Gabriel Boric, a president of the end of the world
The mayor of Punta Arenas has asked not to climb Gabriel Boric’s tree. It is not that this rounded cypress that has been enduring the strong winds of the Strait of Magellan for a hundred years is the property of the new president of Chile, but everyone already knows it as the Boric tree.
“This is my favorite tree in Punta Arenas and, from above, you can see the entire city and the Strait of Magellan. It makes me remember what we were and think about what we want to be”. These are words pronounced by the new president in one of the spots of the long electoral campaign that culminated in his victory in the second round last December.
Campaign advertisers found out, by chance, that Boric often climbed the cypress after school and quickly became a symbol of the new Chile that the candidate proposed, not only in the videos but also in other merchandising elements. .
The tree is already a new tourist attraction in remote Punta Arenas, the largest city in the extreme south of the American continent. Tourists and visitors make a pilgrimage to Colón Avenue, planted with rows of identical cypresses, and they don’t stop until they locate the one that Boric climbed as a teenager.
Now it will be easier to identify because a few days ago the mayor, Claudio Radonich, announced that a sign will be put up asking not to get on. “The report from our forestry engineer indicates that the tree has significant internal damage,” he said. “We understand that it has become a tourist spot,” Radonich added.
People take photos in front of the cypress but they also climb (or climbed), including more than one journalist. The path to the cup is short but intricate. Above, in addition to the view promised by Boric, there are some branches with inscriptions and a bow with the Chilean flag.
The school where Boric studied is two blocks away. It is The British School, one of the most elite private schools in this city of 125,000 inhabitants, located more than 3,000 kilometers by land from Santiago, and separated by ice fields from the rest of Chile, which leaves it almost cut off, if It’s not by plane.
The combative character of the new president was forged in the capital of the Magallanes region, whose geographical marginalization with respect to the country’s center of power has led its inhabitants to autonomist demands, which Boric also highlighted in the campaign.
The Boric tree is already a tourist attraction in Punta Arenas, the main gateway to Antarctica
The leader of the Broad Front has the magellanity tattooed on his skin. Literally. The three tattoos of the young president are a map of his native region, with his islands and fjords; a lenga from Tierra del Fuego bent by the wind; and a lighthouse at the end of the world.
It is also literal to say that Boric grew up facing the Strait of Magellan. The family home is only separated from the ocean by a fast-traffic avenue through which joggers or neighbors who also take selfies pass, especially if Brownie, the president’s dog, who is already a celebrity in Chile and has Instagram account.
On one side of the fence, the can. On the other, a black sand beach and in the background the ships and cruise ships that transit through Patagonia between the Pacific and the Atlantic, or that sail to Antarctica.
Boric’s parents, María Soledad Font and Luis Javier Boric, now retired, continue with their lives normally, except for the transfer that represented the inauguration of their son on March 11. In an interview with this newspaper at the end of January, Soledad spoke of her Catalan grandfather, born in Badalona [ver La Vanguardia del pasado 13 de enero] and also of its humble origin.
“It was impoverished middle class. I studied at a convent school, for free, a good school, but I remember that I didn’t have clothes to change into, I had the uniform and some old dress that had belonged to my sister. We didn’t go on vacation either, and if we did, it was with the help of one of my mom’s sisters. We were not in poverty, but we were a middle class without resources,” said the mother, who arrived in Punta Arenas at the age of six from Talca, in the center of the country.
Soledad studied executive secretarial work and started working as a librarian at the Empresa Nacional del Petróleo, where she met her husband, a chemical engineer of Croatian origin, like a good portion of the inhabitants of Magallanes. The marriage was left alone almost two decades ago when her three children –Gabriel, Simón and Tomás–, with little difference, left for Santiago to study and only returned on vacation.
It is a wealthy family but without luxuries, as Luis Javier Boric seems to want to point out when he says goodbye to the journalist at the garden gate, who is looking towards the two-story building. “There are two houses, just in case, we share the terrace,” says the president’s father, pointing to the entrance of his neighbor.
Of course, both parents voted for their son in the elections and support his program, even though they both come from Christian Democratic families. Soledad even acknowledges having voted for the right-wing Sebastián Piñera for his first term. And because he was a member of the Christian Democracy, Luis Javier could not vote in the primaries of the leftist coalition Approve Dignidad, which in July 2021 consecrated his son as a candidate.
Boric is a ‘millennial’ president who naturally recognizes that he had a gay experience or suffers from OCD
Graduated in Law, Gabriel Boric was born in Punta Arenas 36 years ago. He assumes the presidency as the youngest president in Chilean history and, currently, in the world. He arrives at La Moneda with only one more year than the current and moribund neoliberal Constitution allows, drafted by the Pinochet dictatorship.
The Constitutional Convention is already preparing a new progressive Magna Carta, in line with many of Boric’s promises, and which is a direct consequence of the social explosion of 2019. As is the election of this former student leader who only a decade ago, In 2011, he became popular for leading the university revolt demanding free education. He was then president of the Student Federation of the University of Chile. The other university leaders who were demonstrating alongside him today are ministers.
In line with popular demands, the ruler intends to promote a welfare state, something revolutionary in a Chile dominated by ultraliberalism bequeathed by the dictatorship.
Boric is a president millennial who does not wear a tie, exhibits tattoos and shows himself as he is in interviews where he has no problem in naturally admitting that he had a homosexual experience or talking about the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that he suffers from, already greatly mitigated after his treatment.
He is a representative of the end of the world, who claims his Patagonian origin. “The Chile that we imagine with dignity is built from the territories. Some say that Chile ends here, they are wrong. Here begins a new Chile”, affirmed Boric in another spot of the campaign.
The people of Puntarenas are, in general, happy with the appearance of Boric and as excited as the rest of the Chileans. “The fundamental thing is to advance in the decentralization process as one of the fundamental elements in Chile in the field of inequality,” he told The vanguard the regional governor, Jorge Flies, a position of popular election since last year. Flies added that the aspiration is that “whoever decides public policies is the territory and not someone sitting in Santiago”.
Founded in 1848 as a penal colony, Punta Arenas is the main access point to Antarctica due to its proximity, a thousand kilometers. One of the most ambitious projects is the construction of the modern International Antarctic Center that will support the many scientists who come to the city every year on their way to the white continent.
The headquarters of the Chilean Antarctic Institute is in the Plaza de Armas, a few steps from Kiosko Roca, a small bar frequented by Boric. A particular choripán accompanied by milk with banana is the specialty of the place, which the teenager ate on the way to his house, after getting off the cypress.
The president has three tattoos, all related to the region of Magallanes, with an autonomist spirit
You can no longer climb Boric’s tree, which the president endorsed in one of his first television interviews after assuming power, although he sarcastically recommended climbing to others. “I take advantage of ratifying what the mayor said,” said the president. “Hopefully we take care of the cypress because I understand that he was suffering a lot of burden,” he added. And then, with a smile, he once again showed his most adolescent and natural side: “But there are other (cypress trees) there on Bulnes Avenue; I recommend a couple, on Bulnes Avenue in front of the Immigrant Monument. Those are also very good to be able to use.”