"Esto No Prendio" is a one minute long song and music video released by Chilean hip-hop group Las Aventurazas as a viral social media video on November 8, 2019, with guest appearences by Miss Chile, Camila Recabarren, Spider-Man and Pikachu. The title literally and figuratively translates to "This Didn't Stick", although the phrase is being used very ironically.
Actually, you should go and view and listen to it first:
Okay, now watch again.
A couple people have asked me to explain what is going on in Chile right now, where people have been protesting for over a month. The level of anger that had been simmering in Chile was a surprise to me. It is hard to explain a country's situation as an outsider, so instead, I will explain one song, that arose out of those protests.
Sometime in October, the Santiago Metro raised rush hour fares by 30 pesos, less than 5 cents US. Even with Chile's lower wages, that wasn't a lot of money, but it was the straw that broke the camel's back in a country with a high cost of living. A group of middle school and high school students decided to organize a protest of fare evasion of turnstile hopping over the fare increase. At first, it seemed like childish antics, which is what led the then-president of the Santiago Metro system to utter what turned out to be famous last words, "Cabros, Esto No Prendio", which translates as something like "Kids, this isn't catching on". The protests intensified, turning into rioting, destruction of parts of the subway system, and a curfew. The authorities, especially the center-right president of Chile, Sebastian Piñera, thought this would quell things.
Instead, the protests spread, with what had started as a teenage protest against fare evasion turning into a society wide protest about Chile's course since the end of the dictatorship in 1990. The protests spread even to the upper middle-class areas of Santiago, and across the country, as Chileans suddenly loudly started to agree that something needed to change, and as the president's approval rating fell down to around 15%.
At this point, go and rewatch that video and try to detect signs of these momentous geopolitical events. It might be hard to draw a connection between the seemingly jovial and silly video and the news reports of a burnt out Santiago and reports of human rights abuses by the national police force.
What has been lost in a lot of international reporting on what is going on in Chile is that part of the movement is the unifying, optimistic nature of what is happening. And the song captures that, in a simple, even silly way. For those who don't speak Spanish, or who don't understand the odd Chilean accent, part of the lyrics are:
Se unieron los gordos, se unieron los flaucos...se unieron los perros, se unieron los gatos
"The fat people united, the skinny people united, the dogs united, the cats united"
And more relevantly, a line later...
Universitarios, Profesores y Estudiantes
Medicos, Las Pymes, Los Chóferes y Ambulantes
"University people, professors and students, doctors, small business people, drivers and street vendors"
In other words, the movement in Chile has unified people across social class.
But, you might be wondering, after watching again, and trying to comprehend these complicated social dynamics, why Spider-Man, and why Pikachu? That Spider-Man is not just any Spider-Man, but the "Estupido y Sensual Spider-Man", (a reference to The Simpsons), a acrobat and erotic dancer who is well known across Santiago for entertaining commuters with his gyrating ass. And Pikachu is an "auntie" and school bus driver from the middle class comuna of Peñalolén who decided to join in the protests in a Pikachu costumes. Together, they became emblems of the protests. You might also notice what is missing in the video: any reference to traditional Latin American leftist icons. No Che Guevara or Salvador Allende. No communist flags. Instead, we have...Dragon Ball Z and DirecTV on the t-shirts of the dancers, who are a group of people of all ages, dancing happily.
This song then, preaches political and social unity, and also relies on figures from entertainment that everyone would be familiar with. That Spider-Man and Pikachu have been repurposed spontaneously from corporate properties to symbols of reform might upset some purists, but it certainly has managed to get the message across. And the protests, and the song, have succeeded: slightly before the song, Piñera gave into protesters demands and fired most of his cabinet, and slightly after the song, the Piñera administration announced plans to call some type of convention to rewrite the constitution. Whether the type of unity that this song talks about can actually make it through to form a consensus about Chile's future, and whether this type of optimism can even survive the tense standoff that continues in the streets of Chile between the security forces and the population, is a very large question. But the idea behind the song, of effecting social change through unity and through non-confrontational symbolism, is something that might be a helpful lesson for other people who wish to lead social movements.