I felt the smallest seed of hope emerge in my being as Patricio Aylwin was sworn in earlier today. Ever since el plebiscito my Chile has changed. As soon as we were done with Pinochet, the rules changed. Instantly it seemed like more and more people were talking about what our country had been through under his government. We hadn’t talked about ANYTHING for what seems like years, but then it all changed. The same silence that permeated my veins for the past who knows how long so clearly also silenced so many Chilenos.
It’s all so obvious how fucking wrong I was about everything. Or…I knew I was complacent in my ignorance but I thought that was acceptable. I knew what had happened under Pinochet but I was comfortable, mi vida cotidiana fue inafectada. I would laugh at my “naive” high school self, amused by how “inspired” I was by Chilean socialism. I thought I was so radical. And then I became so distracted. And I was okay with it. God I was such an asshole! Today I’m not okay with it. Today Chile is different.
Ignacia called me a few hours after Aylwin was sworn in. I hadn’t heard from her in over ten years and I didn’t recognize her voice at all. It seemed strained for her to use po and weon, like her mouth had no use for those sounds anymore. She asked about “mi Chilito” and expressed deep regret that she couldn’t be ‘home’ “para este día trascendental“. She reminded me that her family fled the dictatorship…”no lo he olvidado” I assured her. She jabbed about her life in Berlín: how she met her husband in law school, their two perfect sons who know not one word of Spanish but are currently working on their French and English, her husband’s immaculate law record, and the lovely house she keeps while her sons are at school. Wauw—I cannot believe how petty I sound. It’s just that I felt…pitiful when I had to tell her that I was still in Rancagua, teaching art at the high school we attended…unmarried…with no children. She asked about Amalia of course (since in colegio we all equally obsessed with my perfect older sister and her stylishly grubby life in Stgo), and when I told her we lived together she was quiet for a moment and eventually said “I guess that’s what you’ve always wanted”.
I told Ignacia that I had to go. She asked me to promise her that I would visit her in Germany when I got the chance. Instead I reminded her that “Chilito” is her home and we hung up the phone. I guess I’m still an asshole.
She’s wrong. I always wanted more than what I have now, but it was all taken away from me. I love my sister more than anyone, but I wanted more than teaching high school art and a condo in Rancagua with Amalia. I want more than this.
Maybe things will change. Amalia called Mata’s mother this afternoon. They spent two hours crying on the phone together, promising each other that Mata’s story will be told, that someone will be held responsible for his death. It was jarring to see Amalia cry about Matías after all this time. She looked almost the same as when she was 24 and would oscillate between crying in her bedroom and punishing us with her silence, back when we all lived at home. She looked almost the same, sixteen years later. I caught myself thinking a vile thought….”I thought we were done with this”, and felt guilty as soon as it appeared. Maybe I just thought Amalia was done with her pain. An even more vile thought: I had grown immune to the pain of my sister, my best friend. And I had grown immune to the pain of Chile. It’s all fucked.
I had not noticed the silence of the past months and years. I see it now. We are talking now. Chile is starting to talk and justice will have to be served…right? We all deserve to regain what was taken from us–big or small.