1970 – Santiago

This was all papá’s idea.

I asked for new shoes for my fifteenth birthday. I know my parents can afford jewelry, and that’s what chilenas normally get when they turn fifteen, but I don’t need it. I think it would be hard to get jewelry right now. Shoes are nice but practical, and I know one of the children in mamá’s class has a zapatero for a father, so she wouldn’t have to wait in a cola. Mamá says that times are hard, and I have to understand that things may not always be as easy as they were. I am trying to listen. Papá says that things will get better and I shouldn’t worry, but I’m almost grown now. I understand more than I did.

I understand that our President is trying (he says) to make things better for the workers, but that the people with more money are fighting the changes that will destabilize Chile (they say). I understand that the buses don’t work and we have less food than before. But I also understand that it’s not right for some people to have so much more than others. Mamá says Chile’s history is full of a few people sacrificing the country to get rich, though Papá always winces when she talks that way. He calls her a radical and she says just because he’s a poet doesn’t mean everything can be flowers all the time. I sit at our table and listen, trying to figure out which side I fall on.

I don’t know yet. But I do know that when mamá gave me my shoes after dinner today, there was a pair of gold earrings in one of them and a little black notebook in the other. When I opened it to the first page, there was a note from papá. He said that everyone needs a place to write down the things that matter.

I haven’t told him that I want to be a poet, like him. I know he and mamá want me to be happy, and they would probably support me, but I see the looks on the boys’ faces when I raise my hand in class. Girls don’t have anything worth hearing, they think. But my notebook can’t make a face at me for trying.


¿Por qué escribo?

Porque hay cosas incontables

que quiero investigar.

Porque hay una voz en mis manos
que sólo habla con mi pluma.
Porque no quiero olvidar
los susurros de los días.
¿Por qué escribo?
Porque quiero que me oyes.

1 thought on “1970 – Santiago

  1. ssvolk says:

    Gracias, Clara. Te oigo! I predict that you are going to be a spectacular poet, like your father must be. It’s hard to sort out things these days. Both of my parents say that this government is going to be nothing but trouble. They’re Christian Democrats, and I thought they’d be more live-and-let-live, so I’ve been surprised. But we’ll see what happens. What do you like to do in school besides annoy the boys?!?

    [Point of history: Shortages and colas didn’t really begin until some time later in 1970. They wouldn’t have been a factor in late 1970.]

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