Tag Archives: pablo neruda

History Lesson: 11 de Septiembre

I meant to post this on the actual date but I was too busy getting ready to travel (which I will talk about in the next post).  But I think its still something interesting to share…

11- Sept – 08

Today’s date is a day that no American will ever forget.  For the rest of our lives, it will be one of those days, like the day JFK was assassinated in Dallas, where you will always remember where you were, what you were doing, or who you were with when you heard the most terrible news.  It will be a day that politicians will use evoke patriotic and/or resentful feelings for decades.  And historians will mark it as a turning point in history, like the day the Berlin Wall fell.

But our nation wasn’t the first to annually commemorate and grieve this date.  Here in Chile, September 11th has a whole different meaning…

bombing of La Moneda Presidential Palace on Sept. 11th 1973

Bombing of La Moneda Presidential Palace (9/11/73)

On September 11th, 1973 the Chilean military, backed by the CIA, overthrew the first democratically elected Marxist president, Salvador Allende.  At that point in history, Chile had one of the most polemic political climates in the world, and a military coup, lead by the infamous General Pinochet would abruptly steer the country away from the “Chilean road to socialism”.  President Salvador Allende would kill himself with an AK-47, gift of Fidel Castro, as the presidential palace, La Moneda, was being bombed.

Salvador Allende

Salvador Allende

General Pinochet

General Pinchoet

Tanks in the Streets of Santiago

Tanks in the Streets of Santiago

Now one can argue politics and how a “communist” Chile would have been a threat to America and the Free World, but what I want to talk about is how this date still effects Chileans.

Thousands of Chileans went into exile in the years surrounding the military coup.  Many who stayed were tortured and some were killed by Pinochet’s dictatorship.  Two national figures died within days of the coup, Nobel Prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda, and Chile’s Bob Dylan, Victor Jara.  Neruda died of a heart attack and Jara was tortured to death.  It is said that guards broke Victor Jara’s hands, fingers, and ribs and then taunted him asking him to play his guitar for them, his only true weapon.

Folklorist Victor Jara

Folklorist Victor Jara

Pablo Neruda

Poet Pablo Neruda

To this day, some Chileans celebrate the date as the point when crisis was adverted by the grace of “our General”, while others take to the street, violent and non-violent, to protest against the dictatorship (until democracy was restored in 1990) or to protest the failings of the modern Chilean democracy.  2001 was the only year that these protest weren’t held.  I guess the world had bigger problems that day.  Most Chileans stay at home, out of harms way, but remember friends who disappeared or who “went on vacation” never to come back and the general uncertainty felt on that day.

Anti-Pinochet Protest

Anti-Pinochet Protest

For anyone more interested in this theme, I suggest you rent to Chilean movie Macucha.  It tells the story of two boys, one rich, one poor, in the time period of the coup.  Highly suggested…

“Keeping Quiet”

View from Neruda's house, "La Sebastiana"

View from Neruda's House In Valpo, "La Sebastiana"

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush,
without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

-Pablo Neruda

El Poeta

El Poeta