(The Other) September 11th

For most Americans, September 11th is a date that holds a lot of historical and emotional significance. The date resonates with Chileans in the same way, but for a different reason.

In September 11th, 1973, Latin America’s first Marxist President, Salvador Allende, was overthrown by the coup d’état of Fascist Dictator, Augusto Pinochet. Allende was either killed, or committed suicide in the process (this is a subject of much debate among the predominantly Catholic country).

While the Pinochet regime is responsible for numerous tortures, murders and other human right violations against its opposers, many Chilean’s still believe that the reign of Augusto Pinochet was ultimately the best thing that ever happened to Chile.

Black and white photo of Pinochet riding in a Ford convertible waving to onlookers
PInochet- Picture taken from BBC News: http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/69726000/jpg/_69726643_pinochet.jpg

Pinochet implemented a series of economic reforms, that many argue, stabilized Chiles economy. It is true, that after the Pinochet Regime, Chile had the best preforming economy in South America, but there is still much debate over whether Pinochet was really the cause of this success.

Critics also point out that Pinochet’s policies created a huge economic divide in the country.

Since I’ve been here, I have to admit, Santiago has very prominent boarders between rich and poor. When I stood at the peak of Cerro San Cristóbal and looked out over the city, I could see where the land was divided into sections; the slums, the lower class, the middle class, and the very wealthy, upper-class.

View of the Santiago skyline from Cerro San Cristóbal
View of the Santiago skyline from Cerro San Cristóbal

Of course we have these issues in the U.S., but somehow, the divide is much more striking in this city (perhaps because 35% of the entire population of Chile lives Santiago).

Every year, on September 11th, there are marches and riots in Santiago, and my host family warned me that it might be especially bad this year, because it’s the 40th anniversary of the coup.

Vitacura, where I live and work, is one of the safest neighborhoods. It’s the suburbia of Chile. Still, almost everyone here leaves work or school early, and staying in tonight, just to be safe.

It’s amazing that something that happened so long ago still causes this kind of emotional response from people.

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