A South American Pacific: Maritime Workers and Radical Solidarity in Peru and Chile

Friday, January 5, 2018: 3:50 PM
Congressional Room B (Omni Shoreham)
Joshua Savala, Cornell University
This paper narrates and analyzes port and maritime worker strikes in Valparaíso, Chile and Mollendo, Peru. Rather than focusing only on transnational aspects, I argue that organizing in both locations was intensely transnational and local—or trans-local as Matt Matsuda has suggested. In other words, local, national, and transnational elements all combined to create the specific routes of the protest and the state’s reaction to them. With connections to Australia and the southern Andes, these movements took local concerns to the transnational and back, changing the shape of politics across the south American Pacific littoral. Moreover, I show that despite heightened state conflict between Peru and Chile due to negotiations over a land dispute from the aftermath of the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), maritime and port workers, primarily anarchist in practice, sought to forge connections across the maritime border. For many of these anarchists, the national conflict was nothing more than a nationalist distraction; instead, they articulated and enacted a common identity of maritime worker. As a result of these connections, police in both countries stepped up their spying and surveillance of these movements, detaining, arresting, and sending them to other locations.