once de septiembre

Being in Santiago in September is an irreplaceable experience. 46 years ago on September 11th, the first democratically elected socialist government led by President Allende was overthrown by Pinochet led military coup d’état, which bombed the Presidential palace (La Moneda) and detained — people. One of the largest sights of imprisonment and torture was Estadio Nacional (the national stadium). After dinner, our host parents drove us to the stadium, where a lot of people were already gathering. The fences of the stadium were covered in posters and photos, demanding justice for those who were tortured or disappeared. The flyers had photos of the missing and asked the question “Dónde Éstan?” (Where are they?), demanding the administration to give victim families an answer and reveal more information about the dictatorship. The military leaders have kept a pact of silence after the dictatorship ended. 

We lit a candle for our host parent’s friend’s brother, who still is missing. Afterwards, we went inside the stadium where a group was performing in all red. The sound of drums and fireworks lit up the stadium and everyone is cheering. I was deeply touched by the unity and positivity at this annual protest to commemorate the loss and the trauma. At the base of the stadium there was a small museum that recounted the story of the military coup and the dictatorship. Vigils like this where what seems like the entirety of Santiago came together and showed their strength as well as continued trauma through powerful chants, music, and performance, really redefined what “trauma” looks like in my perception. Especially in comparison with the same date in the United States, where the vigils are usually silent and pensive, once de septiembre at Estadio Nacional showed me that people can process pain and protest injustice in a multitude of ways. 

Our host mom also left signs with missing persons’ faces, information and the question “Dondé Estan?” downstairs of our apartment building. When we returned from Estadio Nacional to collect them, people have left paper cranes on some of the signs, sending their love and support. The continued protest all across the city goes to show that Santiago hasn’t forgotten, and Santiago will not forget.