The best way to spend a rainy day in Santiago is by visiting one of its many museums that are dotted all over the city. The Museum of Memory and Human Rights is a chilean museum dedicated to commemorate the victims of Human Rights violations during the Military Regime that took place between 1973 and 1990. I thought this would be the ideal place to learn a bit about the Chilean history and maybe get to understand them a little better.
Arriving early morning the place was quite deserted and peaceful. I decided to sit outside a bit and just enjoy the peace and tranquility of the courtyard so ordered a cappuccino and took a seat. What arrived was a small coffee topped with load of cream, enough sugar to wake me up for the day!!
Walking into the museum I am greeted by a wall covered in photos displayed like a world map. These photos were taken all over the world and depict different human rights violations that happened in different countries. Armed with an English audio guide I started my tour of this museum and its striking images.
The first exhibition area shows the events that took place on September 11. Here I got to watch a short film of the troops surrounding “La Moneda” (the Presidential Palace) and bombing it while listening to Salvador Allende’s final speech before killing himself. This set the tone of the whole museum that is filled with disturbing images and stories of what went on between 1973 and 1990.
I continued on to the exhibition about the victims of violence. Here I learned the shocking fact that among the victims there were also many children who suffered in different ways. Some witnessed the kidnapping of their parents, some were detained along with them, and some were even tortured, killed or just “disappeared”. According to the Truth Commission, 150 minors (under the age of 18) were executed for political reasons or killed in protests, 39 “disappeared” and 1,244 children were imprisoned and tortured.
Halfway through the museum I got to the candlelight memorial. Here I sat looking out over a huge wall filled with pictures of people who were killed or who simply “disappeared” during this time. Sitting within this area I was surrounded by electric candles which offered a peaceful atmosphere for people to remember and reflect.
This museum also houses memorabilia of torture devices used during the Pinochet dictatorship, letters to family members by prisoners in detention centers, newspaper clippings and even testimony from survivors.
After my visit to the museum my mood matched the grey rainy weather outside. It is quite shocking getting to not only see but also hear about what really went on during the period of Chile´s dictatorship. I never realized it was this bad in Chile. I assume that most of the time the rest of the world only finds out about the severity of atrocities committed after the fact. I do hope that this is the case as if the world knew about it while it was going on the fact that someone didn’t then try and help Chile is just to horrible to think about.