In this episode of From the Vault, we explore the historic election of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1970 and the forces that conspired to overthrow his socialist government in 1973, by studying three main historical components of this period in Chile’s history, through recordings preserved by Pacifica Radio Archives.
First, we examine the years leading up to the election of Salvador Allende as president, framed by the tremendous social movement of workers, students, activists, artist, professionals, politicians, and intellectuals that resulted in Allende’s rise to national leadership. We hear from anonymous Chilean workers as they describe conditions in the factories before the Allende presidency; author Antonio Skarmeta, whose novel Ardiente Paciencia inspired the 1994 Academy Award-winning movie Il Postino speak on the political climate of Chile in the 1960’s; and Joan Jara, widow of legendary folk singer Victor Jara, Chile’s version of Bob Dylan, speak about her husband’s leftist music and how it helped keep the Allende election movement inspired.
The second historical component we study is the Allende presidency itself, from 1970 to 1973. Starting with the changes in working conditions resulting from Allende’s ambitious agenda to reduce unemployment and increase workers wages, we listen to a worker describe the how conditions had changed under the new socialist leader. At the close of Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s visit to Chile just a year into Allende’s rule, the president’s farewell speech to Castro reminded his supporters that he was willing to die to complete what he called the people’s mandate. Fidel Castro’s visit had a galvanizing effect on the anti-Allende opposition, and a year later we hear Allende voice his concerns of a coup d’etat to the United Nations Assembly. Finally, the first lady of Chile, Hortensia Bussi de Allende recalls the terrifying events surrounding the coup of September 11, 1973, in an interview recorded on December 1st, 1973 by KPFK’s Victor Vasquez.
Finally, we hear how the September 11th, 1973 coup affected people in Chile and around the world. As international condemnation grew surrounding the coup, certain Chilean exiles were speaking to the possibility of U.S. complicity in the overthrow, and those sympathetic to the Allende government remaining within Chile were branded as terrorists by the ruling junta: union leader, artists, professors, and shantytown dwellers alike were subject to human rights abuses, torture, and disappearances. For perspective, Salvador Allende’s personal physician Dr. Jose Quiroga, a witness to Allende’s death during the coup, speaks on those circumstances with From the Vault guest host Gabriel San Roman in a recent interview; and we play cuts from the legendary Chilean music group Inti-Illimani, which had been touring Europe when Allende was overthrown and denied re-entry to Chile until 1988, when they were warmly welcomed back after 14 years of exile in Italy.
From the Vault is presented as part of the Pacifica Radio Archives Preservation and Access Project.
Archival recordings used in this week’s episode, The Coup d’État in Chile:
IZ0511 Salvador Allende Addresses MORE INFO
BC1188 Salvador Allende at the United Nations MORE INFO
BC1631 Mrs. Hortensia Bussi de Allende MORE INFO
BC1829 Who Was Victor Jara? / Joan Jara MORE INFO
BC1625 Interview with Chilean Factory Worker MORE INFO
BC2157 Inti-Illimani in Concert MORE INFO
BC1632 Interview with Marc Cooper MORE INFO
KZ3540.52 UpRising Radio on KPFK- Los Angeles 12/12/2006 MORE INFO
KZ3854 Interview with Antonio Skarmeta MORE INFO
KZ3855 Dr. Jose Quiroga: Salvador Allende’s Personal Physician MORE INFO
Click here to purchase a copy of this program or learn more about and purchase copies of the historic archival recordings used within this episode. To purchase a CD copy of this program by phone, please call Pacifica Radio Archives at 800.735.0230 x 262.
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