Book Review: Chile: The Other September 11

September 11, 1973, was the day democracy died in Chile. “Both in Chile and the United States, terror descended from the sky to destroy the symbols of national identity,  the presidential Palace in Santiago, the icons of financial and military power in New York and Washington.” Salvador Allende was the first democratically-elected Marxist leader of any nation. ” Marxism is an economic and socio-political worldview that contains within it a political ideology for how to change and improve society by implementing socialism. Allende was elected to power with 36.2% of the vote in 1970 – his term was to be cut short less than three years later by General Augusto Pinochet. Both Allende and Pinochet were dogmatic men, each believing his cause was the right one and neither left room for compromise – when two men of this disposition clash, tragedy is the only outcome. This entry chronicles the events of the day that democracy died in Chile.” During this time Chile was struggling economically because of the lack of foreign investment. At 6:20 A.M. president Allende was notified that the military were going to capture the port of Valparaiso. Allende was given the chance to flee but he refused and said “I am ready to resist by whatever means, even at the cost of my life, so that this may serve as a lesson to the ignominious history of those who use force not reason.” At 9:30 A.M. president Allende made his last address to the nation. “There have been claims that he killed himself and other people say he was killed by the military’s weapons. There has been much conjecture as to whether or not Allende was murdered or took his own life. the photos were never published and stories abound of chest and abdomen wounds that would indicate murder – and then there is Guijón’s dubious testimony (how could he be close enough to see the skull blow off but not hear the shot?). However President Allende died, one thing remains – by mid-afternoon on 11 September, 1973, Chile had lost its President, Democracy had been dealt a blow that it would take 25 years to recover from and the world was about to witness one of the worst cases of political cleansing.” No one knows how many people died but it isn’t a mystery that many people lost their lives during this time. “Chilean liberals of all walks of life were rounded up and were either executed or ‘disappeared’. One such example is Victor Jara, the celebrated folk singer, who was executed in the very stadium where he had played to great critical acclaim. Victor Jara’s wife wrote the story of how her beloved husband passed away during his captivity. Victor Jara unfortunately got held hostage in the Technical University. There were around 600 students that day waiting to her the presidents last words. The whole school was immediately surrounded by tanks and troops. While they were kept hostage Victor sang songs to lift his fellow captives spirits during this frightening time. The military personel had everyone line up and while they were being checked one guard recognized him and confronted him saying “You’re that (f-word) singer, aren’t you?” Victor was then hit on the head, kicked on the stomach and was left with broken ribs.” As he managed to recover he requested paper and a pen and wrote his last poem.

“Estadio Chile” by Victor Jara

There are five thousand of us here in this small part of the city. We are five thousand. I wonder how many we are in all in the cities and in the whole country? Here alone are ten thousand hands which plant seeds and make the factories run. How much humanity exposed to hunger, cold, panic, pain, moral pressures, terror and insanity? Six of us were los as if left into starry space. One dead, another beaten as I could never have believed a human being could be beaten. The other four wanted to end their terror – one jumping into nothingness, another beating his head against a wall, but all with the fixed stare of death. What horror the face of fascism creates! They carry out their plans with knife-like precision. Nothing matters to them. For them, blood equals medals, slaughter is an act of heroism. Oh God, is this the world that you created, for this, your seven days of wonder and work? Within these four walls only a number exists which does not progress, which slowly will wish more and more for death. But suddenly my conscience awakes and i see that this tide has no heartbeat, only the pulse of machines and the military showing their midwives’ faces full of sweetness. Let Mexico, Cuba and the world cry out against this atrocity! We are then thousand hands which can produce nothing. How many of us in the whole country? The blood of our president, our compañero, will strike with more strength than bombs and machine guns! So will our fist strike again! How hard is it to sing when i must sing of horror. Horror which I am living, horror which I am dying. To see myself among so much and so many moments of infinity in which silence and screams are the end of my song. What I see, I have never seen what I have felt and what I feel will give birth to the moment…”

This was Victor Jara’s last poem. After he wrote it the little paper was passed around and the prisoners memorized it. Not only was this person a famous singer but he was a loved one that belonged to Joan Jara. She explains what she was going through while she was worried about her husband. Joan described what she saw when she saw her husband’s body: “His eyes were open and they seemed still to look ahead with intensity and defiance,  in spite of a wound in his head and terrible bruises on his cheek. His clothes were torn, trousers round his ankles…” Lastly Joan says “part of me died at that moment too. I felt a whole part of me died as i stood there. Immobile and silent, unable to move, speak.”

There were many heartbreaking stories written in this book by many others that were affected that day. Just as people lost their loved ones in 9-11- (in the US), people lost theirs a long time ago in Chile, the original September 11.

–Blog Post by A. Felix (2011)

This entry was posted in Anthologies, History of Chile and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Book Review: Chile: The Other September 11

  1. aktreadwell says:

    Such touching stories. Comparing it to September 11 in the United States is just perfect. It is the best example that we can relate too. It was a time of panic and fear, a complete massacre and Allende gave such an honorable statement, willing to give is life for a cause. I know Pinochet really united the country but he did it in the worst way possible. I’m amazed about how much South American History was left out of my education until now. That only other stories I can compare these too are those of the Holocaust in WWII.

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