Sofia turns 12 today. I don’t know why I didn’t tell you about her before. I think part of me is still angry that you left me with mother all those many years ago. Part of me thinks that you don’t deserve to know about Sofia. But then again, you are really just a figment of my imagination, aren’t you? A mere memory. The only reason you are alive is because I keep you alive in these letters as a sort of memorial to your life. Sofia has the same spark that Mama had and that lives in Clara. She absolutely loves life. She is thriving in school— I think she’ll be an intellectual someday. Or maybe a lawyer. A lawyer I could definitely see. It’s all in the future though. For now she deserves to be the young, exuberant 12 year old that she is.
It also happens that March 3 is not only Sofia’s birthday, but the day that Pinochet has decided to return to the country after having been arrested in London a few years back. When we went to the store to pick out some streamers to decorate the house with for her birthday party, we passed by two men arguing about Pinochet’s homecoming. The whole store was abuzz, really, with “Pinochet…I can’t believe….back…he should rot in hell….why was he released?” Sofia, of course, picked up on all of this chitter chatter. I’ve struggled during her childhood on how to discuss the past with her. She knows more than most children, definitely, for Clara and I still hold our weekly meetings with the community that she attends. However, I do know that there is only so much that she understands— for one, she is only 12, and she herself did not live through those horrible years, even as a young child. She asked me why the two men were arguing, why one of the men called Pinochet a “fucking bastard.” In the car on the way home I tried to explain to her that that man felt like Pinochet deserved to be called such ugly words because he turned our country into such an ugly place. That he hurt and killed a lot of people because he thought he was helping our country, when really he damaged the heart of Chile, its people, to the core. She nodded her head and fell silent. I didn’t push it any further, but if she asks me about it again, I will try my hardest to answer her questions to the best of my ability.
Oh, and one last thing! My personal history that I mentioned I was going to start writing ten years ago is still in the process. It took me a year or two to process all of my thoughts in a journal and then I started collecting a lot of thoughts and memories from the community concerning their lives both before, during, and after the dictatorship. It is close to being finished, though, and when it is done I promise to share a section with you.
Joaquin Oliveras Vidal