The other September 11


Today is September 11th and is marked here not for that terrible event in New York 2001 but for an altogether different one, no less sinister and disturbing. The 1973 Chilean coup d’état led to the rise of Pinochet and the army-backed junta, which violently suspended all political activity in Chile, ‘repressing’ all left-wing socialist movements. These were dark days indeed for Chile with many thousands of people seized, tortured and simply ‘disappeared’ – it’s a grim violent history that’s left an open raw sore that won’t be forgotten, not just here but throughout the country.

We wanted to see for ourselves how this day of remembrance might be observed so we walked down to the Memorial de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Valparaíso on Avenida Brasil – shockingly, it had been severely vandalised, smashed and scrawled with graffiti – back in April of this year the words ‘Viva Pinochet’ had been sprayed over the names of the disappeared! Whilst those words have been removed the memorial remains smashed and is now ringed by fencing. There were no grieving parents (as we’d been led to expect) but dozens of black-clothed students, some of whom were hanging banners over the memorial fencing that read ‘Un pueblo sin memoria es un pueblo sin historia. Ni perdón ni olvido’ (A people without memory is a people without history. Neither forgive nor forget).

Perhaps this sombre day was marked more significantly in Santiago but here in Valparaíso (from what we could see) there was nothing going on apart from this lone-staged protest. Sad.

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