Introduction to
the Trilogy
9
The Memory Box of Pinochet’s Chile
This trilogy, The Memory Box of Pinochet’s Chile, studies how Chileans
have struggled to define the meaning of a collective trauma: the military
action of 11 September 1973, when a junta composed of Augusto Pinochet
and three other generals toppled the elected socialist government of Sal-
vador Allende, and the massive political violence unleashed against per-
ceived enemies and critics of the new regime.
The time frame under analysis corresponds to Pinochet’s period as a
major figure in public life—from 1973, when he stepped into rule as the
army’s commanding general in the new military junta, to 2001, when a
Chilean court ruling on his health released him from jeopardy in criminal
proceedings but completed his marginalization from public life. Many of
the tensions and dilemmas analyzed for the 1990–2001 postdictatorship
period, however, continued to shape national life and power after 2001. In
this sense, ‘‘Pinochet’s Chile’’ and its attendant memory struggles have
remained a strong legacy, even as the person of Pinochet has receded.
The crisis of 1973 and the violence of the new order generated a conten-
tious memory question in Chilean life. The memory question proved cen-
tral to the remaking of Chilean politics and culture, first under the military
regime that ruled until 1990, and subsequently under a democracy shad-
owed by legacies of dictatorship and a still-powerful military. As a result, the
study of memory cannot be disentangled from an account of wider political,
economic, and cultural contexts. Indeed, the making of memory o√ers a
useful new lens on the general course of Chilean history in the last quarter
of the twentieth century. To my knowledge, although excellent studies have
established a reliable chronicle of basic political and economic events (some
of them related to collective memory themes) under the rule of Pinochet,
there still does not exist an account that systematically traces the long pro-
cess of making and disputing memory by distinct social actors within a
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