Sunday, February 28, 2010


It was sad to see another country shaken by a catastrophic earthquake. In 1960, Chile experienced the biggest earthquake ever registered in modern times, according to an article today.

Chile may be wealthier than Haiti, but like Haiti has experienced extreme political turbulence. This postcard shows two children with pictures of Chilean president Salvador Allende and Che Guevara, the iconic figure of the Cuban revolution. But the postcard was issued in the years after the democratically elected Allende was murdered in a military coup by General Augusto Pinochet in 1973. Political opposition was eradicated. Thousands were tortured, murdered or "disappeared." The general even orchestrated the assassination of a political opponent on American soil.

You need to know all of this to understand the powerful lyric by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda on the back of this postcard:


A plebiscite in 1988 was held on whether or not to extend the Pinochet's rule for another 8 years (one report credits Pope John Paul II with convincing Pinochet to loosen his grip on the beleagured country ). This was not a political race with competing candidates, but simply a yes or no on one man. And the answer was no. The transition to democracy would begin. I happened to visit Chile that year for a work assignment, and it was a heady, exhilarating time. My favorite graffiti, not far from the capital of  Santiago: An official  mural exalted, "Vive Pinochet!" (long live Pinochet) but someone added in a large scrawl, "Pero lejos" (but far away). All credit to Spain for attempting to hold the dog Pinochet accountable for human rights violations after he left office. But the general eluded conviction to the end, and died in 2006.

All this to say: Chileans have dug out of rubble before.

No comments:

Post a Comment