Last Tuesday, a few gringas and I went to sleep at the university, where the students have been living for almost 4 weeks now. It was really cool to see how they were living, what they were doing and generally speaking to them to get an insider's view on the toma.
In the administration building they have ping-pong tables set up as well as audio equipment for the concerts they put on (all songs in English which I thought was interesting). All the buildings are decorated with inspiration sayings by famous Chilean and Latin American activists. In the cafteria they had a daily schedule (wake up at 9, HA!, breakfast, meetings, lunch, free time, meetings, concerts and talks, bed at 3, true) and a schedule for what chores need to be done and by which majors (cooking and cleaning tasks mostly). I was surprised at how organized they were. Students bring sleeping bags and sleep in classrooms, usually taking shifts allowing them to go home sometimes. I admire them greatly for sleeping on those hard floors and in the winter too (many of the buildings have sections of open roofs, which must have been terrible considering the rain we got last weekend). There is a puppy (smallest more adorablest ever) living with the students. Supposedly the dog was found in one of the academic buildings the night the university was taken and so it was named "Toma".
Talking with many of the students we soon realized how big of a deal this was. Although there have been other protests and tomas in the previous years (2006 and 2008 most notably), none have had the numbers, organization or have gone as long as 4 weeks. The students are steadfast in their beliefs, but still anxiously await the day Chilean special services intervene.
Even more interesting, was the next morning after we woke up, we learned that the students had taken the remaining campus buildings (my science building) and the International Office (which previously had been granted permission to resume its activities by the student association). They tomaed these remaining buildings in response to a meeting with the Rector that went poorly.
As of now the toma continues, there was the largest protest of this movement today in Valpo and things may be spreading to other South American countries like Peru.