Senators, unions, local communities and even a university have joined the controversial initiative, which returns to the debate five years after its first unsuccessful attempt.
Almost five years after the first formal attempt, from Vicuna a controversial initiative resurfaces that seeks to change the name of the Coquimbo Region to that of “Gabriela Mistral’s Coquimbo Region”all this in homage to the Vicuñense winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945.
“The mistake I made at that time was understanding that the region could be called Gabriela Mistral and not understanding that the name of Coquimbo has a whole history in our region, which is very important. I was wrong”, she comments to BioBioChile the ideologue of the proposal, Rafael Vera, mayor of Vicuña.
In 2017, the idea of the communal chief was to replace “Coquimbo Region” with “Gabriela Mistral Region”. And for this, he sent a letter to President Michelle Bachelet explaining her arguments.
“(…) As a way to unify this, we want to propose calling it the Gabriela Mistral Region, considering how important her figure is for the literature of the country and the world. In this way we would pay tribute to Mistral, born in Vicuña, but it would also be a message of gender equality, since it would become the first region in Chile with a woman’s name, ”said the text about the initiative, which was finally rejected by The authorities.
Last April, Vera decided to reactivate the campaign by bringing together new actors, such as the Gabriela Mistral University, the Society of Writers of Chile (Sech), Pen Chile and local communities of Vicuña. “The figure of Gabriela Mistral is so relevant, so important, so consular, that it seems to me that it is a new postponement that a tribute is not paid as she deserves, as this country should give it to her,” says Vera.
This time, the mayor also went to the senators of the area, who mostly joined the proposal. “From the UDI to the Communist Party, passing through the Socialist Party and the Christian Democracy,” adds Vera, who sees the name change as a necessary point of contrast with the other regions of Chile.
“I see that there are regions that bear the names of men and none of women. Men of arms and war, none representative of culture: the Region of Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins, the Region of Aysén de General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo. That’s why I think it’s important,” says Vera.
“There could be no person who selfishly did not want to recognize the most emblematic and transcendent figure of our country, who was perhaps born under certain conditions where no one could predict the works that he was going to carry out,” he adds.
For now, the next step will be to formalize the petition to the President of the Republic, Gabriel Boric. If there is no response, the idea is to promote a bill in the Senate. “Yasna Provoste, Francisco Huenchumilla and José Miguel Insulza have also joined”says the mayor, who assures that he has committed votes for the presentation of an eventual bill.
According to Vera, president of the Association of Tourist Municipalities of Chile, the name change would directly benefit the local industry. “It would generate an impact in tourist terms. And on the other hand, it would bring a justice that is necessary: that women and men have the same recognition, ”he says.
(Q): What would you say to those who argue that this is a “populist” initiative?
(R): Probably, those critics, if they were invited to Mexico or anywhere in the world to visit one of Gabriela’s works, they would be delighted. I believe that recognitions, if they cannot be done in life, must be done even if it is late. At 56 years old, I no longer seek prominence in that way. I am the first mayor of Vicuña elected in three periods, not having been born in the commune. I am president of the Tourist Municipalities of Chile. This idea of changing the name of the region is no longer mine and belongs to a collective, which is why we have invited everyone to participate.
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Mayor of Vicuña asks to change the name of the Coquimbo Region to honor Gabriela Mistral