“Calles Caminadas”: The Struggle for Women’s Rights in Chile

In August, “Le Monde Diplomatique” hosted a free viewing of the documentary “Calles Caminadas,” the first installment of three women’s rights films.

Santiago Chile

The film examines Chile’s past of women’s rights issues, guiding the viewer through a montage of information and historical footage. The directors Eliana Largo and Verónica Quense wove together a series of interviews to form the story of the fight for women’s equality in the political realm of Chile.

Santiago Chile
Director Eliana Largo

While this film presents important historical facts, without proper understanding of Chilean Spanish, all could be lost trying to figure out what is said. The interviewees are all Chilean women, and to fully comprehend this type of documentary, one must first be familiar with the language. If understood, the message is one of empowerment and vital knowledge for women.

It was quite a surprise to learn that a discussion with director Eliana Largo would follow the documentary showing. Viewing a powerful documentary such as “Calles Caminadas” followed by the presence of the creative mind behind it made the experience all the more enriching. However, it was disappointing to find that Largo was not as approachable as expected. As a viewer without a full understanding of the film, the opportunity to speak with the director would have been favorable.

Despite this, hearing Largo’s discussion with other people provided some further insight to the documentary’s purpose. A woman from the audience raised the point that the movie only addressed women’s political issues; Largo distinguished that in Chile the women’s rights movement has largely involved politics, more so than other issues.

Santiago Chile
President Michelle Bachelet
Photo courtesy Presidencia de la Republica de Chile

The film begins with footage of a feminist display with flags picturing Bachelet and women protesting for their rights. Following this, the stream of interviews begins. Among the interviews are women, ranging from young to old, telling the story of the feminist party, the women involved with el partido izquierda (the leftist party), and Movimiento Pro-Emancipación de las Mujeres de Chile (Pro-Emancipation Chilean Women’s Movement) (MEMCH).

MEMCH began in 1935 when women struggled for equal rights of all forms in Chile: including abortion and divorce, among many others. The founders of MEMCH included Elena Caffarena, Olga Poblete and Marta Vergara. In 1983, after the dissolution of the organization in the 1950s, the powerful Elena Caffarena and Olga Poblete worked to reinstate the movement. Their efforts, along with other organizations, were geared towards fighting discrimination against women in any form, fighting for democracy and human rights, the preservation of the environment and protesting dictatorships.

Santiago Chile
Photo courtesy El Movimiento Pro Emancipación de la Mujer Chilena ­ (MEMCH)

A story of the movement for women’s rights is told through the series of interviews, and viewers learn about Chilean women’s obstacles from the dialogues between spirited professionals, eventually leading towards the present. An understanding and appreciation emerges in the minds of the viewers, coming to fathom the struggles and achievements of Chilean women throughout their political history.

Between the interviews, complementing photographs and past footage demonstrate what the women talk about. This aspect of the documentary allows the viewer to not only hear the history being relayed, but also to visualize the efforts in a more palpable way.

The visuals in the film are refreshing breaks from the long dialogues; the lack of intermission between the interviews is quite monotonous. While all the information is useful and important, it could have been communicated in a more captivating way. Furthermore, the lighting and shots of the women are harsh and oddly angled, making the viewer question whether this is purposeful or simply a symptom of a low-budget film attempting to compose a natural portrayal of the women.

Aside from these faults, the film is quite educational and conveys its idea successfully. “Calles Caminadas” is an important documentary to watch if seeking the history of women's equality in Chile. The content is compelling and watching the documentary is an agreeable way to learn its message. The viewing at Le Monde Diplomatique, the discussion afterwards and the presence of the director created a pleasing environment to accompany this noteworthy documentary.

“Calles Caminadas”
Le Monde Diplomatique
San Antonio 434
Metro: Plaza de Armas

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