By Lucas Villa
Among the millions of protesters in the streets of Chile waving flags, chanting for political freedom, and slamming their everyday pots and pans together, you’ll see one of the country’s most prolific singer-songwriters, Ana Tijoux, uplifting the cacerolazos’ cry with music of her own.
On October 20, Tijoux released “#CACEROLAZOS,” which samples the sounds of the pan-banging protestors, as well as police sirens and urbano beats. “We bring out the pans and they kill us,” she raps in Spanish. “To the killers, protest!” The track highlights the power of the cacerolazos, and the Chilean people at large, while calling for the resignation of President Sebastián Piñera, who has been openly antagonistic towards the protests.
Chile is one of the wealthiest countries in South America, but is rife with rampant economic inequality as people try to navigate a system that has privatized basic necessities like education, health care, and utilities. Protestors have spoken out about the system for years, but things came to a head on October 6, when Piñera approved a proposed subway fare hike of four percent, or 30 pesos; that spark lit the fuse on growing tensions between the government and its people. Students encouraged dodging the fare at stations, and clashes between protestors and police became violent and destructive.
Following an estimated $703,500 worth of damages done to the metro stations and 133 arrests, Piñera called a state of emergency and imposed a curfew on October 18, saying the country was “at war with a powerful enemy.” But that hasn’t stopped citizens from taking to the streets in droves to air their grievances, both with Piñera’s government and the larger economic issues they’ve faced over the years. The government has since deployed thousands of military troops across the country, especially in the busy city capital of Santiago; a reported 470 civilians have been shot and 19 have died. Videos have surfaced of troops with pellet guns shooting protestors who have their hands up, as cacerolazos sounds off in the background.
Piñera has since suspended the subway fare hike and the curfew. On October 22, in response to people’s demands, he proposed a New Social Agenda, which includes a few concessions like increasing basic pensions by 20 percent and raising the monthly minimum wage from $413 to $482. Piñera also dismissed all of his cabinet ministers.
But for the protesters in the streets and Tijoux, such proposals and solutions are too little, too late. The Latin Grammy-winning singer talked with MTV News about “#CACEROLAZO,” how it feels to see another protest anthem from 2011 shoot to the top of the charts now, and why it’s impossible for her to separate personal issues from larger societal shifts.
MTV News: How did “#CACEROLAZO” come about?
Ana Tijoux: “#CACEROLAZO” is a response to the social moment happening in Chile with respect to the protests. It’s very direct. It was created around this critical moment that we’re living in Chile with lots of violence.
The idea was to reclaim the sound of the cacerola, or the pan, which was typically used in the protests against Pinochet. We’re returning to that form of protest with the banging of pans with a stick. In this moment, the sound signifies the unhappiness of the people. It’s very noisy but also very musical.
I’m in France right now. I’ve been supporting the movement from here in any way I can. To be far away is very difficult. For me, music is a way of spreading awareness of what’s going on in Chile and a way to send a message from a distance.
MTV News: What was it like working on a song with such a specific political view?
Tijoux: Music has always been a response and an accompaniment to historical movements. Art in whatever form should always report, support, spread, and announce what’s going on. [Working on this song] was natural for me because I’ve always considered myself very political. I feel very sensitive to the issues.
To me, the definition of being someone political is to be someone sensitive. I believe that you can’t divide the fights and your personal interests. The personal processes are always part of larger social processes as well. It’s not possible to separate the two. They are together.
MTV News: How has it felt to see people responding to “#CACEROLAZO”?
Tijoux: I want the people to receive the song how they want to receive it. The protagonists of this movement are the same people who are hearing the song. It’s about the town. I see it as a gift.
MTV News: Another one of your protest anthems, “Shock,” is one of the most-played songs in Chile right now, but you wrote it in 2011. Do you remember how you felt when you wrote that song? Did you expect it to have such a long life?
Tijoux: Yes, I remember it perfectly. I was in Santiago, in Plaza Italia. That song was inspired by the protests going on there. For the song to come back around means the demands of the people continue and that the government is not listening to them. It’s the same demands. The people are asking for dignity, free quality education, worthy pensions, and that they’re taken care of. This song calling is calling out the injustice. If a lot of people are hearing it again that means those demands haven’t been settled.
MTV News: How does it feel to be a citizen of Chile right now?
Tijoux: I feel very proud. I feel a lot of admiration for my town and my people who are awake to what’s going on. I wasn’t surprised [when the protests started] because this is something that’s been building up. I knew that it could happen at any minute.
MTV News: When President Piñera called a state of emergency and said, “We are at war” about the protests, you replied: “We are not at war.” Can you talk to me about the impact of his words?
Tijoux: That’s a phrase of Pinochet, a dictator from our past. This is not a war. We are not at war. They’re the ones taking out their weapons. With the military and the police who are murdering people, there’s been many cases of torture violations. The people are not in war. The people are protesting with their pans. If it was a war, it would be weapons against weapons. It’s their war against the people. Words are very important and they can be very violent. One has to be very careful with their words.
MTV News: Why is it important for you to use your platform, including your social media, to highlight the protests and the issues that protestors are advocating for?
Tijoux: It’s very important because the music is a tool and a window for a lot of things. It allows us to spread awareness and come together. Besides the idea of social media being about ego and our successes, it’s becoming something greater than that and it needs to be seen that way.
MTV News: What do you hope the future has in store for Chile?
Ana Tijoux: No more deaths and murders in the state of Chile. I hope for free education, fair pensions, and a new constitution. I believe we should be expecting more. What’s important is to listen to the people.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
By Lucas Villa