Thu, October 28, 2021

in-focus

Pots and pans became tools of protests from Chile to Myanmar


At 8 p.m. Tuesday, the banging of pots filled the air in Myanmar's largest city. Residents of Yangon, the country's former capital, unleashed a volley of pan rattling, drum beating and horn honking, a dissonant moment of dissent a day after the military seized power in a coup.

The banging of pots and pans is often associated with celebration: Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, people across the globe took to clanging their kitchenware at 7 p.m. to hail essential health workers beginning overnight shifts.

The noisy practice is also associated with a legacy of protest dating back to at least the 19th century, when French women banged pots and pans outside their Paris homes to protest economic conditions and food shortages. Since then, movements around the world have followed each other in using common household items to sound their dissent.

Here are some examples.

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Cacerolazo in Latin America

The banging of pots and pans in Latin America - or cacerolazo - gained prominence in the 1970s because conservative women used the practice to oppose the election of leftist President Salvador Allende in Chile.

"It was an ideal tool for women because the pots symbolized their femininity. But it also was a statement about the lack of food," Margaret Power, a professor of Latin American history at Illinois Institute of Technology told Vox. "It was accessible. It was a way that somebody could stay within their home or their neighborhood at a time when women's lives were a bit more controlled."

The act evolved in the country in 1984, emerging as the sound of protests against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and later spreading across South America in response to the 2001 financial crisis in Argentina, 2013 elections in Venezuela and, in 2020, to protest Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's pandemic response.

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George Floyd protests

In the United States, demonstrators made wide use of pots and pans over the summer, when mass demonstrations against racial injustice sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis prompted some U.S. cities to issue nighttime curfews. Unable to go out and march, people banged kitchen implements instead.

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Iceland's pots and pans revolution

In Iceland, protesters reeling from the effects of the country's handling of the 2008 financial crisis took their pots and pans into the streets. Demonstrations calling for the government to resign had broken out across the country since the fall of 2008. On Jan. 20, 2009, as parliament reconvened after a Christmas recess, around 2,000 people gathered outside the building intent on making noise.

The gathering was dubbed by the media the "pots and pans" or "kitchenware" revolution. One Icelandic writer, talking to the New Yorker, called it the "night of the long spoons." Demonstrators also brought other culinary items, hurling trays of pasta at riot police, who responded with pepper spray.

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Spain

In Spain, the banging of pots and pans most recently emerged as a form of protest against Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's strident shutdown measures to combat the coronavirus. Spaniards also banged their kitchenware during a televised speech by King Felipe VI in March amid a financial scandal involving the king's father.

In the past, the practice was used to protest the Iraq War in 2003 and as part of the 2017 protest movement in Catalonia, where the practice is called cassolada.

Published : February 05, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Ruby Mellen