After a community meeting on Monday at Toma de Peñalolen, my team and I were invited to an Anniversary lunch that was scheduled for Friday at the campamento. When the day finally came for the event, bad news, it was raining, good news, the outdoors lunch happened anyways! We spent the first hour constructing tents using tarps to make shelter from the rain. We all helped to break apart panels of wood to make a fire in order to put the gigantic pot that was going to be used to cook our spaghetti. The fire also helped to keep us warm from the rainy weather.
The whole event was lovely, there were less people who showed up than expected, probably due to the weather conditions but our team from TECHO, representatives from the Manicipalidad and quite a few members of the community came out for the celebration and delicious food. We started by eating fresh, warm sopaipillas, which are a type of fried pastry made from pumpkin, a typical food eaten here when it rains. Then after watching a big pot boil, pounds and pounds of pasta and meat sauce were served and everyone feasted. Everyone hung out and chatted; it was a very relaxed celebration in the middle of the street ending with the sharing of Mate, a traditional drink of South America, and tea.
This large campamento of about 300 families has a long history of social discrimination and disrespect from organizations that have worked with them in the past and so this community has often been shown in the news and media. Below you’ll find the beginning of a documentary on this campamento. This intricate history has also created a bit of tension when working with organization that I noticed in the meeting on Monday. The leaders of this community are much more stern when they work with TECHO than any other community I have visited thus far. The tension still remains even though they accomplished a lot in getting their rights heard. Now the majority of the families have housing subsidies and the projects are on their way.
During the celebration, one man from the community came up to me (because I was easily identifiable as a foreigner) to show me his collection of important papers he had collected over the years. In a laminated folder he had several newspaper clippings, photos and documents. This first was a newspaper article that features a picture of him and several other members of the community that had gone on an eating strike. He explained to me that it was important for him to share these things because this community had an important history that shouldn’t be lost. The final paper in the folder was a photo of his mother who had also lived in this same campamento. I thanked him for sharing and as the rain started up again I quickly shut the folder to protect the picture from getting ruined. It was very thoughtful of him to share his fascinating history with me, he thanked me for looking through them, told me I was very pretty and went back to where I had first seen him, sitting in front of a little store under an umbrella, watching the celebration from the other side of a fence.