Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chile's 9/11

Chilean soldiers take aim at the presidential palace, as its warplanes bomb it.
As the United States (and the world) remember the events of 9/11/2001, here in Chile people are also marking the day as the anniversary of the military overthrow of the democratically elected president Salvador Allende.  On 9/11/1973, the Chilean air force began bombing its own presidential palace, and army tanks took to the streets of Santiago and other cities.  Citizens were rounded up and detained in soccer stadiums all over Chile, which became concentration camps where people from all walks of life were tortured, murdered, and 'disappeared', never to be heard from again.  Some of the same navy ships which we see today out our window here in Valparaíso were, on that day 38 years ago, landing troops on the docks to take over the city, clearing the streets and shutting down radio and TV stations.

It is uncomfortable for us to think about the U.S. role in the events of that day.  By order of President Nixon, the CIA was active in orchestrating the coup and supported the resulting military dictatorship, which was in power for 17 years.  Our country talks a great deal about promoting democracy around the world, but we should all remember that 38 years ago today, here in Chile, the U.S. was on the other side.


  1. Interestingly Jeff and I spent the eve of 9/11 watching "Blame it on Fidel", which despite the title, is a French movie which ends with the coup in chile. It was French so no mention of USA.. Most interesting point was when girl trying to understand her parents new political action was acused by her father of confusing acting like a sheep with group solidarity, and the girl asks, "can you always tell the difference?

  2. Thanks for this post Jo. I remember Papa Volk's class on what happened so clearly - I think he talked about things like stores running out of toothpaste in the panic. Sending you all lots of hugs.

  3. Allende was a martyr in the battle to bring communism to the Americas. Nixon $ Co. succeeded in killing Allende, but the long battle process seems to be producing a palatable form of socialism, free of military domination, for the western hemisphere. A detente seems to be gaining momentum with the waning of Cuban emigree influence on US politics, the fragmentation of the American right into goofy splinters such as the Tea Party, a quiet groundswell of American support for liberal causes, and, oddly enough, the influence of Latin America --- especially The Dominican Republic --- on American baseball. The trend is hopeful, and people to people exchanges, such as yours, Laura, Dan, Grace and Theo, are in the vanguard. Good work.

    Uncle Dan Rogers

  4. @Kris, sounds super interesting. We'll have to check it out. Thanks for the heads up. @Annie- Dano posted this one, but it was sobering sitting around with friends talking about where we were on 9/11/01 or 9/11/73. I don't remember all the details of Steve's lecture, but I remember the feeling of it and its been so incredibly interesting to learn anew about the period. What's really incredible is that Chile is still grappling with so much of that history and the economic and political structures that were enacted under Pinochet. It feels like very recent history. @Uncle Dan - may it be so.