Sunday, May 17, 2009

May 8, 2009 Santiago Excursion: Dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet

Chile has an interesting history, but most notably a horrifying past between the years of 1973 and 1990. During this time period, Chile was ruled under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and tens of thousands of people were tortured and even killed. Many people were imprisoned and detained in the National Stadium in Santiago, as well as sent to concentration camps where they had “disappeared” (people do not know what happened to them). Most of Pinochet’s victims were accused “communists” or “socialists”, including professors, doctors, priests, students and activists. It is believed that over 3,000 people were killed in Chile during Pinochet’s regime and of course, thousands more were affected in some way. And the worst part... This would NOT have been possible without the support of the CIA and President Richard Nixon. Yes, that is right, the United States supported Pinochet and his human rights violations.

I didn’t know anything about this before I started learning about Chile. It is almost surreal to me as these events were not that long ago. I would need to write an entire essay with complete research to fully explain the history of Chile during this time period. As part of our program (ISA) we have had “charlas” or lectures/discussions over the Dictatorship of Pinochet presented by a history Professor here, in order to give us a better understanding of Chile’s past. Then, Friday, May 8, we took a trip to Santiago to visit a few different places including:

Archivo de Vicaría de la Solidaridad – Documentation & Archives of the Vicarage for Solidarity, including documents and information of what happened in different written forms.

Fundación Solidaridad – Here we had tea with the lady who headed this great organization that works with women in poverty. The women create different crafts by hand and then sell them in the fair trade store there, as well as ship to other fair trade stores in other countries.

Cementario General – The General Cemetery AKA “City of the Dead”, and it was just that. More tombstones than I have ever seen. Here there was a memorial with crosses representing the Disappeared during Pinochet’s regime.

Centro de Detención “Villa Grimaldi” – Here was the detention camp where people were detained and tortured illegally. Many people were executed here, as well. It is now a memorial park to remember the victims.

*Pictures of these places can be found on my photo website.

If you have 20 minutes to spare, this Youtube video helps to briefly describe what happened... here.