Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Irony of fate

Yesterday was September 11th. I bet you knew that. At least everyone in Chile and the States didn't forget. It didn't come as a surprise to me that we were going to watch a documentary in my culture class. Shout out to my favorite Dylan who would have been excited with me, because I don't know many people who actually enjoy documentaries.

Regardless of the harsh living conditions of the Chilean public during the democratically elected socialist regime of Allende, there was absoutly no reason for the military force to enter in and eliminate 3.000 people because they stood in Patriotic support of their beloved country. If there is anything students from the States can take home with them (myself is certainly included) is the brand of nationalism that is not blind and forced, but a true and pure respect for each other, allowing destruction to place hand in hand a communist rebel and a democracy washed extremist. How can violence every be the answer to suffering? Chile learned as a country that they are stronger than their government and that ideas (in this case, art and photographs) are bulletproof.

Some fast facts about the documentary:
La ciudad de los fotografos is about the riots that broke out in the early 80s in opposition to the government oppression, a back-lash to the coup in 73 that eventually led to the downfall of Agustus Pinochet's dictatorship.
Filmed in 2006, the main hero/fotografo is Luis Navarro and most of the documentation is done by his son.
Here is a video summary with English subtitles!! Watch it if you hate reading! Or just watch it anyway.

In 1987, the reality set in that Pinochet was responsible for all the civilian deaths and the surge of support he had during his overthrow were starting to step back and realize the transparency of this man as he was showing no remorse what-so-ever for the death and destruction of his own country. If anything, he was proud of the number of disappeared citizens. 

With that being said, in came a rag-tag group of fotographers, it didn't matter exactly what they did as their profession (take notes people in the States) as long as they had a reason for doing what they do (and that reason not being salary) Something had vanished with the country of Chile, along with the disappeared citizen, and it was the job of the fotographers to capture exactly what that was. 

when someone has to be shot-- let's make sure it is done the right way.

The violence of the riots was well know by the fotografos but they took on the responsibility to capture the injustice to make the information indisputable. The military back-lash was varied, the best of the worst outcomes was forced removal of film strips from the camera, the normal of the worst outcomes was hospitalized injuries from police beatings, and the worst of the worst outcomes was death. 
"no wonder they were after us..." these fotografos were relentless. 

"we were unaware of repercussion. if we had to be there -- we were there"

Not only did the photographs capture the military injustice, but also the heartbreak of the citizen who lost their family and loved ones. The majority of the Chileans interviewed told tear-causing testimonies of their hard working sons who has no political affiliation what so ever. Women chained themselves to the gates of government buildings with pictures of their loved ones, the victims, pinned to their chests. 

One woman retold the story of what happened to her sons who were part of a mining community of hard workers, as far removed from the government as possible in el campo de Chile. She did not hold back the information that her children were hung by their necks in a warehouse, found with grass shoved into their mouths and barbed wire piercing through their lips and wrapped around their head, like animals. (Where was PETA? they were founded in 1980 right? Or were they too concerned with animal rights to focus on human rights?) 

"you start to feel that a part of you is missing too"

To watch the facial expressions of my profe, a Chilean man, who is from the generation of the 80s riots, fill with tears during the documentary and not make one sarcastic joke or pun (this is my Jack Black from School of Rock profe, mind you) was a pure sign of the magnitude of this historical day. His reaction to the violence of many years ago gave the class a feeling of strength and pride that has emerged from the ashes of this country.  Setptember 11th is so close to September 18th (Chilean Independence Day) and the "irony of fate" as said in the documentary, reveals that what happened to this country was not the fault of a nation of loyal citizens, but a select group of people, who used a political affiliation as a vessel to cause destruction in a faceless, blameless way. 

Experiencing two September 11ths had given way to a day full of contemplation and such brash comparisons of the violence and injustice experienced by two nations in very different ways. But most important, we should realize the blame in misunderstanding and in violence. Let us remember those who were brave and truly embodied what it is to be a selfless human in the midst of a world history that is singed with dark instances of lifeless destruction. 


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