Where is Chile? Chile is in South America. The country is a narrow, long strip between the Andes and the Pacific. It is only 110 miles wide on average, but nearly 3,000 miles long ( 4 times the length of the UK from north to south).
Geography: The Andes mountain range run the entire length of the country and form the eastern border. In the north is the driest place on Earth, the Atacama Desert, and in the centre is a 700-mile-long thickly populated valley with most of Chile's farm land. The southernmost point of Chile is Cape Horn, close to the continent of Antarctica.
People: Chile's population is approximately 17 million. The official language is Spanish, the legacy of the Colonial period when the country was ruled by Spain. Around 5% of the population identify themselves as indigenous, the largest group being the Mapuche in the South.
On September 11th 1973 a military coup led by General Pinochet resulted in the death of Chile's democratically elected President, Salvador Allende, and thousands of his supporters.. The generals stayed in power for over 17 years through a reign of terror, in which thousands died and thousands were forced into exile.
This short course is largely based on interviews with 4 Chileans who were forced to leave Chile and who came to the UK in the 1970s. In these interviews they talk about their experiences which allows us to get a picture of what it was like to live in Chile during those times. And what it was like to leave their country and live in Britain. A further interview, with a UK activist talks about her experiences of getting involved in solidarity events at the time.
We Touched The Sky has been designed by Chile 40 Years On.
The aims of the course are to develop an awareness and understanding of Chile's recent history, stimulate thinking on a range of issues connected to the Coup in Chile in 1973 e.g. Allende's government, The Military Coup, resistance & solidarity, exile, neo-liberal economics, and to make connections between past and present through studying history.
By the end of the course you will have: identified some key achievements of Allende's Popular Unity government between 1970 - 1973, reflected on the role of the US in Chile in the period leading up to, during and after the Coup; learnt about the events on 11th September 1973 and reflected on the experiences of Chileans living in the UK as exiles. You will also have learnt about the solidarity movement in the UK and its impact on Chile and Chileans, and identified some key elements of neo-liberal economics implemented in Chile and in the UK.
Any major political event is worth studying for several reasons.
Firstly, it helps us to understand the past; secondly, political events in the present are connected to the past, or influenced by it, so understanding the past helps us to understand what is happening now. Thirdly, we can learn from the past: if we know what happened and why, it helps us to act in the present.
But while it is worth studying any major political event, what happened in Chile is particularly relevant now for three key reasons:
1. Currently, across Latin America countries are learning the lessons of Chile: by working towards alternative economic models which allow sustainable development and social progress, they have, through cooperation with each other, created new economic and political structures and organisations, which have strengthened democracy and massively improved the lives of the continent's poorest people.
2. The model of economics introduced by the military dictatorship in Chile in 1973 is now being implemented here in the UK. For Chileans living here there is a sense of deja vu, as our welfare state is dismantled and key services are privatised. One Chilean said " You must not walk into this with your eyes closed: you should learn from what we went through".
3. The Coup in Chile saw one of the most remarkable worldwide solidarity movements ever seen. In the UK organisations such as Trades Unions, political parties, the British Council of Churches, Amnesty International and others took direct action by boycotting goods, campaigning for political prisoners and sending observers to Chile. Other great acts of solidarity included those by Yarrow shipbuilders who walked out from completing the Chilean warship 'Lynch', and the Rolls Royce East Kilbride workers who refused to service engines for Chilean Hawker Hunter warplanes. By studying these examples we learn how effective solidarity can be, and the impact it can have on people who we may never meet.
The course content is a mixture of short video interviews, films, texts and websites. There are also links and suggestions for further reading/viewing. The course is divided into seven sections:
To access any of the sections simply click on the tab above. We hope you enjoy the course and find it stimulating and informative. We would also like to hear from you, so if you want to leave comments on the course, please contact [email protected]
Chile 40 Years On