable to be seen. No heavily armed van, no batons on police officers and no massive barriers separating fans from the field.

Do the images and symbols we see in a stadium reflect the symbols of a society?

One nation which has experienced recent authoritarian government has images that reflect a disproportionality of risks compared to a nation I have been brought up with where the state has less visible symbols of force in their law and order obligations.

In Victoria, with 80-100 arrests of Australian fans out to have a good time, the boundaries between freedom and the state’s power is less visible, more tolerant and despite the bad behaviour there is no desire by the public to allow heavily armoured vans and police officers with batons to be stationed around the MCG.

These discussions have come from images, history and personal experiences from being brought up in Australia, a land that unless you are an aboriginal has never experienced a military coup. In both Australia and Chile the symbols of the sporting ground reflect an underlying culture that exposes that the past is still with us in the present day.

By Chris Egan

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