Since 18 October 2019 in Chile, the majority of the population has demanded a new constitution to break away from the neoliberalism of the dictator Pinochet; a new constitution was drawn up by an elected Constitutional Assembly representative of all Chileans, including indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants. Before the pandemic, it was agreed that this Constitutional Assembly would be fully representative, with reserved seats for women and indigenous groups.
But Afro-descendant people were left out. Even though finally in 2019 Law 21,151 formally recognized the existence of the Chilean Afro-descendant people, parliamentarians hid behind their prejudice and ignorance to exclude Afro-descendants from this process.
The COVID-19 pandemic caught us in the middle of this struggle, trying to ensure representation in the second round of candidacies for the Constitutional Assembly. Despite the challenges the pandemic has posed, especially for the most vulnerable (the indigenous, Afro-descendants, labor migrants, the unregistered), we persevered. At least 15 Afro-descendant groups continued to work to guarantee our representation in this important process. These groups formed an independent coalition with the #SúmateAhora program, advocating from a feminist perspective for the decentralization of public powers, the recognition of social and racial diversity, the protection of social and economic rights, and the protection of our environment and natural resources.
All the other parties offered us places on their lists as independents, but our communities, led by the younger generations, demanded that for the first time we should not dilute the voice of Afro-descendant people; that we should have faith in our ancestry, resilience, and the transformative capacity of our people. It was a decision that required a lot of courage and work because we did not have the experience, funds, and infrastructure of the other groups. I presented myself as one of the three Afro-descendant constituents which Arica and Parinacota, my region, could present. Alas, the Afro-descendant community did not gain a representative, but we gained enough support to ensure that our voices and history – past, present, and future – will not be silenced or erased.
We still have much to do. Afro-descendants must organize not just culturally, but politically and socially. In 2023, for the first time ever, Afro-descendants will be counted in the national census. We must be prepared to ensure that our numbers have a significant impact in Santiago, the capital, where decisions are made. #politicalrepresentation #Chile #AfroDecade
“The Anti-Racism Policy Journal is happy to partner with Collateral Benefits and Manos Visibles to bring you “Voices of the African Diaspora”, a series of perspectives from Afro-descendants across the world on surviving, overcoming, and transcending COVID-19. Collateral Benefits is a platform that through perspective papers aims to lift up the voices of African and Afro-descendant people from all walks of life so that their intellect, wisdom, and experiences can contribute to and shape the global conversations on the critical issues of our time.”
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