September 14th, 1973

September 14th, 1973

Over the course of the past few days, our world as Chileans has been turned upside down. In the past few years, the political unrest and violence, and the stalemate as a result of the dysfunction of our democratic institutions had reached an intolerable level. It has been hard to walk down the street without running into one protest or another; it has been near impossible to acquire basic goods needed for day to day living. Some of my friends have been assaulted; one of them even had the window at the front of his typewriter shop smashed by a thrown brick. Maria and I have been afraid to take our daughter Emily outside to go to school.

But, On the 11th of September, the presidential palace was bombed by our own military, and Allende has been overthrown in a coup. At least he died with dignity at his own hands rather than like at a dog at someone else’s. I have mixed feelings about the coup. I think that something had to be done to end the political stalemate and dysfunction. But I also think that the deteriorated situation in Chile was to an extent beyond Allende’s control. Furthermore, with Allende gone, all of the collective hopes for equitable social and economic reform of the past several generations have now been jeopardized.

I am not sure what an appropriate solution would have been, but I certainly think that the way the military intervened seems so drastic. I could not believe what I was hearing as I listened to his final address huddled around an office radio with my coworkers. And then later that day, as the commotion outside seemed to be escalating, we heard a deafening, ominous rumbling noise. I walked outside to the end of the corner, and off in the distance the presidential palace was going up in smoke! I cannot believe they bombed the capital building for Christ sake!

I do not know what the future will hold, but when I see the military patrolling the streets armed to the teeth, and I hear about the questionable numbers of people being rounded up in the national stadium, I fear for the future of Chilean democracy. I do not know where several of my friends are, I am worried what I will find if I try. It feels like life will never be the same again, that something in Chile is about to fundamentally change. I have never been so uncertain about the future in my life. The only thing I am sure of is that I must remain strong for Maria and Emily when they need me most. I must marshal the strength of god, the wisdom of my beloved parents, keep close to my loved ones, and try to ride out this storm.

1 thought on “September 14th, 1973

  1. ssvolk says:

    A very difficult time, for sure, Francisco. I was also in Santiago on the day of the golpe, but couldn’t see much from where I am. And I’ve mostly stayed inside since then. It’s hard to know where this will all go, but I hope that, for everyone’s sake, the generals will decide to hand things back to the politicians. Maybe they can encourage Eduardo Frei Montalva to return to the presidency. That would be good! Meanwhile, what do you hear from your parents up in Copiapó? I hope they are OK. And congratulations on little Emily!

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