Revolution is never quiet. The sound of it is not so much a sound as it is an action—a gathering tide, a firework just as it is about to mushroom with wild light, a tremor gaining force. It’s not what we hear but what we witness. In the theatre of cruelty that is the modern world, the fabric of communities is being undone. In Hong Kong and Cairo, in Washington DC, across Lebanon and Bolivia—people are fighting for futures that feel less livable and more like prison sentences. It is a palpable, dangerous anger.
Since late October, millions have taken to the streets in Chile’s capital city, Santiago, and elsewhere to demand fairer living conditions after the government announced a subway fare hike, despite the country’s pooling state of inequality. To make matters worse, Chile operates on a market-driven economy, which has led to the privatization of its education system, social security programs, and healthcare. In a just democracy, imbalance has no place, and so it didn’t take long before citizens banded together with the kinetic gush of floodwaters, drowning the city in demonstrations.
In response, the Chilean government has ruled with blunt discipline. Troops, tanks, curfews—all have been weaponized against Chilean protestors. The toll rises as days pass: injuries number into the thousands, dozens are reported missing. Not since its battle for democracy 30 years ago, as citizens fought to remove Gen. August Pinochet from power, has the country found itself thrust in nationwide turbulence. According to one investigation, “over 2,800 reports of police beatings, threats, rape and other forms of sexual violence, verbal and physical abuses and simulated executions” have been reported since the National Institute for Human Rights sent observers to the country in October.
One night this week, high above the simmering avenues of Santiago, photographer Marcelo Hernandez pinpointed the glory and agony of Chilean liberation. Stylistically, what Hernandez captures is actually a city set alight by color, rage, and the belief that economic repression can no longer stand. With a passing glance, the photo doesn’t offer much: it looks like any urban metropolis at dusk—soaked in brilliant oranges and neon greens, pebbled with buildings that go on and on into some unseeable distance. But if you look closer, the fury of the people is noticeable. The orange specks aren’t just orange specks but small fires. The radiant green bursts aren’t just radiant green bursts but in fact demonstrators using laser pointers to disarm police drones.
A searing photo works doubly: It is what we see but also more than that too—it suspends reality a little, it works like an illusion. It tells two stories. So, what do we witness? Hernandez reveals a city spilling over with possibility, a people rising from the inferno of yesterday.
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