On September 11, 1973, Salvador Allende’s democratic government was ousted by a dramatic coup by (US-backed) Augusto Pinochet’s forces. And thus began an 18-year dictatorship, launching Chile into political and social turmoil.
In my time in Chile, I've realized the lingering sensitivity that exists between the Allende vs. Pinochet loyalists. One’s alliances are vastly dependent on their family’s social status within the country, and their direct experiences with the recent dictatorship.
After a few heated discussions with friends whose families had greatly suffered or benefited under Pinochet’s rule, I wanted to visit the Museum of Memory and Human Rights (Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos) to understand what it meant to live in Chile during this time period.
The various exhibit halls narrated the systematic kidnappings, torture, and violence that took place during Pinochet’s reign. It was unnerving to see photos and videos of prisoners in familiar places like the Estadio Nacional in Santiago.
MUSEUM OF MEMORY AND HUMAN RIGHTS
The museum was inaugurated by ex-President Michelle Bachelet in 2010, who had been kidnapped and tortured by Pinochet’s regime. It is an effort to reflect on the horrors of these years, and recount the important events that took place in the country - both politically and socially.
I spent 3 hours here, my ears glued to the English audio tour that guided me through the multi-level building. The tour began with an hour-by-hour retelling of the events that took place on September 11, 1973 - from Allende’s moving radio broadcast, to the violent bombing of the National Palace - it was already emotional for me to absorb.
It also displays audio and video recordings of the resistance movement and international solidarity from European nations as well as the Vatican.
While rarely spoken about, the ‘other 9/11’ marked an earth-shattering moment in Chile’s history. For me, the museum served its purpose to preserve the truth, and helped me gain a better perspective on a difficult time in recent history.
If you have a few hours to spare in Santiago, take the time to visit.