Chilean exiles share memories and coming to America

Ana Maria Cobos, Circulation Librarian at Saddleback presenting on Chilean exiles and their music, may 1st 2014. Photo by Danny Pestolesi

Juani Funez-Gonzalez, a Chilean exile, presenting on Chilean exiles and her personal experience at Saddleback College, May 1, 2014. (Danny Pestolesi)

The trials and tribulations of modern Chile and the difficulties exiles face were explained by Jed Mularski, Ana Maria Cobos and Juani Funez-Gonzalez presented at Saddleback College May 1.

The primary focus and reason behind this discussion was the fact that Chile is one of the nations that has recently overcome a military dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere.

In September 1973 there was an American-backed coup of the democratically elected Salvador Allende. The man who took over in his stead was Augusto Pinochet. He was arrested years after falling from power for multiple human riots violations. He died before being able to stand trial. All three of the presenters considered him a dictator and war criminal.

Exhumations led by state and commercial interests using modern idols to smooth the collective conscience of the populace was the primary focus of the presentation given by Saddleback College world history instructor Jeb Mularski.

Mularski spoke of the exhumations of Pablo Neruda and Victor Jara in specific detail. He pointed how Neruda, a famous poet with wide expanding influence who died during the Pinochet regime in Chile was exhumed recently by court order investigating a potentially suspicious death, despite Naruda being diagnosed with prostate cancer long before he died. Later the ruling found that there is no suspicion of wrong doing in Naruda’s death.

“Recognizing selected national events, while also asking people to unify by forgetting specific ones,” Mularski believes that the current Chilean government wants to make people do this to primarily help unify the nation and get past the Pinochet dictatorship and regime.

He found this to be one of the largest trials that the current Chilean government faces. Victor Jara, the other focus of Mularski’s presentation, was a victim of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.

While Jara was without a question killed by the government with a gunshot wound to the head when his body was found, he was later exhumed in 2009 when the prosecution of his accused killers began.

“[The] loss of life due to political conflict brings about collective memory. Yet, people can over emphasis the deaths of cultural figures and can fetishize these persons. dictatorships brought about the death of thousands,” Mularski said.

He continued that remembering these individuals is important but forgeting all the other lives lost in these dictatorships is not something that should be done.

Jeb Mularski, Saddleback instructor, speaks about the exhumation of Chilean cultural figures at Saddleback College, may 1, 2014. Photo by Danny Pestolesi

Jeb Mularski, Saddleback instructor, speaks about the exhumation of Chilean cultural figures at Saddleback College, may 1, 2014. Photo by Danny Pestolesi

The second speaker Ana Maria Cobos, a librarian at Saddleback, spoke of her work on researching Chilean exiles’ music and cultures through their time in foreign nations. Cobos was born in Chile and emigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was 10.

Cobos focused upon the remembering of the information and United Nations-supported documentation of the trials and tribulations of exiles and the human rights atrocities that happened in Chile.

“What part of Mexico is Chile in?” is a common joke that Cobos heard which lead her to feel that the U.S. needs to get more information and learn more about Chile.

Chilean exile, Juani Funez-Gonzalez was the final presenter and gave a first-hand recollection of the event.

“Sep. 11, 1973 was when an American-backed coup happened in Chile. So that day hurts double for me as an American and a Chilean,” Funez-Gonzalez said. Funez-Gonzalez’s husband was an active member in government in Chile  and he was taken into custody by the government after the coup as a potential dissident.

She was put under mental and emotional torture while her husband was put to work camps. Her husband was put under “relegacîon” meaning he was not a prisoner, per se, but was under government watch and relegated to a small town in the country to work.

In the small town she was in there were no history teachers so under armed guard, she was forced to teach. She has a degree in history and geography. She fought and eventually had her husband expelled from the country.

Funez-Gonzalez’s husband can no longer  return to Chile but he is out of the dictatorship that he was under for so long and is currently an American citizen.