It’s our last day and we made it another easy one, taking the subway to Los Dominicos, where we found some good Chilean and Mapuchan food, art and gifts. Everyday we saw how kind and helpful the Chileans are. It’s easy to see when we struggle to communicate in Spanish. Today on a standing room only subway, I saw a couple leave their seats to guide an elderly couple to take their seats. Minutes later, another older person boards and a passenger taps a young person on the shoulder, asking to give up the seat. They got up without protest. Seems like common decency but it doesn’t always happen like this.
It’s good the Mapuchan wood carvers have a sense of humor.
- “Como se dice penis?”
- “Eso es un pene.”
We walked to the Bellas Artes art museum, a historic building that needs a little TLC on the inside. Hate to see crumbling floor tiles in architecture like this. Its great that many of the museums, like this one, are free and accessible to all, but it looks like more funding is needed.
I may be in disrepair, too. After one shower and 42 miles of walking, they’re ready to get home to more driving and less walking. Better get that second shower first.
On our last night, I finished my highly recommended book about Pinochet, and the rest of this post is about that. The dictatorship here is so very recent, as I was in high school during the end of it. What I can’t shake is how the 3,000 killed wasn’t enough for immediate prosecution after he was voted out by referendum in 1988. Some of these atrocities are dramatized in Una Historia Necesaria, an Emmy award winning YouTube series of 5 minute videos highlighting real cases from the evidence uncovered in the trials. Shockingly, after he lost the Yes or No referendum, Pinochet was allowed to remain as the commander of the army for the next 2 presidential administrations, ending with a lifetime appointment to the senate, which came with immunity from any crimes. Later, when he traveled to England as a citizen for medical treatment, the courts there were evenly split on whether he could be extradited and tried on war crimes, even after seeing evidence of murder, torture, and kidnapping. Pinochet eventually lost in the highest court of England, but was then allowed to return home to Chile due to his poor health, where he still had a base of support. It seems for some, the positive he did for the economy of Chile weighs more heavily than the murder and torture, even though many of the economic gains were in beginning before the coup, escalated after his dictatorship ended. He had support in other countries, too: George H. W. Bush and Margaret Thatcher both publicly supported him, despite his killing of a US citizen in Washington DC by car bomb and torturing an English doctor. The Clinton administration and Madelyn Albright couldn’t muster words of opposition when he fell from power, either. Before he died in 2006 in Chile, he was never actually convicted of any of the crimes. And it was only later, when his financial crimes of money laundering, fraud, and corruption were discovered, that his supporters in Chile finally turned against him.
In the USA of 2018, it’s frightening to think about Chile’s history knowing how long it took for the country to fully turn against Pinochet. Perhaps a US president can attack the press and behave like an authoritarian, but kill less than 3,000, and he may keep his base of support years past his death. As long as the ills can be explained away with jobs or economic gains. Maybe all this shows how similar we all are in the world. We act and vote in our best interests based on the information we have, but often have a hard time knowing what’s true when our leaders aren’t honest. While Pinochet and Trump both had 43% support of their country, Chile turned the tables in voting for the daughter of parents who were tortured and murdered, their faces on the wall of thousands in the museum. She took office just before Pinochet died, completed her maximum allowed of one term, sat out a term, and was re-elected again. She was a single mother, Socialist, and agnostic. Politics swings hard here in both directions, unlike the US where no one like Michelle Bachelet has been close to becoming president. Maybe its our turn in 2020.