Goodbye Chile

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I now resume my account of the historical events in December 1989 and the outcome of a new and more promising period in the history of Chile. Waking up in Concepcion we were surprised by the Lucia singing by two of the swedish girls in the delegation. Lucia is celebrated on the 13th December in what is the darkest, gloomiest part of the year when the sun hardly shows up. In Chile however  it is summer in December!

The bus trip back to Santiago was done in the hottest conditions and after arrival we dragged ourselsves to a reception at the Swedish embassy where both member of Swedish parliament Hans- Göran Frank and journalist Anette Kullenberg were present.

Finally, the most awaited day came. It was now that the Pinochet dictatorship would start to be dismantled and replaced by democratic elected representatives. At the head of it all Patricio Aylwin who would also become president. 17 parties united behind the candidate in an electoral system designed not to allow centre and left parties to succeed. The largest parties in the Alliance (Concertacion por la Democracia) were the Christian democrats and left coalition PPD.

We visited many places where elections were taking place. Everything was going on peacefully and orderly. Night came. Our hotel was just in front of president Aylwin’s headquarters . It was all but easy to grasp all that was happening but I sensed that despite an orderly election many people were anxious that the process would not be carried through.

Next morning as we were being briefed on the outcomes of the election day we sensed a sticky smell. Teargas and water cannons were being used by police to scare off some demonstrators. Chile would from this day return to a slow normality building up a new hope.

As to us “swedes” it was time to leave, conscious that we had experienced historical moments in Chile but also in the rest of a new Latin America.

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At swedish embassy with Mr. Frank on background

Conceived for homelessness?

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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.

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