This image is part of the ‘Ojos’ bi-weekly series. Ojos is a photoletter that tributes people, their merits, the environment and connects our human experience to community with the use of a camera—here in the Bay Area.
Out of necessity, Manuel Vergara first started selling flags and other goods at 8 years old. It’s been his job to sell on the street since then. Nearly 21 percent of Chile’s population live in poverty, earning less than $10 a day. Vergara tells me that he earns $30 a day selling flags, and sometimes less than $15. I saw Vergara holding the flag on his shoulder as people waited in line to enter an event that was happening outside of the Palacio de La Moneda (the presidential building) for the 50th anniversary of the coup. In Chile, it’s mandatory to hang the Chilean flag from every building in the country during Sept. 18 and 19, the country’s Independence Day, or else people could be fined more than $300. The Fiestas Patrias closely collide with the anniversary of the United States-backed coup that saw President Salvador Allende overthrown on Sept. 11, 1973. This measure has been amended over the years to urge Chileans to be more nationalistic. Vergara says that he hasn’t seen many flags outside as before, but it is during this time of the year that he hopes to make a little bit more money. However, this year, many Chileans mourned the 50th anniversary of the coup, and more attention is being brought to the human rights abuses that took place during the dictatorship, and many Chileans feel a disconnect with the country’s patriotic rhetoric. “It was horrible, the far-right inflicted too much anguish on our society — mainly the poor, the working middle class,” Vergara said. “How many mothers had to tell their sons that their fathers were murdered, more than 50 years later?”