By PATRICIA LUNA
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) – When Gabriel Boric takes the oath of office as President of Chile, he will not only be the youngest to lead the South American country, but also the first in Latin America to sport multiple tattoos.
The question is whether he will display them openly.
One person who hopes he will is Yumbel Góngora, the self-proclaimed “tattoo dissident” who inked the three elaborate designs that fill Boric’s arms and back with panoramic images of his hometown of Patagonia.
“It is important that a person never forgets his roots. This allows you to always focus on where you are and what’s important… don’t get lost in stardom, ”Gongora told The Associated Press during a break in her downtown Santiago living room decorated with ‘works of art containing feminist slogans.
Boric, 35, scored a historic victory in Sunday’s second round over a former Donald Trump admirer after campaigning on the promise to tackle stubborn poverty and inequalities that he and his leftists support is the unacceptable underbelly of a free market model imposed decades ago by the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
From his days as a leader of the student protest, Boric has made a career out of flouting convention. He eschewed the traditional dress and tie when he was elected to convention in 2014 and instead wore rock band t-shirts, jeans, and even once a Mohawk, all while drawing the ire of traditionalists.
“I don’t care,” he said at the time, dismissing conventions as “an elite’s tool to distinguish oneself from the lows.”
But he adopted a decidedly more conformist look in the run-up to Sunday’s run-off election – still no tie, but a dark sports coat, dress shirts and a manicured beard – to woo the most conservative Chileans about to vote for an untested millennium that counts the Chilean Communist Party among its supporters.
Góngora said she studied ancient maps of Chile for months before creating the first tattoo she designed for Boric almost ten years ago: a map of the ice-covered islands and labyrinthine fjords near from where the two grew up in Punta Arenas, at the tip of the South American continent.
She later designed two more: a lenga tree twisted into knots by strong southerly winds and an end of the world lighthouse glowing in the void that Boric had carved into his left arm during a battle against the Depression. .
“A lonely Magellanic lighthouse among the rough and mysterious seas of southern Patagonia,” Boric said in a Social media publication 2018 showcasing Góngora’s body art. “I’m going to live there someday but in the meantime he lives with me.”
Góngora, whose dyed green hair, piercings and tattoos are somewhat of a traveling advertisement for his college-educated artistry, said Boric has always stood out among his urban hipster clientele because of of her humility – something she attributes to her upbringing away from the capital.
But she felt betrayed by her fellow activist when in November 2019 he negotiated a deal with supporters of President Sebastian Pinera to end the nationwide protests sparked by the rise in metro fares. It was a risky political decision which at the time cost Boric the support of hard-line supporters like Góngora, who defines herself as an “anarchist-feminist”.
Like many of the often apathetic young Chileans, she nonetheless voted for Boric in the second round, fearing that her conservative opponent – José Antonio Kast – could be a major setback for women, indigenous rights and Chile’s LGBTQ community. .
In his binder is the sketch of another tattoo for Boric – its design is a secret – which the two discussed some time ago. With the demands of her new job and Chile’s future resting on her shoulders, she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to write it.
“I hope he doesn’t stop being a rocker,” Góngora said. “But I don’t know if this will fly in politics. Again, no one expected such a young president.
Associated Press writer Joshua Goodman in Miami contributed to this report.