Co-founder Sixten reflects on his time in Santiago during the 2019 Chilean Revolution
It all began last year, when my yoga teacher Sara told me that her new roommate, Diego, was looking for a job. Sara means a lot to me, so I met with Diego – who had recently moved to Copenhagen from his native Chile. We hit it off and I hired Diego straight away. He was just a great guy and it felt right.
After working together for a few weeks, Diego suggested that Human Hotel should apply for an accelerator program called “Start Up Chile” – with the goal of building a host community for the COP25 UN climate summit taking place in Santiago in December 2019.
Start-Up Chile is a very competitive program with thousands of applicants, but we got accepted! So I decided to relocate to Santiago with Diego, my partner Lene and our two daughters, Bjørk and Lucca. Meanwhile, the rest of our small team stayed in Copenhagen. It was the beginning of a 7 month roller coaster ride…
Right in the middle of the Chilean Revolution
Diego and I managed to build a local Human Hotel community of more than 500 hosts in just 6 short weeks up to the opening of the COP25 summit. We had an incredible run together, one of those projects where everything just comes together…
Until the day when the Chilean government suddenly hiked the metro fares! Forcing low-income groups to spend a ridiculous large amount of their minimal salaries on transportation. It triggered something in the Chilean youth. Enough was enough and protests over an unfair neo-liberal system rose up everywhere.
Santiago in flames during the revolution, December 2019. Photo: Human Hotel co-founder, Sixten
At that very moment, we started to hear a rising sound. The sound of metal hitting metal…
Protestors on the streets of Santiago, November 2019. Photo: Sixten
In the thick of it
It was Friday night and Diego and I were sharing a bottle of local wine at our favourite restaurant, waiting for my family to join us. Diego showed me a video going viral on social media. A young woman shot in the belly by the police.
At that very moment, we started to hear a rising sound. The sound of metal hitting metal. We went down to the street and saw large groups of people banging on metal pots.
Things quickly got out of control. Buses were burning and my family had to run for cover in a restaurant on Plaza de Italia. Of all places, Plaza de Italia was to become the epicenter of the Chilean social revolution.
Later that night we found our way home through total chaos.
It would be a few more weeks before the COP25 got cancelled and our trip to South America had come to a sudden end.
Protestors bang pots and pans together, Santiago, December 2019
Thinking back on it now
My partner and I have spent many hours discussing what happened and doing our best explaining it to the girls.
Coming from well fed Copenhagen, the experience of people dying on the streets for justice blew our minds. It was a wake-up call for me personally and an important lesson for my daughters.
As for Diego, he is still in Santiago: engaged in the revolution, and my good friend. Human Hotel stands with the Chilean people.
– Sixten Kai Nielsen, Co-founder
Sixten with his family, and with Santiago colleagues Diego and Fernanda, in the desert outside Santiago before the revolution. Photo: Diego
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