Over the course of the spring semester, the 2014 Alvarez and Lennox series, two previously separate series at Trinity, came together to produce a series of various lectures and events titled “Social Justice, Human Rights and Song on the World Historical State: Chile canta al mundo.” The first of the events occurred Jan. 28 with the lecture “The Audacity of Revolution: Democracy and Dictatorship in Chile 40 years later,” presented by Steve Stern, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The lecture, alongside all the events of the Alvarez and Lennox series, gave an in – depth exploration of the causes of the eventual military coup in Chile, along with its implications. It is a struggle that, to many, including sociology and anthropology professor and chair David Spener, is a crucial reminder of the implications and ideas of democracy and revolution.
“There’s a struggle that is emblematic of similar struggles around the world and one that people have learned from,” Spener said. “It is no less significant than the struggle of apartheid in South Africa that reached its peak during the same time as the Chilean struggle against militarism.”
Stern started the lecture with a history of Chile, between the period of 1964 and 1973, when the inevitable military coup would overthrow their left-wing Marxist president, Salvador Allende. Prior to the takeover, Chile was a unique case in Latin America which would come to play a role in its eventual turmoil.
“Chile was a classic Latin American society with an unequal division of wealth between those who worked the land and those who owned it” Stern said. “However, this was a world in which people believed elections mattered, and in that regard Chile was different.”
With this type of mindset, Chile merged these ideas together, inevitably creating a strong commitment to social change.
“In the 1960s and early 70s, the pressure for social justice and reform merged with that dynamic democratic electoral process,” said Stern. “Both the center and the left became committed to social transformation.”
The president at the time of the coup, Salvador Allende, sought to make such change a reality. At a U.N. meeting he said, “Chile, this wonderful country, is also a country with a backward economy, subordinated, often alienated by foreign capitalist enterprises, a country where millions of people have been forced to live in conditions of exploitation and poverty of open or disguised unemployment.”
Despite desires to enact social changes and transformations, Allende’s socialist policies were denounced by the right, who overthrew him in 1973. A military dictatorship came to rule, with many citizens of Chile facing harsh violence in the face of what Dr. Stern called “˜policide.’
“What came in was a very different kind of dictatorship, whose project was policide, killing off ways of thinking and doing politics,” said Stern.
The lecture ended with Stern considering the legacy left by the dictatorship in Chile, whose reign was ended in 1990. The effects, however, live on, with many recognizing the importance of remembering the struggles. To history major and sophomore David Warga, the Chilean revolution and dictatorship represents more than a need for cautious remembrance.
“The period following the coup of 1973 reminds us and the world of the struggles in democracy and the necessity for the protection of human rights anywhere,” Warga said. “Simply because our ideologies might be different, everyone is entitled to life and freedom, a right that should never be disregarded.”