Next year is the 40th anniversary of the military coup that overthrew the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile. This elected alternative to free market economics was met with state violence supported by the most powerful nation in the world. The 17-year dictatorship that followed traces the systematic end to the idea that democracy would be permitted to deliver equality and justice. In 1989 the Cold War symbolically ended with the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship, this point signified the apparent victory of capital over labor through both a global financial system connected in a real time global communication network and the military industrial complex that is coordinated by and underpins it.
In 1990 the period of transition to a new kind of democracy commenced in Chile with the return of a democratically elected government followed by sustained economic growth in the first decade of 21st century. The term ‘transition to democracy’ was used to describe this period. It is a term now widely used to describe dictatorships formerly supported by the US - from the middle east and north Africa to Asia and the Pacific region - as they embrace or are strangled by free market economics.
The 20 years of “transition to democracy” in Chile places the current generation at a distance from the promise and peril of its past democracy. Today, most people in Chile under 30 will not have experienced a world without the excess of information, entertainment and standardized choice of the Internet. Neither will they directly know the power and violent opposition of capital to popular movements. Part of this is experienced vicariously in the near absence of organized labor (and is across the world) that further atomizes and fragments people into individual units of production and groupings of families as the norm.
The victims and families of state violence - the disappeared, the executed, the tortured and the imprisoned – are similarly atomized and fragmented into units of consequence in the absence of acknowledgement of the ideology that persecuted them for their thoughts. The victims and families of the abuses of human rights under the dictatorship is marked and remembered in many ways in Chile, most publicly in the Museum of Memory and Human Rights that opened in 2010. This museum is underscored by the idea that human rights are abused when the institution that is meant to protect them does not. In this sense, the significance of the state sponsored Museum of Memory and Human Rights cannot be underestimated in its impact on the 1000s of school children that visit the archive, performances, exhibitions and tours. It brings this audience together with the victims and families of the abused who have and continue to contribute to the museum as a living archive. In part, this institution links the human impact of the dictatorship with the broader Chilean society. However, the undisputed crimes of the state under the dictatorship are contained within this universal idea of Human Rights, not a critique of the political ideology of neither neoliberalism nor the organized opposition to this notion. The Museum of Memory and Human Rights is a building and public space that serves as a living archive that is networked with a number of sites of memory across the city – the National Stadium, Villa Grimaldi Peace Park (a former prison of torture) and others that must be sought out by those interested in the crimes of the dictatorship and the strength of opposition that brought about it demise. These sites are destinations for those interested to commemorate, understand and be acknowledged but are not necessarily part of the daily life of the city.
|BiciPaseos Patrimoniales, frente al Museo de Bellas Artes, Santiago|
|Museo de Solidaridad Salvador Allende, con una pintura de Miro|
|Memorial a las Mujeres víctimas de la represión en Alameda, Santiago|
|Museo de Memoria y Derechos Humanos, Santiago.|
Memorials, demonstrations, cultural facilities, exhibitions, literature, film, theatre, collective archives, visual art collections and actions are all ways of remembering. Theses accumulative and growing creative actions of political intent and reconciliation taking place in the capital city make it difficult for the broader public and future generations to forget.
Architects for Peace, December 2012