Friday, December 30, 2016

derechos humanos

I have only two days in Santiago, and only one must see: el Museo de la Memoria y Derechos Humanos, the Museum Remembering Human Rights, which walks through the election of Allende in 1970 and subsequent coup by Pinochet in 1973, which led to the suspension of the rule of law and widespread repression and torture for 15 years. Political parties were outlawed.
Salvador Allende was a socialist. He won election by 1%, met initially by jubilance from women and workers, though by 73, he was facing a miner's strike and huge economic obstacles. His greatest ally was Fidel Castro. 

Fidel: La unica verdad is la realidad. (The one truth is reality.)

While Allende died at his own hand after the military bombed the government palace and his guards abandoned him, CIA covert operations helped Pinochet rise to power. (Apologies for the oversimplification of Chilean history. American ignorance about world affairs doesn't suit us in the case.
This heartbreaking poem Estadio Chile by beloved folk singer Victor Jara asks where the world is. He wrote it on September 15th, 4 days after the tanks arrived, while being held with 5000 others in the stadium at the university where he taught theater. He was murdered the following day.

We are 5000 just in this small part of the city. 

Does the world not notice our absence? 
How do Mexico, Cuba, and the world ignore our cries?

40 some years later, Victor Jara received a semblance of justice, as a Florida jury convicted his murderer.


We watched in silence videos of troops arriving in Santiago on the morning of September 11 and of mass arrests across the country.

How is it possible, to secure a country 2600 miles long? But the sad answer is that the Andes, which protected Chile from invasion for hundreds of years after the Spanish conquest, also made it easy to isolate 9 million people, three quarters of them in urban areas. The Navy was under Pinochet's command.

The newspapers of the time are especially revealing. They are also frighteningly familiar.

The museum and archives preserve many accounts of torture by survivors, and some artwork. There are arpilleras, story quilts, made by local women and allies elsewhere. ¿Donde esta? the women ask about the disappeared. Where are they?


I was especially struck by video of a woman who brought her young son and teenaged daughter to lay a red flower marking where her husband had been killed--on an ordinary looking green in the center of Santiago. The police approached her as a friend took photographs, and began to harass her. She stood her ground, reminding them it was her country too, that she had the right to mourn her husband, that they were responsible, that they had no right to touch her. Eventually she laid her flower, as the police crunched up the poster. The people disappeared but have not been forgotten.

No photos are allowed inside the museum, so I took notes, with a pen. A theater poster advertised los payasos de la esperanza (the clowns of hope): a floppu shoe, a fake nose, a paper, pen, and candles.

Exiles—those wealthy enough to leave for Europe, other countries in Latin America, the United States—continued to bring awareness about the coup and dictatorship nationally.

This spoke loudly to me:


The museum is free to all, and you are welcomed with a quote from Michelle Bachelet, who is serving a second term as President, and whose background as a survivor of torture, exile, and advocate for women and human rights in the United Nations, deserves a deeper look.
No podemos cambiar nuestra pasado 
Solo nos queda apprender de lo vivido
Esta es nuestra responsibilidad y nuestra desafio.

(We cannot change our past. We can only learn from what has been lived. This is our responsibility and our challenge.)

Nunca mas, we say, again and again. Never again. When will we really mean it? How will we stop the descent into fascism before it's too late?


***


Time to rewatch Patricio Guzman's epic and essential Battle for Chile.