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Chile’s 9/11


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Chilean wind ensemble Grupo Raiz in the early 1980s.  Source:

Chilean wind ensemble "Grupo Raiz" in the early 1980s. Source:

As US citizens observe the 4th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, few realize the dark significance of that day in Chilean history.

Thirty two years ago, on September 11th, 1973, a US-backed military junta toppled Socialist president Salvador Allende, marking the beginning of decades of repression. Hundreds of thousands of Chileans fled to other countries, including the United States, in search of a peaceful existence.

On this edition, a group of Chilean Exiles in the US reflect on the coup, and how music transformed their experience of terror into artistic expression.


Hector Salgado, Chilean Exile, Musician and Film maker; Quique Cruz, Chilean exile, Musician and Artist; Fernando “Feña” Torres, Musician and Organizer; Lichi Fuentes, Musician.

This week’s host: Pauline Bartolone.

For more information:

La Pena Cultural Center -Berkeley, CA

Review of this program on PRX (Public Radio Exchange):

Posted: 11-06-2005
Reviewer: Yolette Garcia, Director of Community Engagement, KERA

The lyrical and soothing voices of these exiled Chilean musicians belie their scars of imprisonment during the U.S. backed 1973 coup d’etat against President Salvador Allende. As one of the musicians said, they were “Che wannabes” who were angered about their country’s repression. A couple of them were sixteen and seventeen when they were sent to concentration camps. Remarkably, the musicians found the times to be difficult, yet liberating because they could pursue their creative expression.

This documentary is well-crafted, bolstered by archival tape of rallies and the sound of Allende’s voice as he tried to calm his country during upheaval. As expected, good interludes of music allow the musicians’ political perspectives to flow.

After the Chileans were exiled, they serendipitously ended up in Berkeley, where they performed and became active with a cultural center. They take a clear-eyed look at the times with passion and wryness. They also feel marked by having endured Chile’s 9/11—the day of the coup—and the American 9/11. Both days, they believe, were about terrorism.

The only short-coming of the documentary is its ending. It’s too loose and doesn’t leave this listener with a sense of completion. A note to programmers: The program is part of National Radio Project’s” Making Contact” series and it is introduced and tagged as such. If it were a stand-alone piece it might be more versatile. It is worth airing, nevertheless, because of its nice execution and interesting take on history.

Rating: 4/5
Adjectives: Contemplative, Engaging, Sound Rich

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