Rancagua Weeps for Allende

September 11th, 1975

Rancagua weeps for Allende.

Not literal weeping. Well, I mean some people are, but more so I think people are mourning what he symbolized. He was the hero of the miners in El Teniente, Papi in particular. He heralded them in a time when they were subjugated to the whims of people miles away in the countries I once wished so badly to visit. And how patient Papi was all those years while Felipe and I played conquistadors in the street and I dreamed a million ways to get to New York, without seeing once how it stung my father to be a worker for men in towering New York offices who collect all Chile’s treasures without ever having seen the mountains they tear into. In some ways, Allende was the literal voice of the miners. My father, the lion-hearted union leader, had a stroke when he heard news of the coup. We’re lucky to still have him, but he hasn’t spoken a word since. He only looks at us with hurt in his deep brown eyes. It replaced the fire of union activism. What a fool I was to believe that we could elect a better president. What a fool I was to believe I would have the opportunity! Here I am, twenty years old, perfectly eligible, and I have never voted in an election.

What frightens me most of all is my father’s fire kindling itself in the eyes of my younger brother. Tomás has always been the solid one, cool headed and even-tempered. Mamá always wanted him to go into the seminary. But school was never his strong suit, and he followed Papi into the mines. Abuela was so disappointed, and I think Mamá is too, although she’s never said so. Never has Chile so badly needed union leadership. And who better to lead them than Tomás, but he won’t. Its a death sentence, I know. But I can’t help but be furious at him for not trying. Its been two years of repression and disappearances, and how are we supposed to remain silent?! How am I supposed to reconcile the anger at my brother and his refusal to stand up for the people he cares about, when If he did what was necessary we’d lose him? That is something we certainly can’t afford, and yet how can we afford to live this way? I am constantly stricken with fear.

And then Felipe, ¡Dios mio! That infuriating, audacious, back-talking little troublemaker. The worst altar boy Iglesia de la Merced has ever seen always sassing the deacons about the Jesus breaking the rules and running off with the communion wine, somehow grew up to be a full fledged Roman Catholic priest, looking after the parish in Graneros, which is only 15 kilometers away, granted but we never see him. All this time I thought he was the fiery one who would rebel and make a scene and talk back, take to the streets. But giving sermons and helping the poor may very well be just as audacious a crime. An English priest disappeared just days after Pinochet came to power, and even his high-powered English relatives and all their foreign sway can’t find him or bring him back. What is a Chilean priest’s sister to do if her brother disappears like the others?

And you, Oscár, if you’re reading this, like you have been all these years, despite my all my tricks and hiding places, you sneaky devil, I see the fire in you too, and though you’re only sixteen you are not too young to know the frustration at being kept silent, and the fear of speaking too loud. Just do what I do, and speak out into diary pages. There you can be as loud as you want and no one can hurt you.

1 thought on “Rancagua Weeps for Allende

  1. ssvolk says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your papí, Leonor. Maybe the military will soon hand over power to the Christian Democrats and things will get back to normal.

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