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Wine Tasting

Argentine Bikers – Speaking in poetry – A slim margin – Appropriation of property – Heresy


For another perspective see They Always Come for You at Night, part one of this series


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Friendly Argentine Bikers.

The Argentine bikers talked just a little too loudly and laughed a little too easily. They were driving across Argentina, to the Pacific coast near Concepción and back to the Pampas where they were from. When they weren’t bombarding us with rapid fire questions about our expedition, they had us doubled over with laughter with their jokes. Our Chilean host smiled politely, but never participated in the raucous conversation. Its always the quiet ones you have to watch out for, because if you’re not careful you might learn something from them.

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In Talca.

The quiet professor spoke in poetry, when he spoke at all. I was enthralled by every sentence – I had never heard Spanish spoken in that way, each word carefully chosen, each pause that lead to a wonderful cadence. “In Chile you have to learn to be silent”, he said, making a zipping motion across his mouth.

Salvador Allende, just like his nemesis Gen. Pinochet, was born in the beautiful port city of Valparaíso. For almost forty years he worked in government, mostly representing a left leaning agenda and during which time he unsuccessfully tried three times to be elected president of Chile. Much to the horror of the Nixon administration he actually managed to win in 1970 with a slim margin and 36.2% of the vote. Now most politicians would say that this is hardly a mandate and cautiously rule from the center until there is more support for their policies. But just like Fmr. President George W. Bush he decided to ram through his agenda ignoring the simple fact that most people hadn’t voted for him.

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Allende supporters were mainly working class folk.

True to Marxist fashion property was seized, people thrown off their land, factories appropriated by their workers, and farms taken by the employees. Relations with Cuba and the Soviet Union were improved and the copper mines were nationalized, driving out the American companies who owned them. The benefits were short term and after a year of growth the economy plummeted. In August of 1973 Allende appointed a career army man, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, to be Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Weeks later Allende died in the coup the d’etat headed by the man he appointed.

For twenty two years the quiet professor had worked at the University in Talca. He had managed to keep himself out of trouble throughout the turbulent political times that Chile went through in the last few decades. Allende and Pinochet had come and gone but still one’s politics largely governed advancement at the University. Never mind that he was a professor of Economics, where facts and not political views should dictate career advancement.

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Hi-Tech Aging

Modern Chateau

At Viu Manent

Grape Parking

“During the Pinochet years, it was work that mattered. If you worked hard you would get ahead, laziness was the path to failure.”, told the Economist. Maybe he wasn’t as careful as he should have been, or his respect for Pinochet had been hard to suppress and contain. The Pinochet rule brought a great deal of prosperity to Chile and the Economist found this quite admirable. But now times had changed; there was a new Rector at the University and he was an Allende man.

His crime was heresy, quite literally, holding the wrong belief. He had cleaved to the theories that had brought about Chile’s economic miracle, but for the Rector this was too great of an infraction to sustain. After twenty-two years of service to the University he was put out on the street…

2 Responses to “The Economist, A Chile Divided (2/2)”

  1. Marco says:

    Hi Shreesh:

    It’s my comment.
    People like your Economist went through all that unforgettable period of my little country. Always you would find two poles (just as Bears to Pengüins), and true, as ever, lies in the middle.
    It’s incredible to learn how you learn about your country from outside.
    I would have loved to have more days to discuss your views of what I see around me every day.

    Hopefully willl meet again with two big drinks en on each hand and lot of hours to share.
    Have fun ,


  2. Shreesh says:

    Hi Marco,

    The Economist was one of the most incredible people I met during my trip. How many more like him are scattered throughout Talca? :)

    As an outsider people forgive when we ask probing questions. Many times they will say things to an outsider that they would be hesitant to say to their countrymen. There is a strange kind of freedom from judging the other person and from being judged.

    I hope we meet again too, Marco. The two big drinks are on me!

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