As I temporarily regain contact with you, dear readers, I am describing my awakening on the 10th December 1989 in the capital city of Santiago de Chile. The Swedish delegation would be aware that this is Nobel day, back home, but Chileans were most aware that there was an important election coming up.
Many hundreds of thousands had gathered at the O’Higgins Park to listen to the final pre-election speeches of Democracy candidate Patricio Aylwin. The excitement and enthusiasm of the crowds gathered at this park on this day was indescribable.
Swedish Embassy official Staffan Wrigstad and Ingemar Söderberg from Swedish cooperation agency (SIDA) met us soon after. They gave us, their view on expected political and economic developments in the country. In the evening we managed to squeeze in a visit to poor residential area Renca and saw the activities that were taking place there, where rehearsal for election procedures were being drilled.
On Monday we sat on the bus for the long journey to Concepcion, 600 Kilometres to the south.
This city claims a well-known university where we saw a famous wall painting by Mexican artist Jorge Gonzalez Camarena. The main goal for our trip was to visit Maria Gonzalez home for homeless girls. This project that helped girls escape a future in prostitution and drugs, was started by Marlene Sandoval. Aftonbladet´s journalist Anette Kullenberg helped with contacts with Swedish labour organizations that went in, with economic support.
The home could at this time give residence and support to 25 girls. At this time there were estimates that many children (up to 1 million) lived in the streets, about half of these in the Concepción region alone. In this context this project could be seen as a drop in the ocean but through the years many of these children were helped to better perspectives. The girls showed through a drama representation what they had experienced during their homeless existence.
On this same day we carried on south to the mining community of Lota. Here we could join up with workers at the local Folkets Hus. To be able to have this meeting our hosts got permission from the authorities, as gatherings are not normally permitted 48 hours before an election.
The Lota club organized social activities for the benefit of the families in this mining district. And Lota would be as far south as I would travel in the southern hemisphere.
Elections approaching we travelled back to Santiago.