In 2011, students in Chile made headlines when they launched a nationwide strike lasting almost eight months.
The trigger was high tuition costs that drove students and their families into debt. There were coordinated marches in all major cities. At some universities students took over buildings. The marches took on almost a carnival atmosphere with students engaging in “kiss-ins” and pillow fights.
Before long, the marches became multifaceted. Opponents of the massive HidroAysén dam project in Patagonia joined in. Students and trade unions joined forces when workers staged strikes and marched in Santiago and other major cities.
Tasha Fairfield, an assistant professor for the London School of Economics’ Department of International Development, said the strikes were pivotal. “The student movement played a critical role in creating political space,” Fairfield said. It “dramatically changed the political context in Chile and helped to place the issues of Chile’s extreme inequalities centrally on the national agenda.”