I arrived at dusk and spoke to a women, a psychologist, about her love for Pinochet. Her eyes teared up and words were laden with appreciation and emotion. Her father was an exile of the government of Allende and her family got destroyed. She stood in line at 13 to receive food handouts and rations during his government. She also was helped by a Communist to get more food, and then helped the Communist flee the Pinochet dictatorship. We spoke until dark.
At 1030 pm, the day after his death, a four and a half hour line to see the body of Augusto Pinochet provided ample opportunity for a celebration of the death of the dictator along the streets of Americo Vespucio, in front of the high, iron and concrete gates of the Escuela Militar.
Some were humble, short and dark, some tall and blonde. Some wore pressed Dockers and bright white shirts, women made themselves up as they walked to the grounds. Others had prepared food and tight pony tails and skirts hiked up high on the waist, reminding me of a librarian. Many women were beautiful and would smile sweetly for photographs, holding aloft their respective banners, signs or photographs.
In line, chants from weak voices declaring their love for Pinochet emanated from some of the timid. Others joined in and the collective voices got stronger. In the green park across two lanes of traffic in front of the entrance two girls in middle school uniforms, part of a group of 200, were bouncing and screaming and chanting, encroaching upon the traffic flow. Their energetic demeanor was indiscrimately squashed as the crowd control horses would throw their hips into the group, and the girls were reduced to nervous giggles.
The line would shift every ten minutes in advances of 15 feet.
Groups of neo-nationalists representing the youth brigade of the fascist group Patria y Libertad, the thugs of the dictatorship, whose founding member Pablo Rodriguez Grez is Pinochet’s lead lawyer, waved a white flag with the insignia of what was described as an indigenous symbol valued by the resilient indigenous warrior group, the Mapuche’s. They yelled the loudest. It runs in the family said a friend. In one case, it was a grandfather who was a military officer who influenced the 18 year old flag waver, boot wearer. They are also not neo-Nazi’s this kid said, but the defenders of freedom and the defenders of Chile. An older man in a gray pinstripe jacket and glasses asked me gruffly who I was and what press I worked for. In another notable and curious display, a Chilean waved a Dixie flag at passing cars.
Young children on top of the shoulders of their well to do fathers, and surrounded by his family. They screamed at cars to honk in unison and support. One car, stalled in the traffic because supporters, demanding “We Want the Streets” and dancing in the headlights, had the Patria y Libertad flag draped over its windshield. When the car advanced and the drivers face was visible, she did not express signs of support, but a steely look straight ahead and the two hands gripping the steering wheel. Hell or Heaven? She was wiping tears from her eyes with the back of her hand.
A girl of about 12 waving a flag, along with her sister who appeared to be about 15 smelled the weakness, as the driver failed to respond to their pleas of support. “That must be a Communist!” was their realization and began to direct their screams of support for Pinochet and then accusatory cries that the driver was a Communist. It was pandemonium.
Other drivers, most drivers, were supportive. Some had a knack for inciting the entire line of supporters as it cruised by, slowly, tinted windows and chrome hubcaps, a new Chrysler. With each new car supporters were newly invigorated. Some banged lightly on the sides of an empty bus, and then more aggressively on the following taxi. It seemed as if an exercise in self-expression and protest and noise. In other instances a tall blonde kid with the Chilean flag tied like a Superman cape around their back leaned into traffic with screams of Pinochet and a raised, open hand gesticulating furiously. He was seeking out hands to shake from passing cars.
Screams demanding to take the streets got stronger and stronger. It was an unbelievable expression of democracy, for me, being experienced by people not accustomed to screams and jumps and chants. People were enthralled.
The vendors of chips, peanuts, soda and water asked desperately where the nearest supermarket was to stock up for the night of sales. A Mormon from Hawaii who lives nearby heard chants at 4 in the morning.. “Long live Pinochet.” The paper reported that 60,000 people, visited the vapor-shrouded casket of Pinochet. I was sick of the carnival and wondered about hate, aggression, fascism, death and suffering…and reconciliation and Chile.