Chile 1982

I have been settling into married life well and am surprised to find myself still writing in my journals. I keep them locked away upstairs in my parent’s house and must have written in 25 different journals by now. Martin always smiles to himself when he sees me pull it out from under the bed and begin to write. Martin and I went to secondary school together, but had never really been friends. Funny how after so many years I ran into him at the market right after Allende was killed and ever since than have found him wonderfully easy to talk to. At first we didn’t think of getting married because of how poor we were and how desolate the future looked, but after a while we both realized that becoming legally married was one way, though small, to resist the dictatorship. We still could chose who we loved and who we wanted to be with. I hope neither of us comes to regret the decision.

Nevertheless, there has been soothing on my mind today. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if my father never had left Croatia. I know it is a silly thought and that nothing will come of it, but still my mind wonders. I think since times are so bad right now, I keep thinking about how if one thing had happened differently how different life would be. So if for a moment I could imagine what would have happened if Allende had not been elected. There would have been no coup, right? Or would it not have matted who had won that election- a socialist or not Pinochet would have found a way come to power.  If my father had never left I would not be here or my brothers. We all would have been saved from the fear and violence, but my mother’s family would not have been safe. No matter what my mother would still have grown up here in Aricaas a seamstress, working with her sister and mother day in and day out. There was little chance that she could escape Chile before it was too late, unlike my father who could have stayed away. My younger brother brought this up at the dinner table today (my husband and I often eat with my parents to save money), he doesn’t really understand what is going on as he is much younger, but he can sense that over the years that Pinochet had been in power thing are drastically different.

For example, our dinner was spars: a few potatoes, beans, and water. Even though by no means had we been rich Pinochet ‘brilliant’ economic reforms were squeezing my family to the bone.  My father is lucky still to have his job but both my mother and aunt no longer can find any work and my husband now is unemployed as well. Each day in the news more and more financial institutions file for bankruptcy. Just two days ago two of our banks were nationalized to try and stop the economic disaster. It seems as if General Pinochet’s reforms have not been working well! Many say that it is an international problem, other countries are facing huge unemployment and bankruptcy, but I still feel that if Pinochet had not implemented some of his harsh reforms Chile would not be in this predicament. Anyways I doubt Pinochet actually cares about the families truly effected like mine. Both my parents are labors and therefore, in his mind a potential problem because of our Socialist leanings.

But anyways when my brother asked that my mothers face fell and told him sharply that there was no point in thinking about those things- what was done was done. Allende was dead and now we had to get through Pinochet’s rule. I knew she was right, but I still could not erase that thought from my mind. The ‘what if’s’ and ‘could have’s’ plague me more and more as the repression drags on.

What makes me most sad is that there is no more trust between friends. As before my friends and I spoke often of politics, especially right after the overthrow, but now we avoid eye contact and keep a safe distance. Once I wrote a quick note to a friend expressing my anger as a new wave of stories of the torture and kidnapping happening in Santiago was discussed. Through word of mouth, the stories that came from our capital chilled me to the bone, it made me fear for my father and mother and grandmother who had been active before in Socialist politics. Yet, my friend replied with a stiff note, declaring ignorance of our friendship and proclaiming that Pinochet was the best solution. I knew my friend was merely protecting herself, but it made me so angry that our government has seeped into all parts of our lives- even how we were with our friends and family. Being married now just under a year I find that the only person I fully trust is my husband. I wish it were not so.




1 thought on “Chile 1982

  1. ssvolk says:

    Hi, Valentina. First, congratulations on your marriage! I’m so happy for you. You had never written about Martín before, but I am glad that you have found a soul mate for these difficult times. It sounds terrible, with your parents both out of work. What are you doing? How are you getting by? Any children in your future – or maybe I shouldn’t ask! Cúidate, niña.

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