Behind the article: Chile on the 40th anniversary of the coup

The image above is of an article I wrote for the CBC News website while in Santiago, Chile for the 40th anniversary of the country’s military coup, on September 11.

What struck me while I was there was the feeling of being in the midst of a month-long period of national catharsis, both of the people and of the country’s media outlets,¬†an opening of wounds that were never given a chance to heal and a telling of stories that had never before been heard. And they poured out.

Day after day there were exclusive interviews, never-before-seen footage and broadcasting of previously censored images. The media was opening its vaults and showing everything that they chose or were forced not to show during the dictatorship. That hadn’t happened for the 30th or the 25th anniversary, perhaps because the dictatorship only ended after 17 years and the climate of free expression had not yet fully returned.

But it wasn’t just the media. Family, friends and strangers would start talking, unprompted, about their experiences of the day of the coup and of the dictatorship. It seemed like the anniversary was giving everyone licence to talk about what they hadn’t been able to air in the past and that they knew it was important to do so with whoever might listen.

As a first-generation Canadian whose parents left Chile both searching for a better life and a sense of security (in the case of my father), going back to Chile to cover the anniversary was a moving experience. I learned so much about Chile’s history, its people and my own family as well as why Chilean society is the way it is today, much of it through personal accounts. I’ve also come to understand, more than ever, that the sometimes violent adversity Chileans have faced over their history has made them a strong, complex and vibrant people. And though that history has made some people cynical and pessimistic, many more are keenly aware of and committed to the struggle to change their own lives and their country for the better. That was especially apparent in many of the young people I met.

I’m grateful for the experience, my heritage and the strong ties between Canada and Chile that we celebrate this year.

Stay tuned for more stories of people living in today’s Chile.

Here’s the article on