Interview by Leticia Nogueira, pictures by Raisa Abal
I met Jechu one day, skating with Raisa and the girls. She told me, with a smile:
-Hi, I’m Jechu!
-Je... Chu...? -I had to think to myself and try and spell her name in my mind, so I could understand it. Because, you see, the phonetic sounds of “j” and “ch“ don’t exist in my mother tongue. As soon as I repeated it once, I never forgot it again.
-María Jesús, but my friends call me ‘Jechu’. -She kept smiling, and I felt warmth in my heart, because, even though we had just met, she was already telling me that we were going to be friends.
Jechu is 23 and comes from Chile. Skating with her around the streets of Barcelona is awesome. Rails, stairs, flips, manuals... She can do anything she wants, with this aggressive, yet smooth style. Pure street. So, how is it that she’s so good at skating? What has brought her this far? I invited her for a picnic in the park so i can try and find out.
Hola Jechu! What have you been up to these days? I know you’ve been skating and filming loads...
I’ve been really well, I’m happy. I’m enjoying my days, relaxing, focusing on skating, filming and taking pictures, but also giving myself space for other things, trying to establish some goals for the future but also thinking about how to achieve them. Right now, my main goals are taking pictures, skating, filming more, not only for Instagram, but also filming videos with more quality. In Chile, I had a filmer with a VX and we were filming my video part.
Do you have any big dreams for the future?
I also have bigger dreams, which are more difficult to reach, but they will come. Being able to live off skating, having a brand supporting me so I can commit to skating 100%. For now, Iamconcernedaboutfindingajob, which limits me from skating 24/7, because I have to survive. So, my biggest aspiration would be to have a brand help me financially, helping me fulfill my dreams of being able to film, skate and travel. Or, for example, giving skate classes, which is what I used to do in Chile.
I know that you’re currently teaching skating here in Barcelona too?
Yes, I’m giving classes. In Chile, I was very well known for my skate classes. I didn’t even need to post an ad and I would always have new students. Here, people don’t know me yet. But I would love to be able to skate all day and finish the day off or start the day with a couple of skate classes. I feel that, when I’m teaching skateboarding, I’m doing something good. Sharing it with someone, watching somebody else’s progress on the board...
Totally. And speaking of learning, when and why did you start skating?
I was always attracted to it. I remember the rides on my parents’ car and every time I’d see a skateboard, I would stare at it, thinking to myself: I wanna try that. But it was always very out of reach, I
didn’t know anyone who skated. When I was 12, some friends from school started skating. I would ask them to ride their skateboards, but I never told my parents. Although my dad always made me play all kinds of sports, and I like all kinds of sports. One day, my dad brought me a skateboard that he found on the street. I had never told him about my passion for skating before, but he knew I would like it.
He guessed it?!
Yes. And he brought it home. That skateboard was on its deathbed – and I was thrilled. I was the only kid in my street who owned a skateboard, not even the boys had one. And so, I learned how to ride it, how to turn around, and then I left it behind, because I didn’t have anyone to share it with and I got bored.
So you started skating by yourself?
Well, one day, my friend who lived in my street asked me to bring it out so we could play. I remember that that day we shared the experience of skating and I was like: this is so fun! The next day, we started practicing together, with my skateboard. Then he got his own skateboard, and, because my skateboard was in such a bad shape, we would take turns in mine and his. And then my dad got me my first actual skateboard!
Awww, thanks daddy! So that’s when you started for real?
Yes. By then I had been practicing outside my house for like a year. Me and my friend were 12 or 13, so my mom didn’t let me go far from home, I had to stay right there. That’s when I started getting hyped with skating, doing ollies and pop-shovits. Then I went out to skate a couple blocks further away... which was a lot for my mom! But the first day that she let me go out, a whole world opened up to me. I saw so many people skate, doing kickflips and things I had never seen before. They gave me loads of advice and I almost landed a kickflip. I was almost there. I told myself: I need to come again tomorrow. And again, and again. I landed a kickflip a week after I started going out to skate. It opened up many doors for me, I started making more friends and progressing really fast. Then I got together with a crew of like 15 skateboarders, who were all really good. I think that helped me a lot to get better. I always tried to imitate them. Besides, they were all really good guys, good friends, they supported me and made me feel part of the group.
Tell me more about your hometown. What is it like?
I’m from Santiago, the capital. Santiago is a big city with lots of communes and I live in Maipu. Maipu is far from the center of Santiago, like one hour away by bus. But the best spots are in the center, so I always had to travel for one hour if I wanted to skate with my friends, film, or go to spots or skateparks. There was, however, a good skatepark near my house. There’s a good skate scene in Chile, with lots of talent. But we need more support, there’s a lot of people skating.
I know that in 2020 you got first place street at the nationals in Chile... Tell me, how did you do that and how did it make you feel?
I got into Chile’s Federation of Skateboarding. My main goal was not so much to compete, but to travel. There were contests everywhere in South America, outside of Chile, so that would give me an opportunity to skate and get to know different places. I wanted to take advantage of all that skateboarding could give me.
So did you get to travel, in the end?
In the end, none of that happened, because of COVID. But it was an important achievement, I challenged myself and had a new experience. If I hadn’t won, it would have still been an achievement: I had fun, I landed my tricks, I slammed... that’s what skateboarding is all about for me: having fun, learning, outdoing myself. Be it at a contest, filming out on the streets, or at the skatepark with the homies, you just have to have fun and outdo myself.
How is the girl skate scene in Chile? It seems that you have several crews? Tell me a little about you guys.
When I had been skating for only a few years, I started finding these girl skate events in Facebook. I started going and that’s where I met my girlfriends who skate, that are still my friends to this day. All the girls were really sick at skating.
Yeah, that’s always my reaction every time I see a Chilean girl skate: these girls can skate!
Yes, these girls can skate! And it was very important for me to get to know a girl crew in Chile that skated, organized events for girls and started fighting for our rights. Fighting for there to be a female category in skateboard events, with equal prizes. Groups like The Girl Skate Crew and Viejas Locas (“The crazy old ladies”), that were older girls, 24, 25 years old, that would set up events for the younger girls like me, who were 14, 15... So they were the “old ladies”.
Oh my God, just like us now! *Laughs*
Totally! And that was how I grew up skating: seeing them united, helping one another, fighting for our rights in skateboarding.
Tell me a bit more about how you would fight for girls’ rights in skateboarding.
We started doing things ourselves, without asking big brands who never support female skateboarding for help. We would set up events, sometimes we didn’t even have prizes, we just got together and did best trick contests. We were happy just to see our friend get a trick and film it. And then, about 3 years ago, me and my friend Barbara set up a page to post our videos and our friends’ skate videos. We thought: “How should we name it? Hmmm... Skating is better when we’re together...” So we called it: Juntas Mejor SB (Better together). We started getting videos from all over Chile. And then we did an event where we managed to get sponsors from 27 brands, it was amazing.
All skateboarders agree that skateboarding is way more than just skating. Besides skating itself, what has been the best thing that skateboarding has given you?
My friends. They’re the ones who have molded my way of skating, of living it this way: in a relaxed manner. Something that makes you feel good, in which there is no competition with others. Something that’s for you, with you and towards you. Something that can make you connect with your super powers. And then the travelling. I think that if it wasn’t for skateboarding, I would be much more sedentary. I wouldn’t come out of my comfort zone. But skateboarding thought me to move around, to get to know the world...
To open up your mind, right?
Yes, and to dare!
Yes. Because, you know, we skateboarders are very daring, because we trust the universe: we know everything will be fine, that we will find like-minded people and that we will feel welcome wherever we go...
Totally, you can go anywhere in the world and you will meet loads of people just because of skateboarding. It opens up a lot of opportunities.
For example, it opened up the possibility for you to move here, to Barcelona. How did you end up here? I know you were doing a skate trip with Javiera?
I had never come to Europe, and I didn’t plan to. I wanted to travel, but in a few years... Me and my friends saw some videos on Instagram and we really wanted to come over and get to know the skate spots and the girls here. So we started saving money, working and working... but then came COVID, and our flight got cancelled. Almost a year later, me and Javi came. We were supposed to stay for a week...
I see it was a pleasant experience. After all, you stayed!
Of course. Javi had already been here and she already knew all the girls. I met all of you through her, that was the connection. The rest was something between us, with you... with everything that has happened with each girl here... I feel like I’m with my friends from Chile. We improve and we support one other...
So how would you describe the girls scene here in Barcelona?
How you guys always say: engoriladas (hyped)! Very hyped, in fact, I think I have made loads of progress over here, because of that. Because, for example, I see you landing tricks which are super hard for me, but they look sick, and you motivate me to land my tricks; and I land other kinds of tricks, that also look sick, and we support each other, and even if we’re trying the same tricks, because every one of us enjoys it just like we are, with the tricks we like to do and how we feel when we land them. I feel at home here!
Awww, I’m very happy you feel that way!
Yes, I think that’s what made me stay. In fact, I wanted to thank all the girls that make out Dolores and all the girls I have met here. *Jechu starts crying* Really, I’m very grateful for everything that’s happening, to all my friends, my family, who support me from afar... I know that, despite being far way, my friends are very proud of me.
Don’t worry, I cry all the time too. Even when I land tricks, it’s such an intense experience, that I cry. I’m not even shy about it anymore and I don’t even try to hide it. Does it ever happen to you?
For sure. It happened on the day I met Raisa and Vero, in Horta. There was this huge hubba...
You landed that 50 50! I’ve heard this story!
It was too good... We skated the bank all day and when we got to that hubba, I had never skated anything so big. It was so long, I don’t even know how I did it... but when I anded it, it was incredible. I had just met those girls on that very same day, people I knew from afar and whom I admired... Raisa was taking pictures of me, the girls were filming me... and it was like: I’m here! I had just achieved what I dreamt about. And so I started crying!
Thanks Jechu. You’re an inspiration to me and to many more across the globe, I’m sure of that! Let’s wrap up the interview with an inspirational quote that will make the reader throw the magazine in the air and run outside to skate?
I think that skateboarding starts off for everyone as fun. So you have to have fun with skateboarding, compare yourself to who you were yesterday. That even if you don’t get your trick today, you’re always closer to getting it tomorrow.
That works for everything in life!
Totally. I always tell my students: skateboarding is like life.
Thank you Jechu! It’s been a pleasure.
Thank you Leti! It’s been lovely.