Promises to the Disappeared: Art in the Wake of Chile’s 9-11

BY , October 5, 2009


This past month the United States solemnly commemorated the eighth anniversary of 9/11/01. While life in the U.S. has largely returned to normal in the interceding years (though, life is gone for the nearly 3,000 who perished, and will never again be truly “normal” for their families), the horror and legacy of 9/11 has lingered and festered deep in the collective memory.

Much of the way any nation deals with tragedy is through its culture: music, literature, film, and other forms of art. But it has only been eight years since 9/11/01, a relatively short time; artists in the U.S. have really only just started dealing with this national catastrophe.

Perhaps the body of work from artists in another country in the Americas, Chile, can offer further perspective on how traumatic and pivotal events are approached by those who have been directly affected by them. On another September 11, that of 1973, Chile’s Popular Unity (UP, for its Spanish initials) coalition government was overthrown by a CIA-backed military coup d’état resulting in the death of President Salvador Allende and the beginning of the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.


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  1. This is an excellent overview of art inspired by the desire of the Chilean people to confront the legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship. While there are obvious parallels between the 9/11′s of Chile and the U.S., both numerical and with respect to the shocking nature of the events, I would argue that the relative effect of the Chilean coup on Chile outstrips that felt by the United States after its 9/11. If we include the international suffering brought about by Bush’s wars that followed in its wake, however, the tragedies reach a closer parity. Another thing these 9/11′s share is their relationship to American imperialism. The CIA’s support of Pinochet led to many years of suffering and oppression in Chile, and one can draw a straight line between their support of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980′s and Al Qaeda’s attack on lower Manhattan in 2001.

    Comment by Kid Charles — October 11, 2009 @ 9:45 am

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