So I´m slowly getting in touch with why I´m having a tough time writing about the Santiago Human Rights/History Museum (been about 10 days since I was there). It´s all wrapped up in a personal/political/ethnic/cultural/religious/family trauma of pogroms, holocaust, genocide, and death of my family members that has absorbed me so much at times. But to leave Chile without saying anything seems a cop out, so I´m going to throw together some observations, stats, and pics…and then move on. As with all my writings, I must post the disclaimer that these are only my impressions and I have not studied any of these topics or areas in much detail.
The man at the Museum counter said the average time visitors take is about 1.5 hours, but I was there around 7 hours until I engaged with almost every exhibit, photo, leaflet, video, art piece, document, torture implement, etc. I still have not emotionally recovered from living through the exhilirating rise and subsequent devastation of hope through my one day walk through over 4 decades of Chilean history.
The statistics include 140,000 detained and tortured in over 1000 detention/torture centers throughout Chile during the 17 years of the Pinochet dictatorship. This number includes thousands of children. There were 3200 executions and disappearances that have been documented, including many bodies that were buried in many mass graves or thrown into the sea. More bodies are being discovered and documented to this day. The systematic wipeout of all possible opposition, including those with indigenous, union, working class, journalistic, artistic/musical, and leftist backgrounds was staggering.
All these illegal photos are bootlegged using the Allan Brill secret cell phone technique:
I can´t bring myself to run down Victor´s story now, but you should know at least his last minutes if you don´t. Take a deep breath and a few minutes, and also hear/read the last song he wrote foretelling his death:
The persistent Chilean love and dedication to their family is very moving. A touching series of photos taken over the past 40 years documents a small, indigenous village in the desert north where dozens of young workers were wiped out in the first months of the Pinochet/CIA coup by one of the teams sent to rural areas. The grandmothers, mothers, wives, sisters and other relatives of these men, assisted by civil organizations, churches, students, and international organizations, spent 17 years combing the desert to find the remains of their loved ones. Amazingly, some scant remains were found by them 17 years later. They are still being analyzed and identified with the help of international teams, but it is a difficult process, as most of the remains were exhumed secretly by the Pinochet regime and dumped at sea.
The horrendous persecution was not only at the coup´s 1973 beginning. For example, in 1986 as protests, alternative press and radio, and militant resistance grew, the regime felt threatened. Raids occurred in many neighborhoods resulting in over 15,000 arrests, with students and journalists shot in the head (yes, I watched the graphic videos similar to police executions we´ve seen recently in the U.S.). Of course, the arm of fascism spread to other parts of the world, including the U.S. This was exemplified by the murders of Orlando Letelier and Ronnie Moffit in central D.C. as part of Operation Condor, or Repression Sin Fronteras (Repression without Borders) that hunted down and executed those in exile that opposed the dictatorship. It´s staggering for me to think it´s been nearly 40 years since they were blown up the U.S. sponsored regime, because the event had a big impact on me at the time (you can learn more at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letelier_assassination)
It is still unclear how Allende and Neruda died–you can read the BBC report below:
Pablo was a committed socialist and very politically involved, giving up his presidential campaign to support Allende. The day fter the coup, fascistas looted and severely damaged his homes. Here are some pics of Neruda and Allende:
It was very moving to see a man my age sobbing while watching a video of the repression, while being comforted by his wife. One of the ways of showing resistance has been for Chilean women to dance the Cueca, the traditional Chilean dance done with a partner, alone symbolizing their loss (you can see more detail here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/They_Dance_Alone)
I also encourage you to watch the Sting song and video–perhaps you can envision the wives and mothers searching the desert for their loved ones and shed a tear with them, the man in the museum and me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS_bN5ECJTI
The children traumatized and orphaned, as well as adult prisoners, created art and crafts of all kinds, many of which are on display. Reminds me of some of the art collected by Carol from kids in deportation proceedings:
The investigations and occasional prosecutions of Pinochet perpetrators continue to this day, with attorneys filing over 9000 writs on behalf of 23,000 people to force the release of documentation held by the government. It is so sad to me that 40% of Chilean voters supported Pinochet, even though these atrocities were well known, when a referendum was held at the end of his rule. And there is still strong support for the dicator among the population, even among some people I´ve gotten to know and like (aside from their politics)!