Today was the first time I saw old Francisca cry. What a sight that was, she didn’t cry when her husband died in 2002 or when her brother died just a few weeks earlier. Ever since I have been working at the library Francisca has diligently worked, stacking and cataloging books all day long, without a hint of boredom or frustration, or even taking a break. Today was just different. Pinochet died today. It was not unexpected either, he had entered the hospital a little under a week ago and when you consider how old he was and how much his health had deteriorated it was no surprise to anyone that he passed. Francisca just couldn’t take it though. She slumped in her desk, in front of the library, in plain view for any patron to see, and just sobbed. I tried to go back to my work but I needed to ask one simple question, why cry over him? Through her sobs she answered “because he was stability, he saved us from Marxism. Because I love Chile.” It was at that point I walked away, pondering how someone can shed tears over that man. He was responsible for so many human rights violations and more simply he was a dictator. The rhetoric I have grown up with is that dictatorships are horrible things that bring pain and repression. But today, right in front of me, an old woman sobbed over the death of a dictator. I suppose to her Pinochet occupied a place of honor in her mind, a place he will never hold in mine.
I came home to peacefulness and reflected. Pinochet is dead. The first time I heard his name was when I was 13 I think, immediately after the coup. His name will always be tied to the memory of those few days after the coup. Being locked up in my family’s house, unable to go outside or go to school. To me Pinochet will always mean fear, chaos and uncertainty. I was so glad I could reflect on what Pinochet meant to my life before Diego came home from his job as a construction worker.
That man, my husband, was nothing but pure joy. He practically took the door off its hinges when he came in carrying two bottles of champagne and a Pan de Pascua, his favorite dessert. “Tonight, we celebrate he yelled.” Celebrate we did. Jorge and I drank and talked until Diego came home from soccer practice. Then we sat down as a family and ate a nice meal of Pastel de choclo and the cake Jorge had bought.
It was a fun evening, but we all celebrated but for different reasons. Jorge celebrated because Pinochet, the man he considered responsible for the death of Diego Rodriguez Lorca and the scars on his face, was finally dead. Even though I am sure he wished Pinochet’s death had come sooner Jorge was in jubilation. He was smiling so much it seemed as if the scars on his face had disappeared, replaced by the rosy red cheeks that can only be brought on by laughter.
I was celebrating, not because Pinochet was dead, but because Jorge seemed as if he could finally let go of his anger and hatred he had towards the man. Jorge had spent so many years fitting against Pinochet. He fought Pinochet politically in the 80s but after that he simply fought with the memory of him. There was little he could do in the judicial system to bring about justice, so all his energy went to futile endeavors, cursing his name and prying for his death. Resentment is not healthy. Resentment is feeding your self poison and hoping your enemy dies. I am celebrating because Jorge is free of that.
Diego was celebrating as well, not because we gave him champagne but because of the crowds in the streets. Apparently, Diego and his classmates skipped part of school to go join the protestors all across town. He said that he cheered and sang and danced along with the crowd. He was so excited. Diego is an adventurer, he loves to be reckless and get caught up in the emotion of the moment. But, what he felt was excitement from being one of thousands dancing and singing in the streets. He loved the spectacle, not the politics. Jorge has talked to Diego about his name and the history of Chile that he lived through. Diego understood the information, not his place in it. The boy is a scientist, not a historian. He just knows the Pinochet regime happened, not what it meant to the people who lived through it. He wants facts, not opinions or long winded explanations about people’s perceptions. Today, he was looking for fun, not an explanation.