11 September 2013

Today in the newspaper I saw an article about Salvador Allende. It is the 40th anniversary of his death and the coup. It is strange how long it has been since I have thought about Allende. 1973 feels like so long ago, and yet like only yesterday. I am an old woman now, at 73; I don’t recognize myself in the mirror anymore. The world has changed and is often difficult for me to navigate. It seems everyone in Chile has a mobile phone and spends hours a day on the Internet. I am not so good at using all of this new technology. However, it is not as though I want to go back in time. No, I do not have such romantic memories of the past either.

Forty years ago I was young and in love. I was in love with Salvador Allende. I believed that socialism was the right path for Chile and Allende was the right man to lead us there. But then the coup happened and took him away from me. I mourned him as I would have mourned family.

At first I hated the military and Pinochet for taking this dream away from me, from Chile. But then everyday life did not change so much. As I got older I found more to think about than these idealistic dreams. It was more important to keep my family clothed and fed than to obsess over politics, which is why I took the job as a receptionist for the police. Of course, the dictatorship did take more of family away. It took away my relationship with my community when the restaurant had to close because of the failing economy. Then it tore Tomas from us without any warning. I still miss Tomas dearly and wish that he could meet his great-nieces and nephews. And the dictatorship took Ramon. The disappearance of Ramon was slower, taking pieces of him away from me day by day. His suicide was the death of his body; his spirit had died long ago.

Throughout my life, my family has been my priority. They are the reason I have made all of the choices that I have made. When I was young it was wonderful to live so close to Mama and Papa and Abuelita. I remember the way that they played with Marco when he was small, and now I play with my own grandchildren that way. After all of these years it is still hard to believe that I am a grandmother. One thing that truly overwhelms me is how 45 years ago, everyone I call my family now did not exist. Not my children, not my grandchildren, not my children’s spouses. And yet here they are. I actually helped create this network of people I love.

Despite the fact that my family drove my choices, I still question them sometimes. Rosa’s criticisms of my choices have especially made me question myself. Was Pinochet really so bad? Should I have behaved differently during the dictatorship? While Rosa continues to subtly resent me, Marco tells me not to be so hard on myself: I did not know any better. Perhaps I should have known better. The truth is that I still am unsure of my political opinions. It seems that every path that Chile takes is the wrong path. And after all these years, I still don’t know where my allegiances lie. I think it is foolish to think you know what is right for the entire country.

One thought on “11 September 2013

  1. ssvolk says:

    Thank you, Catalina, for allowing me to accompany you on your life’s journey, if only through the pages of your journal. Your lessons are important ones: sometimes we know what is important, and sometimes we can be confused. Perhaps we would all be better if people didn’t think that they, and only they, knew what is right for us. Yet we also learn from where we were. Marco is right, don’t be so hard on yourself; Rosa is right, are there things from the past that you should be aware of now? Whatever, hold tight to your family.

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