The Story Behind the Documentary
By Michael Goldfarb
|Host Michael Goldfarb
"Make the economy scream." That's what President Richard
M. Nixon told his CIA chief Richard Helms after the people of Chile
had the temerity to freely elect the Marxist Salvador Allende in 1970.
"Make the economy Scream!" I wonder if Nixon had the screams
of Luis Munoz in mind. Following the U.S. engineered coup against the
Allende government. Munoz, a union activist, spent 18 months in the
torture chambers of General Augusto Pinochet. If Nixon had bothered
to ask what an economy screaming actually sounds like Luis Munoz would
have told him precisely what he told me, "The screams are extraordinary.
You cannot believe your body could produce those kinds of sounds."
I was in college from 1968 through 1972 and was as involved in political
issues as much as most people. I am not nostalgic for those days but
I do miss the moral clarity of events. The right and the wrong were
so clearly defined. Of all the events of that time what happened in
Chile got deepest under my skin. More than Vietnam, more than the culture
wars, more than the fight for racial equality, Chile burned into my
Over the years I have tried to analyze why Chile got so deep. I have
no personal connections there. I think there are two primary reasons.
The first is education. It's strange how bits and pieces of your adult
self can be traced back to a few moments in the classroom. The Scottish
poet Alastair Reid was a teacher of mine at Antioch College. Alastair
was the first person to translate the poems of the Chilean Nobel Laureate
Pablo Neruda into English thus single-handedly sparking the boom in
Latin American literature that was part and parcel of campus life in
the late 60's. He made Neruda's work live and Neruda's life seem very,
|"A nondescript building, on a nondescript street"
But my interest in Chile goes back to childhood, to the pages of Weekly
Reader, the newsweekly for kids, arguably the most influential publication
for those of us who made up the infantry of the counter-culture. Every
time Chile was mentioned in Weekly Reader we were told that it was the
one truly democratic country in all of South America. It was an island
of stability in a sea of military and left-wing dictatorships, the one
place where elections were a faithful reflection of the people's will.
Chile was presented as a very special place. So when Chileans freely
elected a Marxist, Salvador Allende, and the U.S. set about engineering
his destruction and tolerating his replacement by a military dictatorship
it seemed to me an even more egregious betrayal of the nobility of American
ideals than our intervention in Vietnam.
The other reason why Chile got to me was I simply identified with the
people who suffered most under Pinochet. Most of the victims were people
my age and of my class. They were in many instances doing no more than
I had been doing for years: speaking out with adolescent fervor against
injustice, trying to force political leaders to act according to the
highest ideals. My identification with them was total.