To the best of my recollection, I can’t recall ever being tear-gassed.
My first instinct should probably have been to turn around and run away from the plaza, just like everyone else who went scampering, screaming and covering their mouths. The old, indigenous woman, with the multiple petticoats and black pork pie hat, sitting at her usual location half-way up the block, from whom I usually bought a daily newspaper, suddenly bent over and vomited. Moments before, I had heard a “pop-pop” and saw white, billowing clouds of smoke. A young Ecuatoriano adult, running in a hooded sweatshirt, gave a sudden yelp and stumbled, after getting hit in the leg with one of the tear gas canisters.
Listen to the song while reading the text.
The intense burning starts first in the throat, accompanied by a strange, metallic taste when swallowing. The nose then starts to flange and burn as the tear gas (which is actually not a gas, but an aerosolized solid or liquid compound) synges the cilia inside. Sneezing eventually sets in, followed by wet, weeping eyes. Depending on how much of the gas to which one is exposed, incessant coughing can occur, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing, eye pain, and temporary blindness. Fortunately, I caught sight of a coffee shop pulling down the metal window covers and was able to duck inside with about 10 others before the doors were closed and locked. That was day #1 of the 12 days of violent protests in Ecuador, which were eventually the catalyst for the Latin Spring of 2019.
Two days earlier, President Lenin Moreno had announced austerity measures in order to curb the country’s debt, which had tripled under his predecessor, President Rafael Correa. These included cuts in public worker’s benefits and wages and an end to fuel subsidies, which subsequently doubled the price of diesel gas. The transportation industry and indigenous groups were outraged and staged protests throughout the country, blocking all bridges and highways around the larger cities. Several major oil fields, TV stations, and the National Assembly were occupied as student groups, and labor unions soon joined the uprising. As the paralysis in Ecuador extended into the second week, it catapulted longer and more intense demonstrations in Chile and, later in the month, in both Bolivia and Colombia.
Although the triggering events differed (increase in metro fares, eliminating fuel subsidies, rumors of an end to public pensions, a contested presidential election, etc.) the outcomes were similar; lengthy, large scale and often violent anti-government protests staged by students, public employees, and indigenous groups which resulted in the deployment of the military and police to quell the unrest. Demonstrators in Colombia waved Chilean and Ecuadorian flags and displayed banners that read: “South America woke up.”
The results? The return of the petroleum subsidies in Ecuador, a repeal of the metro fare increase in Chile, the resignation of President Evo Morales in Bolivia, and an agreement to negotiate with the protest leaders in Colombia. Although the protest brought about significant gain, they also had negative consequences, some of which were severe. There were multiple deaths and hundreds of injuries to protesters, bystanders, police, and military personnel. Many of the demonstrations caused extensive property damage. prolonged business closures, disruption of infrastructure, and major effects on travel and tourism. A country should not need to endure such hardships in order to move forward.
Revolución is an original psychedelic Afro-Latin composition by Ojos Feos featured on their 2019 album, La Situación, which is played behind an adaptation of a merengue based rhythm. Although not written with the intent to represent any particular country, the song is an ode to citizens who rise up and speak out against inequality and governmental corruption. As evidenced by the Latin Spring of 2019, when the people find their voice, the government will eventually listen.
Ojos Feos, Category: Artist, Albums: La Situación, Di Bodi Fayn, Singles: Soy Vagabundo, Top Tracks: Soy Vagabundo, Somalia, Why O Why?, G’bye Mugabe, Perdida en la Mina, Biography: A psychedelic Afro-Latin rock music project, Ojos Feos consists mostly of musicians who have lived in developing countries., Monthly Listeners: 29, Where People Listen: Santiago, Šaľa, Chennai, Pune, Mexico City