Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pinochet dies, Santiago erupts

I had been in my room folding laundry when Lena, my roommate, called me to my computer to tell me General Pinochet had just died. He had been in the Hospital Militar for the past week after suffering a heart attack. I'm hesitant to ask people about their opinions of him as many have serious personal reasons for loving him or hating him, and those who can't decide how they feel about him seem to be few. Listening to Chileans talk about him though is quite different than reading about him in a book or learning about his policies in a distant classroom. When I left my house this evening for a walk, I just happened to bring my camera. I stopped in a nearby minimarket for some yogurt, and a small group of people stood huddled near the tv. The news camera panned huge crowds holding signs, waving flags, singing songs. I decided to head for Plaza Italia. Luckily the street parties there were under control and celebratory. Water came pouring down on the crowds from apartment windows above, bands had formed playing everyone's favorite singalongs, chants broke out and the street bounced in unison with the pumping of fists. Although there were beer bottles lying among the piles of confetti, the crowd included a lot of families and people of all ages. It wasn't until I was riding the metro home that I smelled the tear gas drifting in the doors from the streets above. More violent demonstrations have erupted in front of Palacio de La Moneda, which is about half way between my hogar and Plaza Italia, and I'm guessing they'll continue all night. When I had left Plaza Italia, it seemed the party was still only just beginning. I'll be staying in tonight, but at least I was able to partake in some of the festivities--- and finally buy my Chilean flag.

Visit here to read more about General Augusto Pinochet.
Visit my flickr account for more photos from today's celebrations.

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