The energy and joy in the streets is infectious. The speed with which the city and it’s inhabitants were decked out in red and black is staggering. The fact that I get two days off work is wonderful (my daughter isn’t sleeping great so the extra hours rest are needed).
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:
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.
I keep meaning to write something about all the traditions going on around Indepedence Day here; and it keeps not happening. This is partly because I have significantly less internet access at home in Rancagua (the city I did my high school exchange in) and partly because I am busy doing independence day stuff (and attending the funeral and burial of my godson’s greatgrandfather yesterday– Agustin cried the entire mass, but I attribute that to him being 6 months old and not actual sadness at the loss of a wonderful man).
So here is what I propose to do (and sadly, no, you do not get a yay or neigh vote here): I will put down a few memories from my first 18 de Septiembre in Chile (that was way back in 1996) and I will link to Kyle’s Chile Travel blog which has amazing photos and info about:
I think that my first fiestas patrias were the most memorable. I had only been in the country for a month, my Spanish was limited at best, and I had been invited to a fonda (not knowing what that was) by a classmate and her family. A fonda, as it turns out, is a big tented area where one celebrates the fiestas patrias by eatting, drinking, talking, and dancing. The entire area is usually decorated in red, white, and blue and of course the chilean flad is ever present (Although it is similar to the Texan flag, they are different. Look carefully). Here is what stands out in my mind 11 years later:
- Maca was vegetarian, her family supported this, and there were vegetarian empandas!
- How many Chilean Flags were hanging everywhere. It seemed that there was one in front of every house! (Turns out, there was one in front of every house– it’s the law to have the flag hanging on the 17th and 18th. Also, it is illegal to have it hanging backwards or upside down.)
- I had a great time watching the national dance (cueca) and decided that I wanted to learn. Later, I did. It also made me think about what it means to live in the heterogeneous society that is America– we have no national anything really (besides a song). I love the diversity and freedom that in theory America aspires to– at the same time I get sick of trying to explain that we have no national dance or national food (and I refuse to accept that line dancing or McDonalds are it).
- The fonda had set up amusement park rides in an open space. Maca said we should go on one and I agreed. We got onto this ride which was a large circle with a bench around the outside. It was flat on the ground (well on an aparatus) and there were no seat belts. As other people piled in, Maca tried to explain to me how to hang on my looping my arms through the bars behind us. Not really understanding, I did as was told. The ride started once we had all been crammed in, sitting almost on top of our neighbor. The ride began by spinning and I thought: “Why do I have to hold on? centrifical force should keep me here.” Then the disk tilted. When you were at the top part, the only thing keeping you on the bench was your grip on the bars behind you! Being the daughter of a lawyer (or rather growing up in the overly letigious USA) I said to Maca in broken Spanish; “In the US this is illegal!”. As the ride continued, I watched someone lose their grip and slide or fall or crash, depending on your point of view, to the bottom where she quickly pulled herself into a new spot on the bench and proceeded to hold on. Then, the conductor of the ride, instead of having it spin, would jolt the machine which had the effect of shaking people loose. Admittedly, I was laughing. It was fun. That flirting with danger kind of fun that is fun until you actually fall. I never fell. We rode 4 times. Boy were my arms sore the next day!