Chile: 1986

Chile: 1986

My grandmother, now living with my parents and younger brother Vicente as she is aging rapidly, was the one to call me at work. At first I thought it was just one of her episodes. Recently she has begun calling my house at strange hours unsure of what is going on or where she is. I don’t know how she is able to remember my number, but I am honored that in her old age I remain strong in her mind. I now have secured a full time job at a doctor’s office as an assistant answering phones and making appointment. Before I go on and on about how I wish I have been able to finish my education in literature or history and maybe become a professor or a secondary school teacher, I must remain thankful that I am employed and that Martin and I are doing much better financially. But still these possibilities plague me as I constantly think about the what if’s and how things would have been if…Well I should get back to the reason my grandmother called. The newspapers have been raging with stories about the attempt to assassinate General Pinochet yesterday. Martin and I stayed close to the radio and read every newspaper article we could find as many of them at first had conflicting stories. I have attacked a picture of his car after the attempt at the bottom of the page. My grandmother called to let me know that the truth was out: Pinochet is not dead.

This event has been truly shocking for my husband and I. As I have written before the opposition to Pinochet has been growing ever since the economy tanked in 1983, showing how flawed his economic policies were. I remember being so glad that there was some real proof that he was making a big mistake with his “shock therapy” treatment, though it had meant my parents and my husbands jobs at the time. It had been through that failure that people had been able to begin standing up against all this godless repression and violence. The horrors of those first few years remain so vivid to me even almost 13 years later. All the death and unknowingness had made people so afraid even to talk to friends. My family, and later Martin, saved me from feeling utterly lost and alone. We had dared to hope in 1983 that things would change and we would be able to stop Pinochet. People came together- women’s groups, students, unions, human rights groups, and political parties all rose up and orchestrated strikes and other forms of protests. Yet, as seen by the recent attempt to kill Pinochet, violence drove the coalitions apart.  It makes me so angry that it felt like we had a chance to dispose of the regime- people were unified- and now with this new piece I fear that any talks of democracy will be delayed. Martin and I fight about this often- what should be the avenue to change. We both are reluctant to trust anything Pinochet says, the 1989 election, but I am afraid that it may be our only chance now and that further violence will only make repression worse. Scarier still it could mean that he delays the elections. I am so torn about how to solve this issue- all I know is that for the sake of my family, especially for my now elderly father, I want this to be over.

There came a time when life started to feel strangely normal- I think after a while all the horror stopped making the same impact on me. I kept my head down and my thoughts to myself, as did my father. I think this saved my immediate family from suffering any personal disappearances- though many friends of mine parents have gone missing or have been exiled. In addition, with my job and taking care of my grandmother and keeping an eye on my father takes up a lot of my time. My brothers were able to go back to school helped distract them. Now that Tomas has been out of the house for sometime and working at my fathers old job on the shipyard, he is living with a couple of other boys his age but seeing a girl from our neighborhood. They are thinking of also getting married. Her name is Anna and she is a very sweet girl, we all like her and my mother hopes that their marriage will give her some grandchildren. Here is another reason I wish I could be a professor or school teacher, since I cannot have any children on my own, though I am not sure if I could I would have wanted to bring them into this world, at least I could have been around children or young people and engage with them. I hope than Tomas and Anna have many children so that I can be a good aunt and to make my mother and father happy. Vicente I think struggles with how strained and fearful live has been under the repression. Before the strikes in 1982, he traveled to Santiago to look for work and was there with the first wave of strikes and protests as the economy worsened. I remember receiving one sentence postcards from him, merely saying how happy he was but I could tell that he was actually telling me he felt for the first time alive and like he was doing something for the good of Chile. I was so happy for him, but my mother worried and asked him often to come home. Vicente did not want to but when things started getting more violent my father almost went to Santiago to go get him- he refused to let his son be swallowed up the hatred of the regime. And so he came home almost 2 years ago now. I don’t think he has been very happy, he works only part time at a restaurants and doesn’t speak to any of his old friends. He barely speaks to his family, only sometimes to me. I wonder and worry what this recent event will do to him. I hope that he doesn’t do anything that will provoke arrest…

Now it is very late and I must let these thoughts go I think I will read some and then go to sleep. I have work in the morning anyways.



1 thought on “Chile: 1986

  1. ssvolk says:

    As much as I would like to see Pinochet gone, I think that he would just have become a martyr and hero to the country had he been assassinated. Died for his country, etc. No, he needs to find justice in a courtroom, not at the end of an assassin’s bullet. But we’ll see what happens in the plebiscite in 1988. I’m doubtful that he will accept a “No” vote, but I’ll work towards that, anyway.

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