October 31, 1984
After I lost my garbage collecting job two years ago, I was at a loss. With prices rising, and our money worth less and less each day, I didn’t know how to support mother and myself. Luckily for us, we managed to join a local cooperative before money for food and other necessities lost us our home. It’s called La Pequeña Cruz, and it is sponsored by Vicaría de la Solidaridad. It is a combination of a communal bakery and a buying co-op, and it has made it possible for us to live off of the odd jobs that I can find around the outskirts of Santiago. But that’s not the biggest news. I know I don’t write in this notebook often, but I have got to find the time.
So much has happened since 1981. After the economy began to fail in ’82, many people, including me, lost our jobs and had no place to turn. Without adequate unemployment assistance or means to support ourselves, many people turned to the co-ops. La Pequeña Cruz is a local one that, as I mentioned, has allowed me and my mother to get by. But the biggest thing to happen thus far is that the people have finally found their voice in spite of the continued attacks, killings, and disappearances. It has been almost 11 years since they murdered my father. I think my mother is better, because she was able to say his name a couple of times without bursting into tears, but I still worry for her. I am now 29, and I have yet to achieve any of my dreams. I once thought, while the universities still had free tuition under Allende, that I would become an economist. Then, while I took care of the store with my mother, I entertained the idea that maybe that could be my life’s work. Keeping the woman of some small town or other satisfied, giving them and their husbands a place to gossip, listen to the radio, and chat with me. When we lost the store, I saw the folly of that dream.
And yet, here I am. I feel like the dreams of my childhood, of my schoolboy years, and even of this decade, have all bubbled up and are driving me in what I have done. Since I was young, I always dreamed of a world where my father didn’t have to work in the mines, where everyone had a chance to fulfill their dreams. I’ve never written this down before, but I always knew that my mother’s stories were too good to be true. I knew that my grandfather, and his father, faced horrible conditions in the copper mines. I knew that my father, although a proud member of the Socialist Party, had been beaten up as a kid. I always remembered staring at his crooked nose, and at the scars on his neck, and knowing that I was lucky, but that I would always face challenges. I dreamed of a world where no one had to face challenges, unless they chose to.
And so yesterday, I finally got up the courage to not only participate in the second day of national strikes to protest Pinochet,or Pinocho as my friends and I like to call him, but to be at the forefront, facing off with the police. I was scared when they started firing their guns at the sky at first, but I grew bolder and angrier as people began throwing stones and bottles at them. I think I might have hit one of the officers with a well placed beer bottle, but I can’t be sure. When we started making a barricade, I got so caught up in it that I was late getting back home to make dinner for mother. I was lucky that I left when I did. Renata from next door came by earlier and told me that her cousin had been arrested when he’d stayed at the protest too long. She said that they started arresting people a little bit after 5:30, just after I had left.
In spite of all of the excitement last year when the protests started, I didn’t join until yesterday partly because I felt too scared, and partly because I think my mother would not have been able to handle it. It’s only been recently that she’s really seemed to be in control of herself, and I still worry. I hope that all of this protesting will shake Pinocho on his toy throne. I wrote a poem denouncing him, but I haven’t shared it with anyone. I am still wary of the reach of the police, and I can’t fully trust anyone around me, save a couple of friends. Yet I can’t help but right it down, so here it is:
Pinocho, your nose holds chile on the brink We’ll break your grasp, wash away the stink You’re victims cry from beyond the sky We will protest against you until we die
Even though I write these words, I still want to live to see they day that Pinochet is deposed, and while I fear for the future, I also have hope.