I joined the neighbor’s association feeling cheated. I didn’t know what it was or what role it played for a community. But being there I realized that there was a lot to do, because there were many shortcomings, things that were missing or that were not well done. I said that it was necessary to put order. And we started organizing to get projects out. But a man told me that he was in charge there and that things were done as he said, but he did nothing.
So I started little by little, day by day, talking to the neighbors, working, and thus I gained the role of chairwoman.
Gladys Elvira Valdivia Molina is 63 years old, she was born in Sierra Gorda and when she was 6 years old she arrived in Antofagasta. Since 2007, she has dedicated a large part of her days to working to dignify the lives of the inhabitants of the Miramar Norte Neighborhood, located in the High Center of the Pearl of the Desert, which today already has more than 400 family homes.
What was it that motivated you to take up that fight flag?
The concern. There was so much to do. Little by little we started and over time we built the headquarters, paved the area, started a teenager’s club to take them out from the drug context. We set up healthy eating workshops, teachings, scientific walks and museums, art fairs, we began to do zumba … we launched several projects.
How did you do it?
Empowering us, knocking on doors. It had to be done, many people needed a roof and could not get it. We began to move, to work with the municipality, with the mayor, in projects, we articulated with 15 neighborhood associations and we starting projecting, improving the area and the social project for whom needed the most support and did not know how to do it, or where to go.
I went here and there, many people had their irregular houses. We also needed materials. We celebrated Christmas, we made spaces for diabetics, we worked with the Esperanza Fund, students in practice came from the University of Antofagasta … so many things
This story is mainly carried out by women, why do you think that happens?
There are always more women than men in these spaces. The man works more outside and with that sometimes he thinks that everything is already done. It does not have the strength that we women have. You know, we got further … the man just thinks he has to work. One is a mother, a woman, a wife, one is many things, one encompasses all that meaning: understands and empathizes with what happens to the others. Here many women, younger, older women are supporting.
Man is not like a woman, he says I have to work, I am tired because I worked. Meanwhile, the woman works 24 hours a day and even when she is tired, she continues doing things. From experience I tell you, I came from work to work more, because there were people who needed me.
What makes you to dedicate yourself to work for other people?
A very great satisfaction for the fact of being able to help others, of being able to carry out my neighborhood. I love it very much because I have always lived here and this gives me satisfaction because before I saw it very abandoned. Today I see achievements.
Was it difficult to achieve a balance to fulfill all those roles you mention?
It was not that difficult. My children were already grown up, they were my support. Here in my house we all work, not just me. Children helped. I always went to bed late, but I had support from my family.
Regarding the social outbreak in Chile: what do you think are the priority demands to which the government must respond today?
Those of education and health. You need to educate your children so that they can be someone in life, so that they can get ahead. And in health, because today we have many people, especially seniors with diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis and other things and there are no attention for emergencies, that is very complicated.
And about your relationship with the theater, how do you think access to artistic experiences brings to a community?
I always liked the theater. I got acquainted with La Huella Teatro, through Renacer Andino and Miguel Olivares. He proposed to bring performances, and with the support of Juan Pablo we accomplished many things. I remember that we started with a great performance of artists from here in the region, very good. Then with an itinerancy through various towns in the region and thus we began our linking with La Huella Teatro.
I have supported them very much when they have been in trouble, such as when they were taken out of the Abaroa house. That was sad, Antofagasta lacks to value his artists, every time I can I open the doors.
You know what happens, when the theater is far from the communities people see it as something very unreachable, so it is very difficult for the people to go, so it is necessary that the theatre comes here.
When people hear talking about theater, they are not very interested because they see it so far away. And moreover when it is “region” theater, as they call it in Santiago only because it is not from Santiago, they call it that as unprofessional theatre, and it is not.
Here in Antofagasta we have theater and category professionals, who have traveled the world with their work, that’s why I take my neighbors and invite them to be more interested.
I believe that if there were more theater spaces open to the community and there were more teaching about it, people would be more interested, they are not very interested because they see it very far away. And moreover when it is theater of “region”, as they say in Santiago only because it is not from Santiago, they say it that it is unprofessional, and it is not.
How do you see that young people are linked to the arts in your neighborhood?
The arts in youth today are very far apart. I think that if there were more instances it would be more useful. I know young people very gifted, but they have no opportunities and they are lost. More art is needed. We made art with participatory painting and it was very helpful. We painted houses like favelas in Brazil. And even the children painted. It was a worked that dignified our neighborhood.
In this 8M, what is your message for women fighters in Chile and the world?
You have to know how to fight, you have to know how to empower yourself with life. You don’t have to be submissive, you have to use yourself as a woman. We must think that we are a pillar and that we move the world. And that if there are powerful men in this life, outstanding students who have come out ahead, it is thanks to us. We give birth to children, we give them education, we are the ones who care that they are well. We give them values and that is done by fighting.
The woman must always open her mouth, she must not be silent. She must go out to fight and always be a better person. I am worth, I am someone in life and I can fight for those I love, for my community, for my family, for my environment and for my country.
How do you perceive the social movement in Chile today?
What is happening in Chile is on the right track. We are fighting for a shortcoming that we have had in Chile for many years. It is not just now. We are fighting for health, for pensions, but unfortunately bad people have not taken it that way.
It is enough to be run over. We go out to fight and we are repressed by Carabineros. A niece of mine was beaten and detained. Accused of something she did not do. She was with her college classmates, and they were arrested. She was almost killed.
So I think that the government, instead of supporting us, represses us and does not give us solutions.
We must go out to fight, we must teach the government that we are also people. They are calm because they live with a big salary … And they repress us for wanting dignity?
We have to go out this March 8, we have to show the world who we are.