Two Days after the Coup [Stanza]

13 septiembre 1973

Hola, amiga,

I’m sorry— I don’t even know how to begin to write this entry. So much is happening that my hands are shaking. Mamá says I should try to stay on top of my normal routine, and you, amiga, are part of that, so I’ll keep writing. Maybe you can help me sort out my thoughts. Or I can sort them out by spilling them out on you. That is the beauty of a journal, after all.

By the way, I apologize if I seem a little incoherent. I was up late for the past week studying for midterms— even among this mess, I have a paper due for my English language course next week. We’ve been studying the work of George Orwell, the American author. I’m trying to analyze his novel 1984, but I can’t seem to dig deep enough into the text. I wonder what Orwell as a socialista would say about Allende. Would he be like Mamá and Sebastián, backing Allende’s reforms with raised fists over dinner, or take Abuelo’s side, blaming Allende for the shortages of toothpaste and chocolate and la corrupción de los jóvenes?

Apparently Abuelo’s side is a lot more persuasive than we expected, amiga. Being at la U seems to have sheltered me in a bubble of fellow leftist thinkers, and returning to the world outside seems unreal.

There was a coup against Allende two mornings ago, and I don’t— I’ve never seen anything like this happen. We don’t have things like this in Chile, not in this day and age. I voted in this election. I can’t believe this is happening. It seems like a dream, and I can’t tell when I’m going to wake up.

We’ve been studying the fall of Rome in my history course, and mi profesor explained to us in his last lecture how no one in Rome could even imagine the sack of the city— it seemed simply impossible, unfathomable, that the grandeur and power of Rome could be overthrown. Looking outside my window, I find myself wondering if this is how the Romans felt, seeing their beautiful city and asking what’s going to happen next.

Allende spoke to us that morning, over the radio, telling us that this was the last time he’d ever talk to us. He sounded like he was filled with the same chispa he showed us during the presidential election. When Mamá heard him over the radio, she covered her mouth and just sat at the kitchen table, listening with tears in her eyes. Sebastián was furious and wanted to leave, to meet up with the other students and march, but Papá forbade him from leaving until we know what’s going on. Turns out we’re not allowed out in the streets anyway, so it’s not an option at all.

After Allende’s speech, the radio stations all went silent and stayed silent, so we’ve just been at home, waiting anxiously for news. Mamá and Papá have been saying there would be a coup for months, and I was aware that it was a possibility, but no one expected the bombs, the tanks, the soldiers. No one seemed to think that it could be anything other than a golpe blando. No one expected this fear.

I can see smoke rising from over the buildings, amiga. I live in central Santiago, and the city’s been rumbling for two days— from explosives, Sebastián told me quietly yesterday. I’ve never seen anything bombed before.

I’m a little worried that we haven’t been allowed outside yet. I’ve seen soldiers in the streets with guns. Mamá is pacing downstairs in the kitchen, I’m sure, talking with Papá. I can hear her voice carrying, low and tight with stress. Sebastián is the same, almost exploding with nerves. He wants to be back with his novia, Isabel, but we can’t get in touch with her at all right now, and I can tell that he’s scared. A friend of his called us late last night and said she’d been taken in for questioning by the police. Her father publicly backed Allende, and in the middle of this mess, that puts her under a lot of pressure. I keep telling Sebastián that it’ll be fine, that he’ll be able to see her when they lift the curfew. He’s not listening to me well, though. He tried to leave again yesterday, and when Papá stopped him, he punched the wall and left a hole in the plaster.

I know that once we get back to la U, Sebastián is going to be up and marching, organizing and protesting in the streets. I’m a little scared to join him because I’m just an eighteen-year-old and he works with adults. I’m just his hermanita. Someday, I think, I’d like to work side by side with him. But it’s more than just intimidación today— they have guns in the streets, and I don’t know if it’s going to be safe for us. In Rome, people got burned at the stake for believing in their causes. I wish I could say I would commit my whole being and die for a cause, but I don’t think I’m that noble a person. I would bend under pressure to avoid breaking. Sebastián wouldn’t bend though. He’d fight back and stand strong against the storm.

Now I’m trying not to think about Sebastián burning.

I wonder when we’ll be able to go back to school, amiga. They’ve got to let us go on as normal, right? They’ll put some old right-winger in power and pretend it’s democratic, pretend we didn’t legally vote in Allende, ignore his legacy, but still keep the country functioning. They’ve got to. Or else they’ll lose face, and they don’t want that, verdad?

I hope it all works out soon and we go back to normal. I don’t like this. There’s smoke in the air and it makes everything smell weird, like soot and cement.

I’ll write to you soon, amiga, and let you know when things are okay. It won’t be long, I’m sure.

Te veo luego,


1 thought on “Two Days after the Coup [Stanza]

  1. ssvolk says:

    Hola, Stanza. Gracias, amiga, for such an informative account of what’s going on there. I have read much about it from the newspapers, but your perspective helps me understand much more. Gracias!

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