November 30, 2023

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The Pan American Games and the Memory of the Absent… (I)

The Pan American Games and the Memory of the Absent… (I)

Santiago de Chile.- in September Last year marked 50 years since the military coup in this country, which overthrew the government of Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity, established the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and changed the lives of Chileans forever.

History is stained with blood and suffering, with murder, torture, disappearances, betrayals, ridicule, and lots of irony.

Chilean society has tattooed these events in an indescribable way, either because of the pain that stems from absence and the scars on the skin and heart, or because of the fear of repetition, or because of the desire or comfort, to forget and even rewrite. What happened.

For those who visit this country, it is impossible to ignore that memory, especially if you walk past La Moneda or cross the vast expanses of Chile’s National Stadium every day.

Although sporting stories have great weight, especially the unforgettable 1962 FIFA World Cup and the many victories of the La Roja de América national team, the ideas do not cease to represent a temple, a giant monument that reminds us how far human evil, resentment and extremism can reach. .

Now painted all-white, the exterior sends an intentional message of peace, cleanliness, elegance and naivety. This is what Chileans wanted to do to continue to address the horrors they had experienced there since September 11, 1973, when thousands of people were grouped together for being communists or appearing to be communists, for reading Marx or Che or Fidel Castro, or for believing in Allende. It is clear that the hatred of soldiers trained in Nazi ideology.

The 19th Pan American Games feature the center of this giant mass guarding the large stadium in a vantage point. 50 years ago, the area was completely different, because where today many new facilities are built (sports centers, hockey and tennis fields, etc…) dominated by additional football fields divided by clay tracks…

Yes, there were, of course, what are known today as sites of memory, because the impact of the strike was recorded there forever… and there remain the dressing rooms, the gates, the part of the castaway stands, and the racecourse with its southern oyster. The tunnel, as well as the entrance from Pedro de Valdivia Street, is where trucks and buses loaded with detainees enter, whether alive, wounded or dead.

These and other sites set up to protect the memory of the imprisoned, who number between 7,000 and 20,000, are part of the diverse atmosphere and aesthetics of these games… so be it. Where today there is joy, hope and the powerful social message of sport, yesterday there was a graveyard.

There are stories of those who saw bodies piled to one side at one of the entrances to the stands, of those who heard the groans of pain in the face of gunshots and torture, of those who lived the experience of mock executions so that they could talk even about what they did not know…among those who climbed into the canopy several times. To questioning, and even worse, from those who had visited the Velodrome once or several times, where the questions were much less civilized.

Today, during the Pan American Games, a visit to the National Stadium ultimately provides a different perspective… Competitions, souvenir and food sales, interaction areas for children and adults, art gallery, televisions, enormous and modern facilities, advertising, music…

Entire families, athletes, journalists, fans, and visitors walk through the arenas…they are the majority. The Carabineros de I have a tent where its symbols are displayed. Uniformed officers take photos. There seem to be two cool ladies on site, but they don’t carry guns, don’t look threatening, and don’t kick ass. They barely smile and say hello. Somewhere several soldiers are riding skinny horses. People are hitting their buttocks. They don’t attack.

There are also other stops along the way…there are memory sites and there is a huge mural in parts created by Mon Lafferty and Alejandro “Mono” Gonzalez. It extends along the walls from the south, north, east and west, and rises in an ancient water tank. He narrates moments of pain, despair, searching, and loss…and talks about women, children, and parents. We also walk there these days…

Near the stadium’s main entrance, on Grecia Avenue, where relatives gather to try to see their detainees, there is a white tent displaying images of the Chilean Holocaust and a piece of sculpture called Los espejuelos de Allende. It reminds us of his boring life in La Moneda. Every day, four times, guided tours take place to memory sites.

There, in many places, you can read the most shocking message of all: “A city without memory is a city without future.” This idea is a necessary warning, and for this reason it cannot be omitted from the opening ceremony either, with conviction, even though it is veiled…

The fire entered the building through the eighth hole, reaching the grass between the benches and the steps of the castaway box. And at some point, when the sentence lit up, it lit up Chile and all the peoples of America. Memory lit up.

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