Chile coup anniversary marked with films, music and recommitting to the struggle

September 19, 2023
Magdlena Mire and Victor Martinez Parada performing in the NSW Parliament. Photo taken from a still: Luisa Caroca Lucero

The 50th anniversary of the 1973 military coup in Chile in which the progressive Popular Unity government of President Salvador Allende was overthrown was marked with a week of solidarity events. General Augusto Pinochet's coup ushered in almost two decades of repressive rule.

The events were hosted by the Committee 50 Years Sydney and others based in the Chilean refugee and migrant communities.

Inner Latin America, an oral history project by Pablo Leighton and supported by an Inner West Council Community History grant, opened on September 7. It included a history talk and audio-visual display highlighting a new collection of interviews with Latin American refugees and solidarity activists at the Marrickville Library.

The “50 Years Allende Lives” a film night at the Bonnyrigg Community Centre on September 9 included a short film, La Bestia (The Beast), inspired by real events. Bestia enters the life of a secret police agent, Íngrid Olderöck, who worked for the military dictatorship in Chile.

A dramatic feature film 1976, told the story of how the Pinochet dictatorship changed the life of one middle-class woman in post-coup Chile.

An art exhibition about Allende and his legacy as well as a display of posters and images of the Australian solidarity movement with Chile also featured.

“Art and Song: 50 Years, Allende Lives”, was organised at Fairfield Park on September 10, next to the statue of Allende.

The Chilean community gathered for music and artistic tributes to Allende and the ongoing struggle for democracy in Chile.

On September 11, “Chile 1973–2023: 50 years of memory, solidarity and resistance,” was held at the University of Sydney (USyd), sponsored by the USyd Research Community for Latin America.

La memoria obstinada (The obstinate memory), a film by well-known Chilean director Patricio Guzman, referred back to his famous film about the Allende period, Battle of Chile.

This was followed by the premiere of a new film by director Milena Ben-David, entitled, Crossing the Pacific: Chilean Voices in Australia, in which refugees from the 1973 coup, recounted their dramatic stories of suffering and survival.

Dr Alejandra Canales, head of research, Australian Film Television and Radio School; Lucia Salinas Briones, from Western Sydney University (WSU); and Prof Juan Francisco Salazar, also from WSU provided commentary. Chilean guitarist Marco Fields also played.

A Commemorative Day entitled “Nothing and no one is forgotten” was organised at the NSW Parliament on September 12. It included an art exhibition, “50 years of memory”, and was opened by Dr Paula Sanchez. Greetings from unions and diplomatic representatives were given. Alejandro Salvador Fernandez Allende, Allende’s grandson, gave the keynote address and a number of union and political representatives gave greetings.

An “Academic discourse on Chile,” introduced by Rodrigo Acuna, heard from Clinton Fernandez, Dr Maritza Thompson, Dr Peter Ross and Dr Rene Leal.

Their talks covered Australia’s role in the 1973 Chile coup, the use of torture under the Pinochet regime, the solidarity movement with Chile and “Fascism in Chile and its global impact”.

A concert, “Why we have not stopped singing and remembering” was introduced by Sanchez. It finished with video testimonials of survivors of the Chilean dictatorship, filmed by Miguel Valenzuela and Diego Villazon.

The commemorative week was a notable success. It reminded many hundreds of the need to defend our rights at all times and continue the struggle for democracy and socialism.

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