The Day of the Combatant Youth

Posted on April 1, 2013


In Chile, people in the streets celebrate the Day of the Combatant Youth every March 29, the anniversary of when police, in 1985, killed two brothers, Rafael and Eduardo Vergara Toledo, participants in the resistance against the Pinochet dictatorship. Their mother bravely began protesting and organizing events to keep their memory alive, and to celebrate all the young people who were fighting against oppression.

When a democratic government was installed in 1990, the mother and many other people wisely kept on fighting. After all, the dictatorship was put in power to impose capitalist policies, and the same capitalist economic system was left untouched, and in fact intensified, by the democratic government. The democratic government also continued to occupy indigenous Mapuche lands, and the democratic government continued to kill young people in resistance. Why stop struggling, just because now people could vote for their oppressors?

Leftist, marxist, anarchist, human rights, and Mapuche groups have kept the memory of their struggles alive in the streets for decades, celebrating those who have given their lives and honoring the fighting spirit. In addition to protests, speeches, and concerts, people commemorate the day every year by erecting barricades, taking the streets, and fighting with police. And that means masking up. “Encapuchados”, or masked ones, are a common feature in the riots of March 29. And everybody knows that they are not police; the ones who wear masks are the ones who fight against police. They are members of anticapitalist revolutionary groups, anarchists, residents of poor neighborhoods (where the fighting is heaviest) or precarious students.

In the poor neighborhoods, the rioting is a community affair. Parents come out with children to watch, as the youth mask up, build burning barricades, and throw molotovs at police.

Whether in dictatorship or democracy, that’s simply how you keep the struggle alive!