On Pinochet, Allende, and Chile’s Relationship With Democracy

When Andrew and I first arrive in a new city, we try to embark on a tour immediately. And so, our first day in Santiago, we chose the free 3-hour walking tour that met at the main square, Plaza de Armas. We took the metro to get there, it was quite easy and we felt very safe.


Memoria Visual de una Nacion (Visual Memory of a Nation) by Mario Toral at Universidad de Chile metro station.

We arrived a tad early, so we went to check out the Metropolitan Cathedral (which is located at Plaza de Armas:


And took a few photos outside, in the square. I think Andrew took this picture from the exact place our tour group was meeting:


Old and new.

In the square, there is this old bronze plaque that depicts an old colonial map of the city in 1712:


I cannot for the life of me figure out what date this map below is from, though. Maybe 1840’s?


More from the Plaza de Armas:


Another view of the cathedral.

This statue below is of St. James. That’s what Santiago means in English: St. James. That’s why there are so many Santiagos in the world. Everywhere the Spanish went, they named something after St. James. So anyway, this is Santiago:


And I can’t find any source on the internet to back me up. Ha, like that matters I guess. Anyway, I just remember our guide telling us that this was Santiago/St. James. Looks like he belongs in Lord of the Rings (I remember the guide saying exactly that, ha).

Also in the Plaza, you’ll find this sculpture:


The above monument was is dated 1992. It commemorates the 500-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival. This is a tribute to the Mapuche, who are the indigenous people of Chile, who fought the Spaniards and westerners. It depicts a disjointed feeling, a sadness, resolute. If I’m remembering correctly, it faces La Moneda Palace… where the changing of the guard ceremony was taking place:


See the crowds of people watching?

Also within the Plaza, is this statue:


Salvador Allende became Chile’s democratically-elected socialist President in 1970. Things weren’t smooth, and the country was divided in its political ideology (sounds like my own country… and our neighbours to the south). In 1973, the CIA stepped into this tense situation and Allende was overthrown. He died inside the Palace. Within the following months, Pinochet rose to power… a move the US supported. Under Pinochet’s military dictatorship, there were about 1500-2000 documented cases of people that “disappeared”.

A Bear Story, which won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2015 (among 50 other international awards), is inspired by the director’s grandfather, who was removed from his family during the time of Pinochet. If you endeavor to watch this film, be sure to have tissues handy. I’m generally really insensitive… but I cry rivers of tears every time I watch this. So look out.

Also you should watch 2012’s award-winning No, which is the story of how democracy returned to Chile.

What? You’re not going to click on that and watch the trailer, and subsequently the movie also? Argh! You’re seriously missing out. It’s a great movie.

Sigh. Okay. I will make an inept, overly-simplistic attempt to sum it up.

By the late 1980’s, Pinochet was under considerable pressure from the international community to legitimize his dictatorship. So, there was going to be a vote: Yes (Pinochet should continue), or No (the Chilean people should be able to vote in someone else, if they should so choose). The No side won, and Chile returned to democracy.

DISCLAIMER: Not everything is as clear, clean, neat, and obvious as it seems when you try to give a quick overview like this. There are many nuances and factors at play, the vast majority of which I don’t understand. I’m out of my league, out of my depth here. That’s why I referenced some award-winning Chilean-made films… the selection of which reveal my own personal bias, I suppose. Cheers to that!


One response to “On Pinochet, Allende, and Chile’s Relationship With Democracy

  1. Pingback: Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Santiago | miss adventurer·

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