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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

The Museum of Memory and Human Rights - Day 459

Today we visited #TheMuseumofMemoryandHumanRights, learning about the 40,000 victims and over 3,000 people killed during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973 to 1990).

Yes, today we visited the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, dedicated to educating people about this 17-year horror story, inviting people to dignify the victims, acknowledge the horrors and stimulate reflection so that it never happens again. In the inauguration of the museum 9 years ago, President Michelle Bachelet, herself a torture victim, said: “We cannot change our past, we can only learn from what has been lived.” Let’s hope mankind can learn.

In the entrance of this modern building were photos arranged into a world map of recent human right violations around the globe, including many African, American as well as Eastern European countries. Far too many and sadly, still happening in 2019.

There was a metal cross that the museum has borrowed from Grave no. 29 in the General Cemetery of #Santiago where many unnamed bodies were buried. Still to this day, medical scientists are using modern technology to identify them.

The rest of the museum focussed on the recent Chilean history that started with a military coup d'état on September 11th 1973, just 28 years before another terrible atrocity on that same day.

We walked around listening to our audioguide describing various accounts of this time. This included listening to the amazing last speech that #PresidentAllende gave while being in La Moneda Palace when it was bombed and surrounded by troops. In this, he stated that he would not resign. He knew it was his final speech and gave thanks to the workers, the women and children “Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again where free men will walk to build a better society. Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!” What a brave, loyal and selfless man he must have been.

We watched (with English subtitles) many interviews of survivors telling their experiences of torture, some with great fear, some resigned that they may die, some more concerned about the other prisoners. The one that pulled my heartstrings the most was when an elderly lady shared that after she had been tortured, a young soldier apologised to her, saying that he had to follow orders; she reminded him of his own mother.

There was live coverage of a small demonstration, and a young lady was shot in the head by a traffic soldier. As she lay on the floor, still conscious, he stood there, firing his gun in the air. What on earth was going through his head at that moment?

We looked at documents, the ridiculous polling cards with a “yes” against the Chilean flag and a “no” against a black box; the elections being rigged anyway. We saw posters, letters and items made by prisoners.

I must admit, after watching the harrowing accounts of people describing their torture we didn’t listen much more to the headphones. We felt quite drained.

The museum did end with details of the General Election in December 1989 where Pinochet lost. It described how, in many towns, people were taught how to vote, how to have the confidence to tick what they really wanted, and how to ensure that the voting was not rigged. The hard work by the opposition parties collaborating together paid off. The end to the dictatorship in Chile and let’s hope that this never happens again.

Yesterday, I did say that I would share some funny stories that Vanesa told us about the Natural History Museum, but we ran out of time to go there, Museums are shut on Mondays, and we leave tomorrow back to Argentina. Anyhow, it was about the curator wanting to stuff a Blue Whale. Perhaps for another day, eh?

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