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Fear, Silence, Hope and Color: After the Death of Pinochet

Anne Dalke's picture
The hill where we´re living in Valparaiso was in a black out (for much-needed electrical repairs) from noon til 6 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, so we didn´t actually hear about Pinochet´s death (or all the celebrations going on in the plain below) til the following morning — but we sure heard about it then. The newspaper had a good 40pp. of coverage, two days running (down to 8 pp/day now). Our teachers — one of whom spent twenty years living in exile in Denmark -- could talk of nothing else (so much for interactive pedagogy!) on Monday morning. What I´ve picked up from these experiences, so far, are three things:
  • This is a society deeply invested in the cult of personality. There are large men here: Neruda was one, Pinochet another. For me, all the focus on the death of this old man (who committed many crimes against humanity) indicates a disinclination of Chileans to look @ the reasons their society accepted a dictatorship for so many years. There is something here (as in Guatemala) that wants a leader.
  • This is also a society still very deeply divided. Whether you find yourself in the midst of mourners or celebrators depends on what neighborhood you live in.
  • There are still huge silences here; although politics are discussed intensely among friends, there is a hesitation — which oftimes reaches the level of a refusal — to talk about one´s political opinions with people one doesn´t know well (like visiting noramericanos). Our teachers tell us that they still feel a fear when appearing in public spaces. So far, in other words, Chile has failed to develop the habit—so necessary to democracy--of discussing difference openly.
So—how to develop such a habit? How to work oneself, one´s neighbors, one´s countrypeople, and one´s interactions with people from the rest of the world, into a space where open discussion of differences is exercised and valued? I don´t know. Valparaiso, which has been a port for many years, is really not a very cosmopolitan town; it seems pretty parochial (little in the way of bilingual bookstores, for instance). There´s also much that is gray here, much that is somber, much that lingers from an earlier troubled time. A lot of poverty. And yet --

the hills of this city are filled with Victorian mansions in uncanny tonalities. As Manuel Pena Munoz, the author of Dreaming Valparaiso, says, ¨they manage to create a feeling of magic and expectation amidst a world amazingly recupterated by the miracle of color.¨ In a place with such an extraordinary palette, a place where "all colors are possible" -- a place which is chaotic and dis-ordered in design (none of the gridwork of most Spanish and Spanish American cities), a place where there is always a vista of the sea--I have to believe that it is possible that all points of view might also be expressed.


Anonymous's picture

Anne, enjoyed the observations. You might enjoy stopping by our English language bookstore in Valparaiso if you have a chance to return. Our web site is thanks