Moving to Santiago 8 years ago was a monumental waste of…everything. But it’s home now. This smoggy sprawling ciudad de gris is my home. But today I’m in Rancagua. Still in Rancagua, I should say. Papá died almost three weeks ago, but I haven’t felt the need to return ‘home’ from this home. But it’s not just me, we’re all here…home again together for the longest period of time since Papá forced us all to live “in safety” under his roof after Allende’s government was overthrown. Amalia and I moved into the condo down the street on my twenty-fifth birthday. That was 1980, so it’s been twenty years since we’ve all been together for any extended amount of time.
I can’t say it feels good, but it feels comfortable.
I don’t want to return to Santiasco, Not today, not tomorrow. Well, especially not today. Supposedly this is a big day for Chile. Our beloved dictator has made his glorious return to the country he cared so dearly about. Fuck that.
I wonder what Papá would think about Pinochet’s return. He would probably say fuck that.
I could tell he was always disappointed in my apathy. And Mamá’s. Her apathy always validated mine. Papá could see it, I think that’s why it was difficult for me to be in this house for so long, constantly feeling like you’re an enormous disappointment to your biggest supporter. It still feels terrible.
Papá and I grew close again when Amalia and I left Rancagua. I don’t think those things are related though. I think it’s because I grew out of my apathy, I was no longer disappointingly apolitical…’achilean’ in his eyes.
I think that’s part of the reason that I told myself I had to convince everyone I was happy in Stgo. Because if Amalia could sense that I no longer matched her excitement for our country’s new democracy and our new life in Santiago, Papá would be able to tell, too. And the disappointment would return.
But how could anyone like this city? Santiago is Pinochet’s greatest defense that he had Chile’s interests at heart the whole time. His constitution or his fucking self-immunity aren’t Pinochet’s magnum opus, it’s Santiago. The shining beacon of ‘Chilean progress’. Everything moves quicker in Santiago. Everything seems so transactional. Everything is new and shiny and impersonal. Look at our progress! It’s amazing!
How did we get here?
If I’m looking in the mirror, it’s progress that I was complicit in. I was swept away in the rhetoric of our progress. Papá could see it. Mierda, everyone could see it. So I guess my apathy is different now. It’s there, but different.
Being home doesn’t feel good, but it’s comfortable.
We talk about what it was all like when we lived here, when I was supposed to start at La Chile, but stayed home instead for seven years. Every story, every memory, every joke…it all seems to return to Papá. And that feels good.
Amalia is insistent that we return to Stgo in the coming days. Jorge talks about moving his family to Ñuñoa soon. The twins are about to start high school and Jorge wants for them to “superarnos”, as Mamá always said, and he thinks the colegios in Santiago will give them the best chance to finish what none of us had the opportunity to: receive a degree from La Chile. As much as I would love to have my hermanito nearby, I don’t think the twins should go to school here. I teach at these schools—not that Jorge would send his kids to school in Recoleta anyway—but still. I moved to Stgo 8 years ago because I thought Chile was changing. I was right, but not how I thought. I wanted justice. Santiago blinds you with consumerism, and then you forget about justice—you’re blinded by progress. The new Chile is blindingly brilliant, I think. Or it’s supposed to be.
This city is disheartening.
Today is a weird day. Rancagua doesn’t feel good, but it’s home. But today feels different. No one has confidence in the legal proceedings against Pinochet. We’re confident he will find away to pull himself out of this. He designed this new Chile, after all.