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Chile is taking the wave

Chile has a female president, a strong Catholic church, spicy soap opera on television and a ban on abortion. The conservative country is characterized by the value struggles of the modernization process.

By Larry Rohter, Santiago

[modernization] Chile is the most socially conservative and traditionally bound country in Latin America. At least that's what the Chileans are used to hearing and thinking about themselves. So how is it that the new president is not only a woman, but also an agnostic single mother?

Michelle Bachelets is 54 years old, socialist, pediatrician and has previously lived in exile. Her election victory in January was a clear watershed for both Chile and Latin America. At the same time, it has led the Chileans to wonder if their supposedly inhibitory and lateral society may have become more modern and far-sighted than they had thought possible.

In a much-commented book that came out before Bachelet's progress, The Chilean Dream: Community, Family and Nation at the Bicentennial, sociologist Eugenio Tironi claims that modernization in Chile came in three waves. First the economic opening in the 1980s under Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship, then a political modernization in the 1990s after democracy and civilian rule. . .

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