Chile’s Bicentennial: Celebrating what we are

Chile's Bicentennial posterCan a country as diverse as Chile be summed up in a single graphic image? Today some thoughts on the official Bicentennial Poster.

Chile loves “concursos”—contests, competitions—of all sorts. They may be of the playful, champion-determining type (sports, games, dances, etc.); the best-of type (the arts, literature, music, etc.); the who-shall-we-hire type; and the who-gets-the-bid type. So it really wasn’t surprising to see that the Bicentennial Committee sponsored a concurso for the official Bicentennial Poster. The theme was declared “Celebrating what we are,” and here is final result.  Take a look. How well does the poster  represent Chile to you?Chile’s Bicentennial Poster: Celebrating what we are.

The challenge was to graphically portray the idea of “celebrating what we are” (celebrar lo que somos), and designer Pilar Alemparte chose the snow-capped Andes as the predominant theme, with colorful ribbons for a celebratory effect (they also remind me of the kites we so often see flying with the mountains as a backdrop).

It’s a clean, simple, clear design. It’s a good design, but I’m missing something. The sea, for example. And the desert. And Patagonia. And Antarctica. And Rapa Nui (Easter Island). And Juan Fernández (Robinson Crusoe Island). And the fertile Central Valley. And the lakes and volcanoes and rivers and hot springs and salt flats…

The Andes are an imposing, dominating feature of Chile, the backbone of this wonderful country, but they are balanced by the ever-present lapping of ocean waves to the west, the hot, dry, mysterious desert to the north, and the cold, wet wonders of Patagonia and Antarctica to the south. They frame this place we call home and define—in many ways—how we live within it.

And there’s the rub. How we live within it. Celebrating who and what we are. I can’t find the “we” in this poster. The national identity,  Chileanness, the Chilenidad. I’m missing the human element.  Is it implied in the ribbons, perhaps? They symbolize the fiesta intended to represent the unifying factor. But do they represent a Chilean fiesta? Or could this poster represent any other mountainous country?

I am the first to admit that I am not designer and that it is easy to critique and criticize the work that others have put so much effort into–not only this designer, but the entire team that chose this image–but I wish the human side were present.  I ask myself what might do the trick for me. As simple inclusion that would bring some humanness, some Chileanness into the image. And I come up with a kite. One of those typical Chilean flag kites flying over those mountains, with the colorful ribbons streaming down from it.

I’ve been thinking about this poster for a while, and would like to know what the rest of you think. Taking into consideration that the challenge was a big one, and that Chile’s diversity is one of its most wonderful gifts—and precisely what makes it so difficult to sum up in a clean, clear message, I turn it over to you. Does it accomplish the task of “celebrating what we are”?

Update (September 11, 2010):

I am very pleased with the discussion going on in the comments section–please read through them, they certainly expand upon, add to, and enrich my original thoughts.
Please note too that I was able to contact Pilar Alemparte, the designer who created the official Chile Bicentennial Poster, and have added her comments (dated Sept 11) in both in the original Spanish and then immediately following in English (my translation).
Thank you everyone who has taken part in this discussion… this is just part of the much larger issue of who Chileans are and what Chile is all about…

You can also see the other two posters that were runners up for the official afiche at:”Vive el Bi100: Afiche Bicentenario

39 responses to “Chile’s Bicentennial: Celebrating what we are

  1. Maybe, just maybe, the poster represents the celebration itself, with the ever present Andes, and not the reason for celebrate, or what is celbrated.
    That, because if we really try to put in a poster the “who we are” the poster loses some consistency; it should include mapuches, aymaras, huasos, miners, La Portada of Antofagasta, a quiltro, a kite, Torres del Paine, empanadas, asados, moais, Patagonia, wines, groundhogs, 😉 animitas, trompos, Chiloé, and the list goes on…
    I´m not a designer either, but if there are son many concepts to include, maybe it´s better to choose something simpler. Also, maybe other designers presented their posters with a multiconceptual design, but it has to be 1000 times harder to create one that doesn´t miss something.

  2. Hi Marmo- yes, that’s the point I was trying to get at. Chile is soooo diverse that we can’t include everything and SOMETHING has to represent the whole, and the Andes are very much a key part of that (although not so much to the fishermen, to the Rapa Nui, to those on Juan Fernandez), which is why I came up with the kite…
    La Fundación Imagen País has had a hard time coming up with a defining image for Chile, and I think it is truly because Chile is diversity and that is a very difficult concept to portray in a simple form.

  3. Hi Margaret – Perhaps someone like you should make a few suggestions to La Fundación Imagen País. I am serious. The average Chileno is “too close to the trees” sort of speak.
    As a foreigner who has adopted Chile as your second home, you can offer a truly unique perspective that most Chilenos may not have.

  4. Thanks John, and yes, we’ve been in touch.

  5. I am always left thinking after I’ve read your blog. A good blog it is! I like the design and I agree that it may be more about the celebration itself. And I very much like John Carr’s suggestion.

  6. @Marmo–Are there any groundhogs in Chile? (besides the 2 marmitas, me refiero?)

  7. Hi Barb- Thanks-glad you like it! It’s also nice to know that someone in the family is paying attention! 😉
    Yes, the poster is about celebration, but the definition of the project competition was “celebrating what we are” rather than simply “celebrate.”
    Chile is one of the few (perhaps the only) tri-continental country in the world–South American, Antarctica, and Oceania, so it’s no easy task to find an element that all Chilean can identify with, although the Andes is certainly a pretty good start… but I think the sea has just as much importance–perhaps more, since we have island territories that obviously have no connection whatsoever to the mountains.
    Oh how I would love to know what went on during the meetings of the committee who had to make this decision!

  8. I have to agree about the kites-the kites feel so Chilean to me. And that Chile is so multi-faceted, it should say more. Although I am not artistic and don’t know exactly how one would portray that. I’m guessing the expense of printing would be more of an issue there than many places.

  9. Well yes, Margaret, actually there is a Chilean groundhog! It´s called “cururo”, and together with “coipo”, are the distant relatives of cousin Phil here in Chile. I mentioned groundhogs in the list, however as a self reference xD
    Tricontinental Chile could be like a giant triangle with a Moai, snow and desert in each angle. And that would be just a geographical reference, I think, but not really who we are.
    I would like to see the other posters, I´m sure they have a lot to say about this.

  10. @Laura- glad to see I’m not alone on the kites (post on that issue coming soon!). It’s a sure sign of spring to see them being sold in the parks and along the roadsides, and my husband has always lamented the new plastic ones in favor of the traditional paper ones–and the Chilean flag is the most traditional of all.
    In terms of printing the posters- the detail of the design does not affect the cost of printing, but the number of colors does. This is 4-color, so that does not seem to have been an issue.
    @Marmo- I’ve heard of “copios” but didn’t realize they were Phil’s cousins, and don’t think I’ve ever even heard of cururos! And yes, I certainly did catch the autoreferencia (which is why I responded with marmitas, because I know there’s a pair there! 😉
    And yes, I agree, the geography is just a part–which is why I said that I missed the human element in the poster!
    I’d love to hear from someone in graphic design on this!

  11. hmm, I think it’s a good design to show the rest of the world. Or maybe not a good one, but the Andes are certainly what I would have thought of when thinking of something to represent Chile before I got here. Since for me Santiago IS Chile (just in the sense that I know only Santiago and haven’t visited other places for long enough to get a good sense of them), I would design a micro with the view of a palm tree and the mountains. And maybe a german shepherd mix street dog wearing a neck warmer.

    I asked my students about what they think represents Chile and almost every single one blurted out, “SMOG!” and then a few, much more attractive representations of Chile.

    Oh, one last thing. It may just be me but the design seems like it could double as an LGBTQ poster, which I like on many levels.

  12. Isa- hmmm- You’re making me think– and you know I like that! OK- so Andes, yes, that’s an easy one–for outsiders–but I’m thinking this poster is for Chileans first, and I really, really want to be all-inclusive in thinking about “who/what we are” (notice how I just go ahead and include myself right in there–but Chile IS about immigrants too…)
    A micro (that’s an urban bus for anyone who doesn’t speak Chilean) with a palm tree and mountains- add the mutt (quiltro)–good touch– all we need now is a bit of ocean and we might be on to something here.
    Students shouting Smog–typical (in every sense of the word)
    But LGBTQ? (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning? help me out! other than the enormous “BI” (which is an issue in itself, why doesn’t it just say “200”?), what do you see that I’m missing? You KNOW you’re going to keep me up thinking about this… You think the designer is pulling something over on the public/government? (that would be rich!)
    PS: I love that you take these issues to your students! I always did that when I was teaching–I learned SOOO much about Chilean culture in conversation classes with my adult English students!

  13. @Isabel – Sorry, but to suggest that Santiago IS Chile is just not accurate. Not any more than saying that New York City IS the U.S. I guess if the same question were to be asked by a New York City teacher of her students, most of them would blurt out “Taxi cabs”.
    Santiago is definitely the capital and the most important city, but it is definitely NOT Chile. Not by a long shot!

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  15. Where’s this poster from? Switzerland (mountains and colors showing language diversity)? Nepal (mountain people who like color ribbons)? All right, maybe Chile, because they sell matchboxes branded Andes there in supermarkets that came to my mind when I saw this poster. Oh, yes! It’s Chile! I just spotted the name with a magnifying glass!
    You’re right Margaret. There’s only one way of saying 200 and it is 200.

  16. John- Woops, that is not what I was trying to say! I was more making fun of myself for only REALLY knowing Santiago so my poster would be of Santiago (I’ve visited other parts of Chile, but I’ve only lived in Santiago so it’s my Chilean reality). I was also just playing with the words because I really like the program “Santiago no es Chile”. I would never say that Santiago is Chile. I hope that clarifies it a bit.

    As for the LBGTQ bit–it’s subconscious for me. The second I saw it, I thought of that. I also thought of that once I saw the new colors for the gov’t logo. It made me wonder if the artist was trying to say something. It especially makes me wonder because in addition to thinking of the LBGTQ flag when I saw this and also the new gov’t’s logo, I thought of the Mapuche flag and I really don’t think that’s a fluke (subliminal propaganda??). Especially since your point on the ways to say 200. There really is only one way. That’s just my thinking and I probably should have prefaced it by saying I DO read alternative theories and history books so I may not be the best person to to comment on this 🙂

  17. @Isabel – Appreciate you taking the time to shed some light on this issue. As far as what the artist was trying to say something other than referring to Chile’s bicentennial, I honestly have my doubts, but you never know.

  18. @Gonzalo- We’re thinking along the same lines! You a designer by any chance? What elements would you have included? (and thanks for confirming that the “BI 100 = 200” is kinda weird).

  19. Hi,
    Neither marmots nor groundhogs call Chile home. The chinchilla is about as close as it gets. The introduced Beaver Canadenses, an aquatic version of the marmot and ground hog has become a serious pest animal in Patagonian Chile and Argentina. Please leave the beaver to us Canadians!

  20. Margaret, I have a second guess. The poster has to do with the future. After all, haven’t you noticed how the president abuse the phrase “Visión de Futuro”? In this case, Bi100 is chat slang, the future. White, blue and red is outdated, while Ralph Lauren polo shirt colors are the future. A plain big Chile or Chilean flag would be too coarse: in the new era things are more or less implied. Just one star is too little for this new ambitious country.
    On the other hand, I think that visions of future may be very honorable but are difficultly shared. How do we figure it out? Enter traditions. They are shared, if not by any at least by many. And I like your lowly Chilean flag kite, because I think it deeply represents the Chilean soul.

  21. Hey, Gonzalo- I’m liking where you’re headed here… I think you’re right! They’re aiming at a younger generation… building a new future, veering off from the ruptures of the past (or is it the cusp of the 11th making me talk this way?) Maybe they’re thinking “start fresh” instead of trying to patch old wounds?
    My feeling is that the guy is super intelligent, he’s had such success because he knows who and how to consult, so there’s aren’t going to be any “yeah, well that’ll do” decisions… it’s making sense… (well, except for the maripoto incident jajaja)
    Then… as you say… solo algunos van a cachar donde va… others will scratch their heads, other will shrug (ni ahí)… I like the kite just because it IS simple, but so are the ribbons…
    OK, so I’m buying the argument but not drinking the koolaid… Chile has a lot of absolutely wonderful traditions and needs to build on the bueno y propio… move forward without losing the past…
    For example, I really lament some of the “progressive” decisions, such as completely tossing the traditional aesthetic of the old micros (city buses to non-Chileans)… they could have updated the vehicles but kept the signage… for example, and just sayin!
    On the other hand, it’s the younger people coming back to certain old traditions–the cueca chora, por ejemplo! Maybe precisely in response to certain attempts to over-globalize…
    Thanks for coming back to this… shows it’s got you wondering about it too! Man I love it when this happens! Wish we could get the designer and/or someone from the committee to weigh in here!

  22. OK Gonzalo, this future idea has got me thinking more about this. It definitely makes sense that it’s aimed at a younger crowd and the design’s style is much more futuristic than traditional. It also gives this feeling of the sky’s the limit here in Chile, Go down below the Andes and be yourself.

    This prompted me to look up other bicentennial posters and logos and compare what the message might be. Colombia’s is a much simpler design, but I think it speaks to the future idea as well and it has two stray or rebellious or maybe just progressive stars apart from the main design (not sure if you want a link on here or not). Argentina’s also follows a similar theme as Colombia, but it seems much more about unity and solidarity.
    THEN, check on the US’s from 1976. Granted, it’s obvious the design is going to be completely different since it was made over 30 years ago during different times, but it’s interesting to see how different they are. I could go on and on here because the US’s logo seems to be all about unity, sticking together, conformity, solidarity, yet at least the last word -Solidarity- is something I associate much more with Latin American countries. Something geared toward the future would be what I would expect the U.S. government to have come up with.

    So my conclusion is that Chile’s logo without the poster is even unlike any other and the poster seems to have really taken that onda into consideration. Either way, Chile’s breaking from the pack with this because it is the most unique logo I’ve seen yet…

  23. Isa- wow- this really got you thinking too! I’d love to have those links so we can all take a look at the different symbols.
    I’ve also been in contact with the designer, Pilar Alemparte, and she has given me permission to include her comments here. I’m translating them into English now so we can have both versions and everyone can be included.

  24. Primero en castellano, luego en inglés. Encontré y conversé con Pilar Alemparte, la diseñadora que hizo el afiche bicentenario. Le comenté de nuestra conversación aquí y la pregunté por sus ideas y comentarios. Me respondío muy amamablemente y me dio permiso repetirlos aquí:

    “…si quieres poner mis comentarios, adelante, es buena la conversación y entiendo que va mucho mas allá del afiche; es de nuestra identidad:

    No es fácil representar Chile, es cierto que Chile es un millón de cosas pero quise sintetizar lo más posible.
    Pensé inmediatamente en la Cordillera que vemos a lo largo del país. Es cierto que el mar también, pero también hay muchos países que tienen mar. Para mi la cordillera es muy representativa, única, bella, fuerte y está presente en todo el territorio.

    Lo de las cintas es la celebración y la alegría, y el texto responde a la forma rápida que tenemos de sintetizar al comunicarnos, en nuestros mensajes de texto, correos, etc.

    Habría que preguntarle a los que eligieron las razones de la elección, lo que sé es que inicialmente se declaró desierto el concurso y se hizo una segunda invitación, finalmente fueron muchas las propuestas.

    Créeme que yo fui la primera sorprendida por la elección. Pero creo que es una imagen limpia, actual y memorable, pocos elementos que dicen mucho, que es lo que un diseñador busca, al menos yo.

    Dentro de los bocetos desarrollados trabajé un afiche sólo con personas, en ilustración y en donde cada uno decía “soy Juanita, chilena”; “soy Pedro, chileno” y así muchos chilenos que estaban dispuestos armónicamente en el espacio en actitudes positivas, paseando al perro, andando en bicicleta, etc.
    Pero me pareció más serio y de “más peso” la montaña como imagen principal.
    Hasta pensé en el indio pícaro como única imagen que es lo más original y simpático que tenemos.

    Gracias por invitarme a ver los comentarios, es interesante verlos…

  25. @Mr Montpetit
    My mere presence proves you wrong. ;P Hahah, Seriously, there are no real groundhogs here, just relatives, but we move away from the bicentenial subject.
    I think the comments from miss Alemparte will bring new lights about all this. And I insist, seeing some other posters from the competition would be nice.

  26. Now in English:
    I found Pilar Alemparte, the designer who created Chile’s official Bicentennial Poster. I told her about the discussion we have going on here and asked her opinions. She gave me permission to publish her comments here. The originals (in Spanish) are in the previous comment. Here is my translation of what she said, so that everyone can remain included in the conversation:
    Comments from Designer Pilar Alemparte:
    … go ahead and use my comments if you want. It’s a good conversation and I understand that it goes much beyond the poster. It’s about our identity.

    It’s not easy to represent Chile. It’s true that Chile is a million things, but I wanted to summarize as much as possible.
    I immediately thought of the Andes, which we see all throughout the country. True, there’s the ocean too, but there are many countries that have the sea, but for me, the mountains are very representative—unique, beautiful, strong, and present throughout the entire territory.

    The ribbons represent celebration and joy, and the text responds to the fast, short way we communicate in text messages, emails, etc.

    You’d have to ask the people who made the decision about their reasons, but I do know that the competition was initially declared void (no winner). They sent out a second invitation and finally there were many proposals.

    Believe me, I was the first to be surprised by the choice. But I think it is a clean, modern, and memorable image, which is what a designer looks for, at least I do.

    As I was sketching out ideas, I worked on one that was just people, an illustration in which each one said “I am Juanita, Chilena,” “I am Pedro, Chileno,” and so on, with many Chileans harmoniously arranged in the space with positive attitudes, walking the dog, riding bikes, etc. But it just seemed more serious and “weightier” to have the mountains as the primary element.
    At one point I even though about using just the “indio pícaro” as the most original and simpático image that we have.

    Thanks for inviting me to see the comments, it’s interesting to see them

  27. @Marmo- hahaha… I was waiting for you to respond to John M!
    And yes, Pilar’s comments are up and I’ve added an update to the original post that includes a link to the Bicentennial Committee and the 2 runner-up posters… Whatcha think?

  28. Mmm Miss Alemparte´s poster was the better by far, considering the other two.
    Somehow, all three of them lack some warmth, I feel them too cold and sharp. I think, or rather feel, that a poster with something nicer, closer or friendlier would´ve been a better choice, for me, at least. But I´m no designer, and maybe that´s why I´m not.

  29. I also liked the 3rd one quite a bit, although it did feel a bit like the Olympics. Did you notice that in the picture of the judges with the posters on the table, one is a kite-like flag?
    On the same website there’s a link for the Bicentennial stamp that has a true people-poster feel to it, although a bit too folkloric in my opinion. I like that this poster is both serious (black and white mountains) and festive (colored ribbons)… showing both the serious and playful sides of Chile.

  30. Hola a todos, aqui pueden ver el segundo y tercer lugar del afiche.

  31. Hola Pilar-
    Muchas gracias por el link… gracias nuevamente por los comentarios que me permitiste subir en tu nombre.
    ¿Hay algo más que te gustaría agregar? Como ya has visto, generó una conversación bastante interesante sobre qué es, exactamente, Chile y cómo representarlo.

  32. How do You make a volantin-kite. As a young Chileno I would build and fly them. I’m no longer Young and can not recall the process….If anyone knows please post.

  33. Hi Víctor! I will be posting about kites soon and will try to find out how to make them. They don’t look too hard, although I’m sure there must be some special tricks to making a really good one!

  34. Hi Margaret – I do not intend to use your blog as a personal platform for conveying messages to readers. Please pass my email address to Victor so I can help him making volantines.

  35. Hi John- I’ve got a better idea! Why don’t you write it up and send it to me and I’ll use it as a guest post! Do you have memories of making kites when you were a kid here in Chile? Of flying them? of competing with them? Would be great!

  36. My pleasure and I will do just that. Allow me a bit of time because I want to do it calmly after I get home. I think I should post it in Spanish, unless you think some gringos/as may also be interested in making them.
    Trust me, we are not talking rocket-science here. It’s pretty easy stuff.

  37. Great John. Write it in whichever language you feel most comfortable in. If you write it in Spanish, I can translate it and post both versions. I like to have bilingual posts whenever possible! I’d like to post on kites sometime this week–will that be possible?

  38. No hay problema Margaret. You will have a most comprehensive White Paper on “Home Made Volantin Manufacturing Techniques and Best Practices” tonight, LOL, LOL.
    I have been reading too many academic papers lately!

  39. Great! But not too techie please! 😉

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