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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We were there, Chile

Cenpros

Almost exactly twenty five years have passed since a delegation from Swedish labor movement touched down in Latin America. Our final destination was Chile as it prepared to go officially from the 26 year old Pinochet dictatorship to a new democratically elected  president.

As we rolled out from Buenos Aires towards the airport we learnt that the Argentinian peso suffered devaluation. This time it was 35%. The date was Friday the 8th December 1989. It would take time for Latin America to get back on its feet. Our delegation represented organizations that were helping out with projects to help people organize themselves.

As soon as we had checked in at the Hotel Libertador, on the largest and most important avenue in central Santiago, we headed for visits at the residential areas of La Victoria and La Pintana. The people were enthusiastically waiting for us with their home made empanadas and other refreshments.

Much of the activities described for these meeting points or CENPROS “Casas Del Pueblo” were related to the need people had to meet, educate themselves and develop cultural activities. People described the many problems that affected the populations with the increase use of drugs.

To regain dignity is important when people reach bottom level. The stress caused by unemployment and persecutions drove many people to leave their country. In Sundsvall where I live, there was already a Chilean colony, that remade their lives here. Because I knew so many of these Chileans my visit to their country was of special significance to me.

The party we gave our support to was the PPD (Partido por la Democracia). It was a wide alliance of democratic parties that joined forces to put an end to the military dictatorship. Our visit was purposely organized to witness the election of a new president, that on the 24th march 1990 would put Chile back where it belonged, among the democratic countries of the world. And we were there as history turned the page.

PPD