Towards a Chamber of Crafts ✊


3 February 2022

For Liliana Ojeda, the election of a new government in Chile, combined with the creation of a new constitution, provides an opportunity to recognise the key role of craft in the nation.

On the 19th of December 2021, Chile voted in a new president: Gabriel Boric, the second youngest president in the world (36 years). He was born in one of the southernmost cities of the world: Punta Arenas. Previously, he participated in the creation of a referendum to change the current Constitution of Chile, which was written in the 80s under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

It all started with the outbreak in 2019 which destabilized the country. There were massive protests on the streets of the main cities. Chileans suffered human rights violations from the state agencies of the government. Such as loss of eyes and prison for the protesters. After all this suffering, today Chileans have something beautiful to hope for: a brand new constitution

This is a very special moment because a new fundamental charter is being written for the next six months by a very heterogeneous group of 155 constitutionals who were elected by the Chilean people.

Even though the group knows what are the main issues to be discussed and make rules about, they are open to proposals from people. So this is a unique occasion for anyone to propose rules about many issues grouped in seven main topics. The proposals can be written by a Chilean citizen or an organization. They are being uploaded on an online platform where anyone can enter and support with a “signature”.  If a proposal reaches 15.000 signatures it will have to be viewed and discussed by the members of the convention.

Here is when associations and groups become powerful and have a real chance to put a message across. I have witnessed the hard and exciting work that a group of around 80 craft people made over three long days to write an initiative for the crafts sector. The text shows a problem to be solved, and a proposal on how to find a solution within the constitution. Fundamentals are very important. This means that craft makers, suddenly started to ask themselves: What are the main rules that the sector needs?

The issues that arose were: Should the practice of crafts be considered as a fundamental right? Should its mentors have a special treatment when it comes to tax payments to develop their trade? Should the state facilitate the purchase of prime materials? Should the state protect this sector by providing a secure work environment with no competition with mass-produced items coming from else were?

The main concern for the craft people of Chile is to be recognized by the state, in its full identity and way of life.

This opportunity means a social reinvention for our country. It opens minds to dream a better future. Dreaming is costless. Call us dreamers, but I think this exercise of evaluating and imagining better conditions is something that represents the first step to making a worthy future not only for crafts but for any sector that is not being heard or visualised.

The deadline is over now, 2.496 ideas were published in two months. Only 77 reached the signatures to be discussed.

Even though the initiative where I participated, only reached 2.869 signatures, we are happy because a similar text was proposed by the constituent Carolina Videla, a social worker and cultural manager from Arica.  So there will be a discussion in the convention about crafts. Hopefully, she will read the texts of those groups who with great enthusiasm submitted their proposals.

The proposal

I. The State recognizes that artisans constitute a fundamental social sector in the identity construction of the multinational territory we inhabit, and safeguards, promotes, encourages and guarantees the right of the artisan sector to construction, production, creation, exercise, remuneration and Enjoy your knowledge, techniques and memory. Any artisan or artisan may demand before courts of justice the protection of their rights against public or private activities that appropriate, violate, threaten or put their rights at risk.

II. The State recognizes that its constitutional tradition and the neoliberal and extractivist economic model that was imposed in the civic-military dictatorship has historically inflicted great damage on the artisan sector, and has impeded its claims in terms of rights. Therefore, it will take all necessary remedial measures to enforce these recognitions, repair the damage caused and guarantee non-repetition.

III. A public and autonomous institution called the Chamber of Crafts will have as its main function the recognition, protection and promotion of the rights of crafts. Its financing will be made with direct fiscal resources, and it will be administered and managed entirely by artisans in all territories. The law will regulate its composition, the way to guarantee internal democracy among its members and the other powers that it will exercise, among which it must contemplate highlighting the importance of this social sector, articulating with the other State institutions, the investigation and dissemination of all the dimensions with which the sector is related and through which it manifests itself; carry out an objective, scientific and comprehensive cadastre of the craftsmanship that achieves a pertinent characterization for the creation of future laws and public policies and promoting the creation of union organizations in the diversity of their trades.

IV. The State guarantees a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product for the investment and development of the activity of the artisan sector, earmarked for the Chamber of Crafts as an autonomous institution, administered and managed by the artisans of the Plurinational State of Chile.

You can read the full proposal here.


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