For many Chileans, September 11th had become a day of tragedy decades before our own 9/11. In 1973, the Chilean army flew fighter jets over Santiago and bombed its own presidential palace during a coup to overthrow its own legally elected president, Salvador Allende. Augusto Pinochet, who Allende had appointed to Commander-in-Chief of the army, seized power, put all political parties “in recess” and killed, tortured, disappeared and forced into exile thousands of Chileans. This was supported by the CIA, Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. Pinochet would remain in power until 1990.
Here are some videos, films and songs to learn about and/ or commemorate the day.
1. The last speech of Salvador Allende.
This video provides good background on as well as an excerpt from the last speech Salvador Allende delivered. He chose to kill himself rather than be captured by Pinochet.
2, Machuca (feature film)
This movie is a coming of age story set to the backdrop of the coup, the time leading up to it and the time following it. Director Andres Woods drew heavily from his own biography in creating the character Gonzalo Infante, an upper-middle-class and white 11-year-old boy living in Santiago. The film looks at the socio-economic stratification in Chile through a friendship between Gonzalo and Pedro Machuca, a poor non-white classmate who is at the school because of the policies implemented by Allende.
3. The Missing (feature film)
4. The Battle of Chile (documentary)
The Battle of Chile is a three part documentary which captures the lead up to the coup against Allende on 260 minutes of newsreel film. In the film, which was directed by Patricio Guzmán, Argentinian cameraman Leonard Hendrickson captures his own death on camera, when he is shot by a corporal during an aborted attempt at the coup that would succeed three months later.
5, Pinochet’s Children (documentary)
In this documentary, filmmaker Paula Rodriguez interviews three of her friends who had been student organizers in the 1980s and two of whose fathers were part of the Allende government and murdered. The characters reflect on the coup, their organizing, Pinochet’s arrest and more.
5. Amanda by Victor Jara
Victor Jara was a singer, musician and theater director, who was a major part of La Nueva Cancion movement, which took place in much of Latin America and used folk music to take on social and political issues. Jara wrote this song when he was in Europe and learned that his daughter Amanda, whom he named after his own mother, was sick. The song is prescient of the violence that would come and describes a young man who leaves for the mountains where is he killed.
7. Victor Jara’s last poem
Victor Jara would himself be killed in the Santiago Boxing stadium after the coup. A witness who was among the 6,000 people held in the stadium described Jara’s death:
They took Victor to the table and ordered him to put his hands on it. In the hands of the officer rose, swiftly, an axe. With a single stroke he severed the fingers on Victor’s left hand, and with another stoke, the fingers of the right.
A collective outcry from 6,000 prisoners was heard. These 12,000 eyes then watched the same officer throw himself over the fallen body of singer and actor Victor Jara and begin to hit him while shouting: ‘Now sing, you motherfucker, now sing.’
Jara received more blows but raised himself and walked to where the arena and bleachers met. There was a deep silence. And then his voice was heard crying: ‘All right comrades, let’s do the senor commandante the favour.’ He steadied himself for a moment and then lifting his bleeding hands began to sing with an unsteady voice the anthem of Unidad Popular. And everybody sang with him.
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?
are ten thousand hands which plant seeds
and make the factories run.
How much humanity
exposed to hunger, cold, panic, pain,
moral pressure, terror and insanity?
Six of us were lost
as if 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.
To 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 ten 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 it is 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
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