Last night, we went to a memorial and march commemorating the Sept. 11, 1973 coup (previous blog). We want to share our experience while it’s fresh. A theme, very clear in the memorial and march, was De la Memoria al Poder (From Memory to Power). Chilean people know, remember, and are continuing the struggle for the dream of the Allende years. And today it’s a young people’s and feminist struggle and dream too.
The feminist memorial, in a square in downtown Valparaíso, was led and organized by women. They ringed the square with clothes-line hung with posters (a few are below) of women, luchadoras, who the military rounded up, tortured, assassinated, and disappeared as part of the dictatorship’s bloody strategy of destroying the leadership and resistance and creating a reign of terror. So many posters. So many brave beautiful sisters, mothers, daughters, leaders, fighters. So many faces. Some as young as 14. It was a very somber and determined event.
As night fell, there was a spirited march through the streets by people of all ages—some were survivors, some could have been their grandchildren. It was incredibly powerful that people were chanting some of the very chants that hundreds of thousands of people shouted in the streets 46 years ago when marching to defend the democratic socialist society they were building, even as the coup loomed: Luchando! Creando! Poder Popular! [Struggling, Creating, Popular Power] and Allende! Allende! El Pueblo Te Defende![Allende! Allende! The people will defend you!] A line of very resolute, serious young women (maybe high school students) walked holding hands and wearing pictures of women who had been assassinated. They were about the same age as some of the women on the posters. They are our future.
The march ended at the city memorial to Sept. 11, as people lit candles in memory. So many names of those assassinated and disappeared, etched on stone, just from the Valparaíso region alone. But then the state police rolled in with huge armored trucks, water cannon, tear gas, and people scattered.
Afterward, our Chilean compañera told us it is common to arrest protesters and eventually let them go on probation but move them around from jail to jail so their families cannot find them and to subject them to forms of psychological torture before they release them. We traded similar stories about Chicago police. Still people keep organizing and resisting. As one of our own family said, “It’s incredible how they have continued and passed it on. The perseverance and hope after so many years.”