the talk

Last night I got THE TALK from my host parents…the Salvador Allende/Augusto Pinochet talk, that is.  All study-abroaders are destined to have this chat with their Chilean family at some point, but I guess I wasn’t expecting it so soon.  My vocabulary definitely wasn’t quite ready- but it was, as we say SUPER INTERESANTE!

We squeezed around a small table in the kitchen, as seems to be typical on cold winter nights, and somehow, in between bites of roast chicken and sips of hot tea, the conversation turned to Chilean history and politics.   My host mom, Olga, was born on September 11, 1973, which happens to be one of the most important dates in Chilean history.   On this day, democratically elected President Salvador Allende (a socialist) was overthrown in a coup d’état.  A military junta took over the Chilean government, and General Augusto Pinochet became the leader/dictator (depending on who you’re talking to).   Under the leadership of right-wing Pinochet there were a lot of human rights violations that took place in the country, namely the torture and disappearance of a few thousand people (numbers vary) who spoke out against the government.  That’s the nutshell version…it’s an incredibly complicated period of Chilean history and still remains quite controversial today.

Me at Palacio de la Moneda, which houses the offices of the President & cabinet. It was partially destroyed during the coup of 1973 (but has since been restored).

Well, it turns out my parents don’t exactly have the same political opinions, so I got to hear both versions of the story.  My mom comes from a left-wing, socialist-leaning family.  Her grandpa disappeared for 3 days and was tortured by Pinochet’s military.  She says she remembers not being able to talk about politics with her family, and that she and her friend celebrated whenever Pinochet stepped down from office.  My dad, on the other hand, grew up in a family, who, for the most part, respected Pinochet’s policies.  He disagreed with my mom about the extent of the tortures and disappearances and doesn’t believe that Pinochet was a dictator.  And he went to pay his respects to Pinochet when he died in 2008.

I was amazed that they had such differences in opinion, but was grateful that they were willing to share their beliefs with me.  I hope that what I wrote here accurately reflects what my parents told me last night.  I’m getting better at understanding my family, but some things still get lost in translation…

In other news, I’m healthy and happy, and have thoroughly enjoyed my first two weeks in this beautiful country!  See more pictures below.

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