More than six years ago, I was in the General References Section of our University’s library most likely passing the time, I don’t quite remember. But I do recall that I picked up a travel guide about Chile. I did not know a lot about the country except that it was in South America. It was also around this time that I learned from Literature class that Pablo Neruda did not only write love poems, ones we often dreamily read in high school, but also wrote political ones. After browsing the guidebook, I decided that I would one day go to Chile.
Yesterday, September 11 Vancouver time, I was in the public library browsing business books. A woman announced through the intercom that there was a free event starting in a few minutes. A certain mother and daughter from Chile would read from the books they authored. I decided to sit in. The room was already full and a presentation was already being shown: quotes from Salvador Allende, photographs of laborers protesting, photographs of the Desaparecidos (victims of forced disappearances).
In the two hour event, I came to know about Carmen Aguirre, Carmen Rodriguez and their beloved Chile. It turns out, September 11 was the anniversary of the military coup in Chile in 1973 wherein (letting Wikipedia take over here):
“The U.S.-backed junta was composed of the heads of the Air Force, Navy, Carabineros (police force) and the Army, though Augusto Pinochet eventually arose to supreme power within a year after the coup, formally assuming the presidency in late 1974. Pinochet later assumed power and ended Allende’s elected Popular Unity government, instigating a campaign of terror on its supporters, including the murder of former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier. Before Pinochet’s rule, Chile had for decades been hailed as a beacon of democracy and political stability in a South America plagued by military juntas and Caudillismo.”
It’s quite freakish how September seems to be a month for evil dictators (ok, that’s just me noticing the details and being weird). For those who may not be familiar, Philippine Martial Law was declared by Ferdinand Marcos on September 21, 1972. He was also supported by US imperialists. Later on, during the EDSA revolution in February 1986, he would receive a call from the US Sen. Laxalt to “cut and cut cleanly”.
I almost felt Carmen Rodriguez’s character’s fear and pain when she read a the part of her book when the protagonist was longing to be home and safe in Canada. I felt goosebumps when Carmen Aguirre read an excerpt of her book Something Fierce: The Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter. It was about her life in the resistance, that and how it was being a teenager at the same time. Hmmm… sounds like something some of our parents or someone they know may have experienced in the martial law years. That is one book I have yet to read and must read this year!
The event ended with a question and answer. The last question was from an Ecuadorian-Canadian teenage girl. She asked what the authors thought about her generation and what they would say as the young generation seem to be self-centered and preoccupied with all things except history and such causes.
Carmen Aguirre said that she was in fact hopeful for the youth:
” We do live in a consumer society where you are what you buy. I don’t know but I do feel hopeful of the youth here. I am very inspired by the Idle No More Movement which is youth-based, women based. I’m inspired by the Occupy Movement, by the Student Movement of Quebec. So I think there’s a lot going on and the mainstream media will do anything and everything in its power to pretend that nothing’s going on…When we look at alternative media we do realize that there’s so much going on in Canada and it’s not just that you are what you buy.”
I sincerely wish events like this be organized in high schools and libraries in the Philippines, as many have been disappointed by the younger generation’s (my generation still!) apathy and lack of knowledge about our history. People have this thing called collective amnesia, maybe that’s what happened to the older generation but let’s not go there. I just know that it’s time these stories are told but also in a way to make young people listen.
In any case, I’m still looking forward to someday going to Chile even more so now with these stories in my heart and mind.