On October 25, 2019, more than one million Chileans took to the streets to march peacefully against the increase in subway fares and demanding reforms to an unequal economic system inherited from the Pinochet dictatorship. In the midst of this massive march, the Los Prisioneros song, El baile de los que sobran (The Dance of Those Who Are Left Over) was heard being sung at the top of their lungs.
The song refers to the forgotten, the nobodies, who were sold the myth of meritocracy and equal opportunities through education. Through this song, the band addresses the millions of Chileans who did not have access to good jobs or good living conditions, because they were not given the same opportunities as the rich. These young people go to school with a lot of effort and dedication, with the illusion that the education they receive will open doors for them. At the end of the day however, they discover that their possibilities for employment or higher education (university) are completely limited.
Nos dijeron cuando chicos
Jueguen a estudiar
Los hombres son hermanos
Y juntos deben trabajar.
(We were told when we were children/play to study/men are brothers/and together they must work.)
Oías los consejos
Los ojos en el profesor
Había tanto sol sobre las cabezas
Y no fue tan verdad
Porque esos juegos al final
Terminaron para otros con laureles y futuro
Ydejaron a mis amigos pateando piedras.
(You heard the advice/ eyes on the teacher/ there was so much sun overhead/ And it wasn’t so true/ because those games at the end/ ended for others with laurels and future / and left my friends kicking rocks.)
El baile de los que sobran is a call to all these people, excluded from the neoliberal system and excluded from the labor market. Los Prisioneros call for the union of these individuals, in a space of solidarity that leaves the door open to collective organization.
Unánse al baile
De los que sobran
Nadie los va a echar de más
Nadie nos quiso ayudar de verdad.
(Join the dance/ of those who are left over/ no one will miss them/ no one really wanted to help us.)
This song was composed by Jorge González in a particular political context, that of the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). Thirteen years after the military junta overthrew the elected president Salvador Allende (1970-1973), Chileans have seen a great transformation of their country. In addition to the terror of a totalitarian and repressive regime, an ultra-liberal economic policy was imposed by the Chicago Boys, economists trained in Milton Friedman’s Chicago School. This economic theory imposed a program of structural shock, corresponding to the suppression of state intervention in economic matters and the liberalization of the economy. As a result, millions of people lost their jobs and had to work much harder to barely survive. Education and health were divided into two sectors (public and private) of different quality. In other words, the Pinochet dictatorship, although it stabilized the macroeconomic indices, accentuated the differences between the rich and the poor.
The dance of those who are left over had a great echo since it came to light, not only in Chile, where it became a symbol of the struggle against the repression of the military dictatorship, but also in several other Latin American countries. ■