Pintacanes: Becoming with the Kiltr@s of La Pintana

Lissette Olivares|University of California, Santa Cruz

Dogs, in all their historical complexity, matter here.  Dogs are not just an alibi for other themes; dogs are fleshly material-semiotic presences in the body of technoscience.  Dogs are not surrogates for theory here; they are not here just to think with.  They are here to live with. Donna Haraway (2003) (emphasis added)1

What is a Kiltr@?  Naturalcultural politics of a figure2

In its everyday use Quiltro is a term that codifies species and racial hybridity and that translates as mutt, mongrel, or mixed breed. Today, quiltro is also the most common term used to classify the roughly two and a half a million “homeless” or street dogs found across Chile. Quiltro is often used as a slur with a derogatory undertone, to devalue dogs without pedigree, or when used to refer to people who are of mixed race or who have indigenous ancestry. Etymologically, the term quiltro is believed to come from Mapudungun, the Mapuche indigenous language, and was used to refer to a small breed of white furry dogs from the precolonial period.

Writing in the early 20th century, Ricardo E. Latcham, a historian of domestic animals in the precolombian americas, confirms that “quiltro” is the common name in the “vulgar Chilean language” to refer to a race of dogs that are wooly, white, and that bark profusely, though he argues that this dog is not unique to Chile, and that it is actually a breed also found across the Americas, including Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia.3  Latcham, like his contemporary peers, is obsessed with discerning species purity, a characteristic of colonialities of power and knowledge, which also produce taxonomies through which hierarchies of race and gender are organized. In an effort to uncover details about native Latin American dogs, Latcham is an avid reader of Spanish colonial documents, and academic publications, though despite his interest in precolonial animals, his scholarship does not include any primary indigenous sources, so the history of the precolonial domestic animals he tells is constructed upon details recorded in colonial archives. This grave epistemological violence makes it impossible for Latcham’s readers to deeply explore the types of relationalities built between indigenous communities and their dogs, however his investigation does confirm that by the early 20th century the dogs common people referred to as ‘quiltros’ continued to be found across Chile, and that their indigenous appellation survived despite the rapacious attacks waged against native communities by European colonizers and later, the emerging nation state.

Quiltro has since been formally accepted into the Royal Spanish dictionary, but as a term of translation derived from an indigenous oral/aural language the spelling of this term is unstable, it is always in translation. This essay will use “Kiltr@” instead of the institutionally “correct” spelling, in an attempt to destabilize the colonial inheritance of linguistic propriety, while also providing a visual signifier that reminds us of our own colonization in language, of the violence that is written into the very codice of our communication. Kiltr@ is also our preferred term, in lieu of stray, street, and homeless dogs, because it emerges in a specific geographic and historical context, and it continues to be the term predominantly used by people in Chile to refer to mixed dogs and street dogs, often interchangeably, since dogs who do not conform to purebred dog standards are more likely to be abandoned to life on the street.

The @ has a few proposed functions: as a biopolitical resistance the @ denaturalizes binary biological interpellations of gender and pluralizes a diverse population without subsuming the entirety under a masculine plural. As a feminist I have to insist, despite the grammar rules that push against me, that not all kiltr@s are Kiltros (or kiltras), and that these generalizations do matter. Gendered differences, as perceived by humans, influences how the bodies of dogs are approached and treated. For example, Monica García, a veterinarian from La Pintana informs us that sterilizations are primarily performed on bitches, and chillingly, that they are also vulnerable to rape and sexual violence from humans.4 Understanding how and why these gendered differences influence real bodies is important not only to the kiltr@s, but to the companions who are struggling to intervene in their abandonment, abuse, and suffering.

The @ is a syntactical signifier from our contemporary historical period, used in our communication technologies, integral to our networks in the technopresent.5 The @ helps to mediate Kiltr@s in what Katie King calls pastpresents, a way of thinking about layered histories that exceeds chronological time and that emphasizes the need to become aware of how histories intraconnect.6

Kiltr@ as a pastpresent allows us to travel between precolonial and contemporary histories, and to ask how the dogs who once lived amongst the Mapuche, Pehuence, and Alcalufe in the borderless territories of the Americas, may relate to those who are featured in this multimedio, and that currently live amongst the residents of La Pintana.  In this essay I use Kiltr@ as a decolonization term, that resists against colonial and modern notions of purity across nature, culture, race, ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality, and that reminds us of our co-constituted and co-evolutionary subjectivities. My intention is not ambiguity but a broader range of figuring options.

II Pintacanes and the Kiltr@s of La Pintana

Santiago de Chile has over 200,000 street dogs. These dogs traverse Chile’s urban geography, they are found in both the center and the margins of each city, and abound in the same places where humans also struggle to make a living. Despite the abundance of canids that make it into homes, each year thousands of people abandon or relinquish their dogs to life on the street, where they must quickly learn how to adapt or die.  While humans often pose a serious threat to their survival, there is no doubt that many of these dogs develop meaningful relationships with humans in their communities.

In January of 2012, my collaborator, Cheto Castellano, and I traveled to Chile to begin a series of multispecies ethnographies that investigate relationalities between Chile’s people and its street dogs, in a project we call Kiltr@.7 We were compelled to conduct this investigation after losing our own companion, Luk Kahlo, a mestizo caniche from Mexico D.F., who was our lover, collaborator, and mentor, who inspired, and to whom we dedicate, this investigation. Our visit came in the wake of 2009’s devastating earthquake which left over a million people without homes. As we landed in Santiago, news agencies reported on an expansive forest fire in Torres del Paine wreaking havoc on ecosystems across the Patagonia. The social environment was dense with the prolonged student resistance movement that as of yet yields no institutional transformations in the education system. Furthermore, a slew of neoliberal governmental policies foretell vast ecological devastation; from the displacement of native communities in Temuco, to the construction of new thermoelectric plants, and laws that will permit the privatization of many native seeds.  As we followed Santiago’s kiltr@s we learned about the symbiotic relationships they depend on for survival, from bacteria that allow them to process the nutrients from the garbage they eat, to the humans who give them food and affect on the street.

One of the most compelling cases we found was in the Municipality of La Pintana, a densely populated urban area on the outskirts of Santiago that is also a popular dumping ground for unwanted puppies and canine seniors.  In La Pintana, kiltr@s are not there to think with, they are a very real presence in everyday life, and learning how to live with these dogs responsibly is one of the agendas being pursued by the Municipality.  Unlike the institutional example set by many municipalities across Chile, La Pintana does not enforce an extermination policy. Instead, a subsidized veterinary clinic performs mass sterilizations and offers low cost treatment for its residents’ companions. In addition, the municipality of La Pintana has even turned to these residents for the inspiration of community building events, including a yearly resident dog run (Fig.1) and a unique arts festival called Pintacanes, that seeks to bring together the community’s people through the figure of its street dogs.

Photo: Cmd La Pintana

Fig.1 La Pintana Dog Run

The Municipality’s official press release affirms:

“The Pintacanes festival attempts to generate an exhibition venue that can relate to the poverty, marginality and/or stigmatization that much of this community experiences. The idea is to create a space of reflection that promotes discussion, that takes consciousness, and that reflects upon audiovisual formats, all in relation to that which occurs to the people of La Pintana.”

The most important figure of this event is a kiltra bitch named Estrella, a fellow resident of La Pintana, who became Pintacanes’ official mascot in 2008, and whose cloned body is the inspiration for hundreds of community members and professional artists in the event’s annual visual arts competition.

Fig.2 Estrella, a Kiltra from La Pintana

Photo: Jorge Aceituno

Fig.3 and 4:

Photos by Jorge Aceituno

Photo: Jorge Aceituno

Every year fiberglass copies modeled after Estrella are produced by PerreraArte Experimental and become the technologies through which La Pintana’s residents are invited to transmit, reflect upon, and resist against their marginalization.

Pintacanes is a collaborative effort. The Municipality of La Pintana funds and coordinates the community’s events and distributes the fiberglass dogs to local social organizations, while PerreraArte Experimental is responsible for producing the kiltr@s, curating artist submissions, and organizing traveling exhibitions. The intervened kiltr@s are entered into a visual arts competition where a jury offers cash prizes to both local residents and emerging artists. Later the dogs are exhibited in La Pintana’s Cultural Center and in Santiago’s PerreraArte Experimental.  The kiltr@s have also been displayed in important national exhibition venues like La Moneda’s Cultural Center and Chiloé’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

In an email to the Pintancanes production team, Antonio Becerro, the director of PerreraArte and sculptor of the base model used to produce the fiberglass clones, provides a detailed translation of the visual poetics that he insists must guide the sculptural process,

“ the primary goal of our work  is to transmit the Chilean kiltro (street dog), whom we have to construct a story for, or at least, figure out where it comes from, and where its going to. The final visual gesture has to be as close as possible to its original.  The copies have to communicate the wound, but also the struggle. The stance of the legs and the fall of the neck are fundamental for expressing that attitude (that’s why it has a osseous structure and the muscular anatomy shows the sick ligaments and the anomalies of the spinal column) The back legs represent its fatigue, and that’s why they’re folded in.  It provokes the anomaly of their lack of nutrition and weakness.  Don’t open them [legs] too much. I did the pose this way to show its fragility, its militance in the everyday, its perturbation of the urban, but also its willingness to give a final fight.  This bitch brings calamity, she is undernourished, but aware. “8

It is this everyday warrior kiltr@, who is “undernourished but aware,” and with a story to tell, that is appropriated by La Pintana’s community members and customized to express their own struggles, that is the focus of this multimedio.

We hope to introduce La Pintana’s intraspecies community event as an example of subaltern urbanism, an epistemological and methodological intervention that Ananya Roy argues is important for “conferring recognition on spaces of poverty and forms of popular agency that often remain invisible and neglected in the archives and annals of urban history.” 9

III An introduction to the multimedio, or, 

Who do we touch when we touch the kiltr@s of Pintacanes?

One of the most significant theorists writing evocatively about the layered histories of dogs and people is Donna Haraway, whose Companion Species Manifesto tells an evolutionary origin story where humans are bound to dogs in co-habitation and co-constitution. In Haraway’s SF (science feminist) tale, humans and dogs are evolutionary peers and the story of species purity (i.e. humans invent culture) gets complicated when wolf bitches convinced humans to take care of their pups and later whelped man’s best friend, becoming protagonists in an enmeshed set of histories where dogs and humans are technologies that shape each other.  By substituting Eve with a randy bitch, Haraway opens a much more promising and untold set of stories that implicate all players in what she calls “relational ontologies,” a radical view of species relationality that seeks to pose resistance to the anthropocentric blindspots in evolutionary theories inherited from western philosophy and modern science.(Haraway 2003).

Inspired by Haraway’s co-evolutionary storytelling, this multimedio features an essay that she herself offered to the residents of La Pintana when she collaborated with the Pintacanes Catalog in 2009.10 Haraway’s short essay introduces us to “Jim’s Dog,” a found dog encountered by friend and colleague James Clifford in the Santa Cruz Canyons, whose digital photographic register is transmitted to Haraway via email where it becomes a figure for her naturalcultural storytelling. Haraway examines the photo with “fingery eyes” a metaphor of haptic-optic perception developed by Eva Hayward, that allows her to uncover layers of fleshy material history found in both the picture’s setting, and in its process of transmission.11Haraway asks us to approach this dog, and its multiple biological constituents through the lens of Alfred North Whitehead’s “concrescence of prehensions,” where ontologies are constructed through porous relationalities, with different beings reaching into each other in a relay of co-constitution.

Haraway’s description of how we might explore species relationalites through the medium of digital photography is an apt introduction for approaching the collection of digital photos that document the intervened kiltr@s in Chile’s Pintacanes arts festival, which are available in this multimedio.12

Following Haraway’s line of inquiry that asks, Who do I touch when I touch my dog? we must ask, who do La Pintana’s residents touch when they touch the kiltr@s of La Pintana? This question is explored in a short video extract from Kiltr@ (2012) that features interviews with key agents from the Municipality of La Pintana and that considers the role of kiltr@s in the Pintacanes festival, uncovering how these dogs mediate the community’s self-expression.



1 Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003. pg.3

2 Natureculture is a compound term proposed by Donna Haraway as a resistance to biological and cultural determinisms, and to the legacies of Cartesian dualisms that create fictitious wholes. See: --. Modest Witness@Second_Millenium.FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouseTM : Feminism and Technoscience. New York: Routledge, 1997.

3 Ricardo E. Latcham, Los animales domésticos de la América précolombiana. De las publicaciones del museo de etnología y antropología, Tomo III. (Santiago de Chile: Imprenta Cervantes, 1822.) 20.

4 See video clip in this multimedio. “Pintacanes” excerpt from Kiltr@ (2012), Co-Directed by Lissette Olivares & Cheto Castellano, Sin Kabeza Productions.

5 For an extended discussion of the “@” and how it maps an argument about sociotechnic discourse see Donna Haraway (1997) pg 3-10.

6 Katie King, “Pastpresents: Playing Cat’s Cradle with Donna Haraway,” Thinking with Donna Haraway, (2011)  <> (Accessed on September 9. 2012)

King proposes pastpresents as a companion to Haraway’s conceptualization of naturecultures, that offers:

“many linked, […]examples of how the past and the present continually converge, collapse, and co-invent each other.” (1)

7 Kiltr@(2012) was produced for The Worldly House: An Archive Inspired by the Multispecies Writings of Donna Haraway, which was on display at dOCUMENTA(13) between June 6 and  September 16, 2012.

In January 2013 the full film will be distributed online via the feminist online publication Vozal de Perra.

8 Antonio Becerro, “Mail a la factoría canina: Remen, Remen, Remen! Pintacanes 2009, Edited by Tito M.  and La PerreraArte Experimental, (Santiago: Ocho Libros Editorial, 2009). Pg 6.

9 Ananya Roy, “Slumdog Cities: Rethinking Subaltern Urbanism,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Vol.35.2, (March 2011, 224)

10 Donna Haraway, “Que toco cuando toco este quiltro, (El Perro de Jim: ” Trans. Lissette Olivares, Pintacanes 2009, Edited by Tito M.  and La PerreraArte Experimental, (Santiago: Ocho Libros Editorial, 2009). pg 13-14. Original text from When Species Meet, U Minn. Press, 2008. Courtesy

11 Ibid. 13.

Hayward’s “fingery eyes” is used to describe how invertebrates (i.e coral cups and starfish) sense the world, as well as to engage the interplay between camera technologies and marine life “at the multiple interfaces of water, air, glass, and other media through which visual touch occurs in art and science.” (Haraway 2008).

Hayward writes: “Balanophyllia elegans have neither fingers nor eyes, not in the same way a human might, but through their sensing tentacles they and I, they and marine biologists, share sensorial resonance with different affects (responsiveness) and percepts. Through our mutual capacities to engage the other, we leave impressions as the residuum of our interactions. Fingeryeyes is about multispecies and multimedium sensing. And in the way that ethnomusicologist Steven Feld (1982; Feld and Basso 1996) invites us to privilege sound over sight for knowing culture or sounding-out specific locations, I suggest that an attention to texture as it is generated through the constitutive supplementarity of vision and touch can offer novel prehensions of the relationships between species.” 

Eva Hayward. “Fingery Eyes: Coral Cup Impressions” Cultural Anthropology, Vol.25. Issue 4 pp 577-599. (2010)<<>> (Accessed Dec. 12, 2012)

12 Photos are courtesy of Jorge Aceituno, Felipe Jadúe, and the Municipality of La Pintana. We would also like to extend special thanks to Donna Haraway and the University of Minnesota Press, for the permission to republish “Jim’s Dog,” from When Species Meet (2008), and to the numerous agents in La Pintana Municipality and PerreraArte Experimental, who made this multimedio possible

Works Cited

Becerro,Antonio. 2008. Pintacanes. Ocho Libros Editorial.

Haraway, Donna. 2003. The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.

--. 1997. , Modest Witness@Second_Millenium.FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouseTM : Feminism and Technoscience. New York: Routledge.

--2003.  The Haraway Reader, New York: Routledge.

--.2008. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Hayward, Eva. 2010. “Fingery Eyes: Coral Cup Impressions” Cultural Anthropology, Vol.25. Issue 4. pp 577-599.

King, Katie. 2011.“Pastpresents: Playing Cat’s Cradle with Donna Haraway.” Thinking with Donna Haraway, forthcoming.

Latchman, Ricardo E. 1822. “Los animales domésticos de la América précolombiana” de Las publicaciones del museo de etnología y antropología, Tomo III, Santiago de Chile: Imprenta Cervantes. p.20.

Olivares, Lissette and Cheto Castellano. 2012. “Pintacanes” excerpt from Kiltr@ Chile: Sin Kabeza Productions.

Roy, Ananya. 2011.“Slumdog Cities: Rethinking Subaltern Urbanism,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Vol.35.2, p. 224.