Tuesday June 6, 2017

Tu Luz Trasciende (Your Light Transcends)

By Julianne Evans

When deciding to study abroad in Chile, I did not fully understand the history involving the recent dictatorship that oppressed many people starting in the 70s. We had mentioned it in the mini course we took before leaving, but only briefly. The past few days I have been given a chance to understand this difficult and recent part of their history. Through a tour of murals in a neighborhood, La Victoria, I began to see how individuals were effected by the Augusto Pinochet regime and how the people in Chile are still coping. I have also come to understand this challenge for Chileans through conversations with lecturers at Universidad de los Andes and at tours of the Human Rights Museum and La Moneda Palace. 

September 11 has two meanings. For United States citizens it means the terrorist attack in New York. For Chileans, it meant overthrowing their socialist leader, Salvador Allende, by Augusto Pinochet in 1973. One of the most deeply troubling things I learned about overthrowing this government was that the USA helped fund the Chilean military to partake in these events. However, the most unsettling aspect of Pinochet's dictatorship was the inflicted crimes against humanity. Under Pinochet's dictatorship, families were split and people were brutally treated, causing major human rights issues. From tortures to exiles and arrests, many Chileans lost loved ones in this time.

The details are interesting but that is not the part that moved me to understand where the Chilean people were coming from. It is the personal stories that made me think twice about the unjust events that occurred. One young lady shared with us her experience as a child during the regime, not knowing which side to be on as her mother and father had different views on the dictatorship and so did her two older siblings. She shared that it was a topic of discussion at school and it was hard for to handle as a young child because she did not fully understand what was going on.

The most moving story though was from a woman who lost her father during the regime. Her father, Raul Montoya, was part of an underground organization against Pinochet. Authorities knew this and everyday she worried for her father to even leave the house. The one day she did not leave with him on July 21, 1976, he was arrested and disappeared. Raul's daughter who was speaking with us said that he even predicted how this would happen. Raul had the chance to leave the country yet he did not take it as he wanted to make a difference. Once he was arrested, this ignited a light in his daughter to join groups that were for people who had lost family members and were finding ways to cope and peacefully deal with the threats posed by the government.

Disappeared father

As the woman told her story about her father, it was apparent that she was still unsettled about all of the events because the government has information about what happened to her father, yet she does not exactly know what happened to him. Like many families, she is frustrated that this information about people who were lost is not being shared. She is working for justice and dignity in the community with many others. She shows immense strength and dedication to understanding her father's arrest and disappearance.

I was moved by her raw emotions as she shared her story and own experiences during the dictatorship, which lasted from 1973 to 1990. When we left the location of the mural (shown above), she gave us all hugs and said how she was so grateful we wanted to hear her story. She also said that giving her hugs gave her a sense of solace and hope for her father. The respect and compassion she showed us, without knowing us for very long, reminded me that caring for the people around me is one of the most important things in life. Your light transcends ( Tu Luz Trasciende). The lady we met that day sure showed us how that statement is true for Chileans lost in the dictatorship and the people still seeking peace for them.

Chile mural

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