Independence, democracy and 9/11

The cueca is the national dance of Chile.  Since today we celebrate Chilean Independence–actually, in Chile they will celebrate all weekend–I thought I would share this video so you can not only see cueca, but also learn something about its history.

Sting also has a song known as “Cueca Solo”.  If you were wondering- yes, the video is about Chile and no, cueca is not the central part in either music or dance.  But, it is an interesting cometary on the 17 year dictatorship and all the people that went (and still are) disappeared.

Emily has already talked about why September 11th is a big day in Chilean history. Basically, 9/11/1973 is the day that Pinochet and the army overthrew Allende’s government. Like 9/11 in the US, this is a day that brings up strong emotions for Chileans on both side of the conflict: those who see Pinochet as their savior and those who see him as an evil dictator.

For me, I have always been moved by the final speech given by Allende as the Moneda (main government building he was holed up in) was being bombed.  These were the his final words to his supporters over the only radio that the army had not managed to dismantle or take over.  Like a captain going down with his ship, Allende gave his life defending Chilean democracy. Click on his photo below to hear the speech.

And, in case you don’t speak Spanish.  Here is the transcription:

My friends,

Surely this will be the last opportunity for me to address you. The Air Force has bombed the antennas of Radio Magallanes.

My words do not have bitterness but disappointment. May they be a moral punishment for those who have betrayed their oath: soldiers of Chile, titular commanders in chief, Admiral Merino, who has designated himself Commander of the Navy, and Mr. Mendoza, the despicable general who only yesterday pledged his fidelity and loyalty to the Government, and who also has appointed himself Chief of the Carabineros [paramilitary police].

Given these facts, the only thing left for me is to say to workers: I am not going to resign! Placed in a historic transition, I will pay for loyalty to the people with my life. And I say to them that I am certain that the seeds which we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans will not be shriveled forever.

They have force and will be able to dominate us, but social processes can be arrested by neither crime nor force. History is ours, and people make history.

Workers of my country: I want to thank you for the loyalty that you always had, the confidence that you deposited in a man who was only an interpreter of great yearnings for justice, who gave his word that he would respect the Constitution and the law and did just that. At this definitive moment, the last moment when I can address you, I wish you to take advantage of the lesson: foreign capital, imperialism, together with the reaction, created the climate in which the Armed Forces broke their tradition, the tradition taught by General Schneider and reaffirmed by Commander Araya, victims of the same social sector who today are hoping, with foreign assistance, to re-conquer the power to continue defending their profits and their privileges.

I address you, above all, the modest woman of our land, the campesina who believed in us, the mother who knew our concern for children. I address professionals of Chile, patriotic professionals who continued working against the sedition that was supported by professional associations, classist associations that also defended the advantages of capitalist society. I address the youth, those who sang and gave us their joy and their spirit of struggle. I address the man of Chile, the worker, the farmer, the intellectual, those who will be persecuted, because in our country fascism has been already present for many hours — in terrorist attacks, blowing up the bridges, cutting the railroad tracks, destroying the oil and gas pipelines, in the face of the silence of those who had the obligation to act. They were committed. History will judge them.

Surely Radio Magallanes will be silenced, and the calm metal instrument of my voice will no longer reach you. It does not matter. You will continue hearing it. I will always be next to you. At least my memory will be that of a man of dignity who was loyal to his country.

The people must defend themselves, but they must not sacrifice themselves. The people must not let themselves be destroyed or riddled with bullets, but they cannot be humiliated either.

Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again and free men will walk through them to construct a better society.

Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!

These are my last words, and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain, I am certain that, at the very least, it will be a moral lesson that will punish felony, cowardice, and treason.

Santiago de Chile, 11 September 1973

In a post 9/11 world (both Chilean and US), as we celebrate independence, I have just one last thought to share: if you really support the idea of democracy, as the US government claims to do, it means supporting democracy even when your candidate isn’t choosen or you don’t approve of a government style.  Also, this can only help to underline the importance of everyone who can to vote in the upcoming US election– and hopefully get the republications out and give us the change we need.



  1. Thanks for your comment on my “Guilt” post…it really helps to hear someone speak from experience. I think it will be easier for me once I get down to Chile, but I’m just freaking out now due to pre-Big Life Change jitters.

    And I’ll be in Chile for the 18 next year…I can’t WAIT!

  2. You must get your hands on Martin Espada’s book of poems called “The Republic of Poetry”. The first part of the collection is a cycle of poems on Chile. Quite remarkable…

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