The other weekend I went to a professional soccer game of Arica versus La Serena at the stadium in Arica. As it turns out, you don’t need an ID to get a ticket but you do need some form of ID to enter the stadium. It also turns out that all Gringas look the same. One of the girls hadn’t brought any form of photo ID because we haven’t needed it before so she used a secondary form of identification from another girl in the program and it worked out fine. However, we weren’t clear yet. Apparently you can’t bring water bottles into the stadium. We thought that it was because of the liquid but as a Carabinero (policeman) explained to us, it’s actually because people throw them at players occasionally. They were nice enough to let us through with our bottles as long as we kept them hidden in a bag for the remainder of the game. I thought the comment about throwing water bottles was odd until I saw the fans. Everyone had a blue Arica jersey on and there were even several fans who had drums and spent the entire game singing and chanting. Despite the energy of the fans, there weren’t very many people there. The game was very fun but Arica did lose by two points.
So yesterday was International Women’s Day. Arica had a Women’s March that started at 7:00 pm and walked through the streets into el centro, the main shopping street in Arica. Many of us from the program joined. We made signs after class and headed over. I was surprised by how many people there were. Arica is a fairly small city but there were at least 200 people there for the march. Many of the people marching were men as well. I was excited about this but I also realized that all the men in the march were in their mid 20’s and earlier 30’s. I was a little disappointed to not see any men older than that participating. They handed out sheets with chants written on them so everyone could join in as we walked. The chants centered around the desire for access to contraception and legal abortions to prevent deaths from operations in dangerous places. The other chants referred to violence that women face on a daily basis. Almost every had signs or flags. I was pleasantly surprised by the respect bystanders showed us as we walked through the streets escorted by a few policemen on motorcycles and walking. I did not see or hear anything done with malice or malintent. Once the marched entered el centro, everyone was chanting in unison. It was a very powerful experience. I felt honored to be a part of this experience. It reminded me of how far women have come but also of how much work we still have to do. I was reminded of how lucky I am to be from a place that does provide access to contraception and legal abortions to protect women. I was also proud to see the community of Arica come together to support women and their right to live without fear or discrimination based on their gender.