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 Salva-
dor Allende, and the massive political violence unleashed against perceived
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.
Precisely for this reason, the third volume of the trilogy carries the story
forward through 2006. It thereby takes account of the major new cycle that
opened up in memory reckonings from 2002 onward. The new cycle influ-
enced responses to Pinochet’s death in 2006, and set the stage for the
paradox of memory politics—unprecedented advance, alongside height-
ened risk of marginality—in the new administration of Michelle Bachelet.
In sum, ‘‘Pinochet’s Chile’’ and its attendant memory struggles remained a
strong legacy, even as Pinochet the person receded. The trilogy considers an
arc of time—1973 to 2006—su≈cient to analyze the implications of mem-
ory reckoning beyond the period when Pinochet was personally powerful in
defining public life and culture.
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