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For Chileans blinded in police violence, making music has develop into one path to therapeutic : NPR


The band Hacía la Victoria, Spanish for “Onward to Victory,” after rehearsal in Santiago, Chile, on Aug. 31. The entire musicians within the band sustained critical eye accidents throughout clashes with police who used tear fuel and shotguns in opposition to anti-government protesters in 2019. From left: Camilo Galvez, Vicente Pascal, Sergio Concha, Gustavo Gatica, Cesar Galloso, Andrés López, Miles Camus.

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Paz Olivares Droguett for NPR


The band Hacía la Victoria, Spanish for “Onward to Victory,” after rehearsal in Santiago, Chile, on Aug. 31. The entire musicians within the band sustained critical eye accidents throughout clashes with police who used tear fuel and shotguns in opposition to anti-government protesters in 2019. From left: Camilo Galvez, Vicente Pascal, Sergio Concha, Gustavo Gatica, Cesar Galloso, Andrés López, Miles Camus.

Paz Olivares Droguett for NPR

SANTIAGO, Chile — At a recording studio in downtown Santiago, musicians are noodling on guitars and adjusting the drum package as they arrange for a jam session that is half rehearsal, half remedy.

All 10 members of the band, referred to as Hacía la Victoria, Spanish for “Onward to Victory,” sustained critical eye accidents throughout clashes with police who used tear fuel and shotguns in opposition to anti-government protesters in 2019.

The band’s lyrics give attention to police brutality in addition to the musicians’ ache, confusion and frustration over what occurred to them. In a single tune, “Así fue,” or “That is what occurred,” guitarist Sergio Concha remembers the day the demonstrations broke out, when he was hit within the left eye with a shotgun pellet whereas participating within the protests.

Whereas enjoying the tune, he says, “It appears like going again to that second, when all of Santiago was on hearth, when there have been barricades within the streets, when masked protesters fought the police, and after I was within the hospital with my eye patched.”

Sergio Concha, often known as Totó, rehearses in Santiago on Aug. 31.

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Sergio Concha, often known as Totó, rehearses in Santiago on Aug. 31.

Paz Olivares Droguett for NPR

Throughout 5 months of demonstrations, about 30 folks have been killed whereas greater than 450 protesters have been left partially blind once they have been hit within the face with shotgun pellets or tear fuel canisters fired by the police to regulate the crowds, in keeping with Chile’s Nationwide Human Rights Institute.

César Muñoz, a senior researcher in South America for Human Rights Watch, says the police lacked coaching in crowd management. Their shotgun shells normally contained metallic slightly than much less damaging rubber pellets. And as an alternative of firing from a safer distance and pointing towards the decrease extremities of protesters, he says, brokers typically fired their shotguns straight at them from quick vary.

“It was form of surprising to me,” Muñoz tells NPR.

Left: Demonstrators throughout the fifth day of protests in opposition to a hike in metro ticket costs in Valparaiso, Chile, on Oct. 22, 2019. The demonstrations in opposition to metro ticket costs exploded into violence on Oct. 18, unleashing widening protests over residing prices and social inequality. Proper: A riot policeman shoots at demonstrators throughout protests in Valparaiso on Oct. 20, 2019.

Javier Torres/AFP by way of Getty Photos


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Javier Torres/AFP by way of Getty Photos

In the meantime, the victims of eye accidents turned high-profile symbols of the protest motion, which was triggered by a rise in subway fares however expanded to incorporate requires extra reasonably priced housing, well being care and training and higher entry to first rate jobs and pensions. One of many victims, Fabiola Campillai — who misplaced sight completely in each eyes after being hit within the face with a tear fuel canister — was elected to the Chilean Senate final 12 months.

However as an alternative of denouncing the police brutality, some Chileans labeled the injured protesters “troublemakers” who acquired what they deserved, says Diego Leppez, who was hit within the face with a tear fuel canister that fractured his nostril and left his proper eye blind.

Diego Leppez at work in a house enchancment retailer in Santiago on Aug. 30. Leppez misplaced the imaginative and prescient in his proper eye after he was hit with a tear fuel canister fired by police throughout a protest. Protesting for a greater Chile “was a extremely massive sacrifice,” he says.

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Diego Leppez at work in a house enchancment retailer in Santiago on Aug. 30. Leppez misplaced the imaginative and prescient in his proper eye after he was hit with a tear fuel canister fired by police throughout a protest. Protesting for a greater Chile “was a extremely massive sacrifice,” he says.

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Survivors of eye accidents are simply identifiable as a result of it is exhausting to cover their accidents. Some put on black eye patches or, as within the case of Sen. Campillai, their look is altered.

Leppez says he has been jeered at within the grocery store and on the streets of Santiago and has been handled for despair. Protesting for a greater Chile “was a extremely massive sacrifice,” he says. “In my case, it value me an eye fixed.”

The members of Hacía la Victoria have discovered a path to restoration by music.

The thought for the band was hatched throughout Zoom conferences between eye-injury victims throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of have been musicians and as soon as the quarantines ended, they began jamming collectively.

Hacía la Victoria band members rehearse in Santiago on Aug. 31. From left: Cesar Galloso, Andrés López, Miles Camus, Sergio Concha, Vicente Pascal.

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Hacía la Victoria band members rehearse in Santiago on Aug. 31. From left: Cesar Galloso, Andrés López, Miles Camus, Sergio Concha, Vicente Pascal.

Paz Olivares Droguett for NPR

The band’s rhythmic and emotional basis is 23-year-old Gustavo Gatica. He was finding out psychology at a Santiago college when the protests broke out. He joined in, however throughout one of many marches, Gatica was hit within the face with shotgun pellets, leaving him completely blind.

To take out his personal frustrations, Gatica took up drumming after which joined Hacía la Victoria. Remembering that one other protester who sustained an eye fixed harm took his personal life final 12 months, Gatica says: “It is actually essential to have a circle of help.”

Gustavo Gatica rehearses in Santiago on Aug. 31. He was a psychology scholar at a Santiago college when he was hit within the face with shotgun pellets at a protest, leaving him completely blind.

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Gustavo Gatica rehearses in Santiago on Aug. 31. He was a psychology scholar at a Santiago college when he was hit within the face with shotgun pellets at a protest, leaving him completely blind.

Paz Olivares Droguett for NPR

Andrés López, a filmmaker and one of many band’s vocalists, feels the identical method. With most individuals, he finds it awkward to speak in regards to the shotgun pellet that left him blind in his proper eye. However along with his bandmates, he can open up.

“With these guys, it’s extremely simple,” López says throughout a break within the rehearsal.

Andrés López rehearses in Santiago on Aug. 31.

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Andrés López rehearses in Santiago on Aug. 31.

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Songwriter and vocalist César Galloso provides: “There have been quite a lot of ups and downs, mentally and bodily. However this musical venture has helped lots. We perceive one another as a result of all of us went by the identical factor.”

César Galloso, second from proper, rehearses in Santiago on Aug. 31.

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César Galloso, second from proper, rehearses in Santiago on Aug. 31.

Paz Olivares Droguett for NPR

The band performs a mixture of genres, from hip hop to reggae to heavy metallic. Because it positive factors extra consideration, Hacía la Victoria has been enjoying in public almost each week and has recorded a number of songs.

However its members are most pleased with the truth that their protests helped change Chile.

For one factor, the nation now has a left-wing authorities headed by President Gabriel Boric, a former scholar chief who’s attempting to handle a few of the protesters’ calls for.

“That is an essential first step,” says Gatica, the drummer.

However there have additionally been disappointments. On Sept. 4, a progressive new draft structure — strongly supported by the protest motion — was overwhelmingly rejected by Chilean voters.

That is why, despite their accidents, Gatica and the opposite band members insist they may stay lively — each on stage and on the streets.

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