Sept. 11 marks the anniversary of a tragedy in Chile, and the immediate aftermath of this incident resulted in a multitude of horrific events that echo through history — even if they’re only starting to be acknowledged.
Following the suspicious circumstances of former President Salvador Allende’s death at the presidential palace La Moneda on Sept. 11, 1973, the military dictatorship immediately embarked upon a brutal annihilation of the left wing.
Within a few days of Allende’s death, the first detention and torture centers were established, among them Estadio Chile. This was later renamed Estadio Víctor Jara, in honor of the renowned nueva canción singer who died there at the brutal hands of agents previously enrolled in the notorious School of the Americas.
Nueva canción — the revolutionary folk music movement in Chile in the 1960s and 1970s — was considered a major threat to the Chilean right wing, particularly because of its links with Allende as well as the masses. The genre reflected the concerns of the poor and denounced social inequalities. Willingly aligning themselves with the left, nueva canción singers became a focal point of Allende’s electoral campaign. Their importance was clearly inscribed in one particular banner that stated, “There is no revolution without songs.”
The aftermath of the U.S.-backed coup revealed dictator Augusto Pinochet’s obsession with preventing the dissemination of culture. In 1970, Henry Kissinger had belligerently remarked, “I don’t see why we have to sit back and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.” This so-called “irresponsibility” was an imperialist euphemism for the Chilean people’s participation in political life, as encouraged by Allende, as well as a reference to the possibility of socialist revolution sweeping across Latin America, thus threatening U.S. interests.
With the immediate threat — Allende’s socialist revolutionary process — out of the way, Pinochet’s dictatorship focused on the repression of cultural and intellectual material. Influential writers and intellectuals living in exile were kept under surveillance by the dictatorship, in case a formidable resistance against Pinochet formed abroad. The extent of surveillance is detailed in “Asociacion Ilícita: los archivos secretos de la dictadura” (“Illicit Association: The secret files of the dictatorship”), a book that expounds upon the intricate surveillance process and the links with foreign governments and agencies in order to maintain widespread suppression of dissenting voices. Read more.