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Episode 79: El perro que protestó (The Dog Who Protested)

By Duolingo on Thu 04 Mar 2021

María Campos falls in love with a stray dog who has a knack for leading protests — and becomes a global symbol of unity and strength in Chile's historic social uprising.

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Transcript

Martina: In early 2011, there was unrest in the streets of Santiago, Chile. Students from across the country were protesting to demand access to free, public education. Hundreds of police officers wearing riot gear faced off with the protestors. First came the water cannons, then the tear gas. But amid the smoke, one protestor held his ground…a black street dog was barking, or ladrando.

María: Él les ladraba a los policías. Era como un soldado que defendía a los estudiantes. Él seguía al frente, siempre resistía.

Martina: In the streets, people called this four-legged protestor "Matapacos." It's a Chilean word that literally means police killer. It refers to the fierce way he defended protestors against the riot police. He never actually hurt anyone, but he wasn't afraid to bark — especially when he was under attack.

María: Siempre ladraba al frente de las protestas. Por eso se hizo tan famoso.

Martina: But to María Campos, the dog was simply Bebé — her baby. He was her dog. She had adopted him from the streets…one of many street dogs she had taken care of since she was a little kid.

María: Me rompía el corazón ver a tantos perros en las calles de la ciudad. Así encontré a mi Bebé. Desde que lo adopté fue mi bebé. Yo lo veía como un hijo y no como un héroe de las protestas.

Martina: But a hero he was… Bebé made his first appearance at student protests in the early 2010s. But when a massive wave of demonstrations rocked Chile in 2019… Bebé went from famous to infamous.

María: Mi Bebé se transformó en un símbolo de la lucha por una mejor vida. Yo nunca pensé que algo así podía suceder. Sabía que mi Bebé era especial, pero esto es otra cosa. Él ahora es una leyenda.

Martina: Bienvenidos and welcome to the Duolingo Spanish Podcast. I’m Martina Castro. Every episode, we bring you fascinating true stories, to help you improve your Spanish listening, and gain new perspectives on the world.

The storyteller will be using intermediate Spanish and I’ll be chiming in for context in English. If you miss something, you can always skip back and listen again. We also offer full transcripts at podcast.duolingo.com.

Martina: María Campos first met Bebé in 2009. She was selling chocolates in downtown Santiago. She did that every day — it was her job. But that day, there was a big traffic jam. Cars were honking, drivers were screaming. And suddenly, María heard a loud bark. It was a black dog, barking at traffic, all alone.

María: El perrito ladraba mucho y muy fuerte. La mayoría de las personas alrededor de él le tenían miedo. El perro intentaba morder los neumáticos de los autos que pasaban. Yo creo que tenía hambre. Tal vez al perrito le faltaba amor. Yo no le tenía miedo y caminé hacia él para acariciarlo.

Martina: They immediately formed a bond. María started leaving water and food out for the dog. She even gave him sweaters to wear for the cold. A lot of people in Chile care for stray dogs. But María went further than most.

María: Desde niña, siempre me han gustado muchísimo los perros. Durante mi vida he salvado a quince perros de la calle. A los que no puedo cuidar en mi casa, les dejo comida en las esquinas para que no tengan hambre. Pero, de todos los perritos que he encontrado, Bebé ha sido el más especial.

Martina: María didn't grow up with much. She sold snacks and drinks on the street to get by, and dreamed of starting her own business one day. She always worked on the same corner in Santiago in the neighborhood where she first formed a bond with Bebé.

María: Yo lo vi crecer. Cada vez lo quería más y más. Pero mi intención nunca fue llevarlo a mi casa. Yo ya tenía un perrito y no tenía dinero para mantener a otro.

Martina: One day in 2009, María headed home on the bus like usual when she was done for the day. And when she got off at her stop she saw…Bebé!

María: Mi parada de bus estaba a un kilómetro de donde yo vendía chocolates. Y el Bebé me encontró y luego, él caminó conmigo a mi casa. Le dejé un plato de comida y agua, pero no lo dejé entrar.

Martina: At first, he stayed outside. But one day, when it was very cold outside, María looked out the window and saw the dog looking in at her…

María: Me rompió el corazón. Así que lo dejé entrar a mi casa. Yo le hice una cama al lado de la puerta. Ahora yo tenía dos perritos. Bebé era especial. Él nunca se quedaba tranquilo en casa, le gustaba mucho salir.

Martina: Bebé was very curious. He slept at home. But he liked to spend his days outside, roaming the city. María lived downtown in a single-story house, just a few blocks away from local universities.

María: Desde el fin de la dictadura en nuestro país en 1990, los estudiantes siempre han protestado. Yo creo que el sistema de educación no es justo.

Martina: Before he was voted out of office, dictator Augusto Pinochet launched a major overhaul of Chile's education system. Public investment decreased while tuition skyrocketed, and many Chileans felt the new system increased inequality. Frustration built up over the years…and finally erupted in 2006.

María: Recuerdo el día de la primera gran manifestación porque fue un momento histórico. Cientos de miles de estudiantes de secundaria salieron a las calles a protestar. Hubo paros nacionales y los estudiantes ocuparon más de trescientas escuelas secundarias. Eso continuó por meses.

Martina: The movement became known as the March of the Penguins, referring to the black and white uniforms worn by high school students. But for a long time, the protests fell on deaf ears…until 2011, when college students got involved in the fight.

María: Muchas de las protestas de estudiantes venían de las universidades. Cuando había una manifestación, mi Bebé se ponía muy nervioso. Él ladraba muy fuerte al lado de la puerta porque quería salir. Yo escuchaba los cantos de los estudiantes desde mi casa. Yo comprendo el dolor de los estudiantes por no tener dinero para poder pagar la universidad.

Martina: The protests became more and more heated. Over the coming years, the number of protestors swelled to the thousands. Students gathered again outside the universities waving signs reading: "free education for all." The government sent in tanks and armored trucks to break up the crowds. María followed the protests on the news, until one day, she saw a familiar face.

María: Yo estaba viendo la televisión y en la marcha… vi a mi Bebé. ¡Estaba enfrente de los tanques! Yo tuve miedo porque los tanques le podían pasar por encima. Pero él salía a la calle y yo no podía impedírselo. Todos los días, yo le abría la puerta, le tocaba la cabeza y le pedía a Dios su protección.

Martina: There are countless videos and photos of Bebé online. Students adopted him as an unofficial protestor, and one of them put a red bandana around his neck.

María: Un día, yo oí a mi Bebé ladrar. Abrí la puerta y él entró con una bandana roja alrededor del cuello. Esto era nuevo; uno de los estudiantes se la había puesto en una de las marchas. Después de eso, nunca salía de la casa sin ella. Mi Bebé siempre llevaba puesta su bandana. Él parecía todo un superhéroe.

Martina: But being a superhero can be dangerous. Just as María feared, one day, during a protest, the dog was hit, or atropellado, by a police tank. The students rushed to help their friend and tended to him inside one of the schools. Then, they uploaded photos of the tank hitting Bebé to social media.

María: Mi hija vio en redes sociales que un vehículo policial había atropellado a mi Bebé y me avisó. Mi corazón se paró. ¿Qué le habían hecho a mi perro?

Martina: María feared that her loyal friend, her Bebé, might die after being run over by the police. Since she couldn't afford a taxi to get to the school where the students brought him, she took two trains and a bus and got there two hours later.

María: Al día siguiente, yo llevé a mi perrito al veterinario. El doctor me dijo que tenía la pata rota y que necesitaba cirugía. Me pidió permiso para hacer la operación. La operación era muy costosa. ¿Qué iba a hacer? Yo no tenía dinero.

Martina: The students that saved Bebé saw how upset María was that she didn't have the money to pay for his surgery. They decided they had to do something, for Bebé, and for María.

María: Me preocupaba no poder pagar la operación de mi Bebé. Uno de los estudiantes vino a verme y me dijo: "Vamos a pedir dinero por Internet". Yo no sabía cómo se hacía eso, pero me quedé tranquila. Ellos querían a mi Bebé tanto como yo.

Martina:* While Bebé was in the hospital, María brought him his favorite food every day: chicken and bread. The vet joked with María that they actually had dog food at the office. But Bebé liked his chicken and bread, and ate it until he was strong enough to go home!

María: Mi perrito se mejoró y nos fuimos juntos a casa. Yo pensé que después de ese accidente, él ya no iba a querer ir a las protestas. ¡Pero estaba tan equivocada! Cuando finalmente pudo caminar bien, él ladraba al lado de la puerta porque quería salir a las marchas. Yo no lo dejé porque tenía miedo. Pensaba que algo le podía pasar.

Martina: Every time he heard protestors, the dog would bark at the door, louder than usual. He'd cry and cry and look at María with big, sad eyes. Initially, María stood firm. She didn't want to risk losing him.

María: Entonces el Bebé se puso muy triste. No era el mismo perro de siempre. Si no iba a las protestas, su energía se apagaba. Al final me di cuenta de algo: si yo quería a mi Bebé, tenía que dejarlo salir a protestar.

Martina: So María let Bebé return to the protests, and made sure to bless him every day. He went for years because education reform continued to be a major issue in Chilean politics. Then, one day in 2017, María was home when she heard Bebé coughing in another room. It was a deep, strange cough. She was worried.

María: Cuando entré a la habitación me di cuenta de que algo estaba mal. Bebé estaba tirado en el piso y sacaba espuma por la boca.

Martina: This time María was scared, and she didn't have time for buses. She immediately called a friend and asked him to take Bebé to the vet. But when they reached the hospital, it was too late. Bebé died of a heart attack, at the age of 12. María couldn't believe it. He had been completely fine the night before! She was desperate to have her companion back.

María: Estaba desesperada. Lloré muchísimo. Los meses y los años pasaban y la tristeza no me abandonaba. Parecía que los estudiantes habían olvidado a mi Bebé, pero él estaba presente en mi casa. Sus cenizas estaban en mi salón.

Martina: The dog's ashes, or cenizas, were a comfort to María as she moved on with her life. Over the next few years, she saved enough money to finally buy her own convenience store.

María: Mi vida iba bastante bien, pero todos los días pensaba en mi perrito.

Martina: Then, in 2019, protests erupted again. This time, they didn't only include students, but also a growing mass of Chileans who were protesting for social justice and equity.

María: Yo estaba de acuerdo con las demandas de los estudiantes.

Martina: But the protests also terrified María: the police responded with overwhelming force. Thousands were injured. Some died.

María: ¿Cómo llegó Chile hasta aquí? Yo tenía miedo porque también tenía una tienda y no sabía qué podía pasarle.

Martina: One day, after María closed the store, she went home and turned on the TV to watch the news… And she couldn't believe what she was seeing.

María: Yo no podía creerlo, no podía ser real. ¡Mi perrito estaba en la televisión! ¿Cómo era posible? ¿Qué hacía mi Bebé ahí?

Martina: News programs were showing footage of the dog from past protests…some protesters had decided to use his image as a symbol for their movement. Soon, Santiago was packed with posters and graffiti featuring Bebé in his red bandana, barking at the establishment. People even made statues of him.

María: Sí, estatuas, grafitis y más. Yo estaba en shock. Mi Bebé, que llevaba dos años muerto, era el líder de esas protestas. No él, sino su espíritu. ¡Él vivía!

Martina: There was even an entire website with artwork commemorating him: cartoons, sketches, and portraits. Soon after, the dog's iconic image traveled the world. He appeared in graffiti in New York and Tokyo, in a sign of solidarity with Chile's protestors.

María: Era tan famoso, que un grupo creó un servicio de adopción para perritos negros como él. A los perritos les ponían la misma bandana. Eso me hizo muy feliz. Mi Bebé ayudaba a otros perros de la calle.

Martina: This adoption group built a 20-foot high statue of María's dog, made of wood and paper mache. They put it at the heart of Santiago's protests, with a sign stating where and how to adopt dogs like Bebé.

María: Era increíble, se parecía a mi Bebé, pero mucho más grande, por supuesto. Incluso llevaba puesto su traje de superhéroe: su bandana roja. Pero personas que están en contra del movimiento social la destruyeron. Cuando lo supe, me puse a llorar. ¿Por qué alguien haría algo así?

Martina: The following day, the statue of Bebé was back in place, but instead of paper mache it was made of beautiful leaves and flowers.

María: ¡Qué alegría! Fue hermoso ver a la gente apreciar de esa manera a mi Bebé. Yo pienso en mi Bebé todos los días. Su espíritu está vivo hoy y me doy cuenta de que él es mucho más que mi Bebé. Es un símbolo de la lucha por la justicia social. ¡Es una leyenda!

Martina: María Campos manages a small convenience store and lives in Santiago, Chile. She currently has three stray dogs living in her home…but that number will most likely grow.

This story was produced by Paige Sutherland, a U.S. journalist based in Santiago, Chile.

We would love to know what you thought of this episode! You can write us an email at podcast@duolingo.com and call and leave us a voicemail or audio message on WhatsApp, at +1-703-953-93-69. Don’t forget to say your name and where you're from!

This is Tania, from India…

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Martina: And if you liked this story, please share it! You can find the audio and a transcript of each episode at podcast.duolingo.com. You can also subscribe at Apple Podcasts or your favorite listening app, so you never miss an episode.

With over 300 million users, Duolingo is the world's leading language learning platform, and the most downloaded education app in the world. Duolingo believes in making education free, fun, and accessible to everyone. To join, download the app today, or find out more at duolingo.com.

The Duolingo Spanish Podcast is produced by Duolingo and Adonde Media. I’m the executive producer, Martina Castro. ¡Gracias por escuchar!

Credits

This episode was produced by Duolingo and Adonde Media.

Producer: Paige Sutherland
Protagonist: María Campos
Adonde Media Editor: Stephanie Joyce
Managing Editor: David Alandete
Mixed by: Martín Pérez Roa
Sound Design & Mastering Engineer: Antonio Romero
Production Manager: Román Frontini
Assistant Producer: Caro Rolando