Diálogos Intergeneracionales en Chile (Rachel Swanson’s project in Chile)

In a few hours, I am going back. For someone who enthusiastically loves community work, this phrase is a dream; leaving communities that you feel a part of, with no promise of coming back, is excruciating. In a few hours, I will be journeying back to Temuco, Chile. I studied abroad in Temuco in the spring of 2014, direct enrolling in Universidad de la Frontera, living with an incredible host family, volunteering at an elementary and high school, and making life-long friendships.

I will be returning to Temuco and Southern Chile to collaborate with some of these friends in order to facilitate intergenerational dialogues. Here’s a very abbreviated history lesson: From 1973-1990, Chile had a military government (most would say dictatorship) that brought both effective neoliberal economic reforms and atrocious human rights violations. A 1988 referendum ended Agosto Pinochet’s presidency (55.9% of Chileans voted against renewing his term and 44% voted to renew his term). Throughout and after the dictatorship/military government, the Chilean people remained divided on if economic progress must have a human cost (40,018 victims of repression, including Chileans disappeared and killed) or if censorship and repression was unacceptable, even in the face of economic progress.

Because of these continued divisions and the immunity from prosecution that Pinochet and many of his military officials gained due to laws that they changed while they were in office, this period in Chilean history remains tense and divided. And I observed this when I lived in Chile: people don’t talk about the coup d’état, the fifteen years of Pinochet’s power, or the transition to democracy. Children do not know what happened, history books do not approach the subject (I know this because I studied history at my university), and parents and grandparents do not discuss this important historical period in their families.

Our project, Intergenerational dialogues in post-dictatorship Chile, will attempt to close these gaps. We are facilitating conversations between grandparents and their grandchildren about how Chile has changed in the past forty years. Our team will work with the grandchildren (college and high school-aged students) to develop questions that they will ask their grandparents in an oral history. After the oral history, our team will then record an interview with the student, asking them about the process, what they learned, and how they plan on sustaining dialogue.

I plan on spending new year with my Chilean friends and family and then jumping right in to the work, with five interviews scheduled and confirmed for our first week of the project. I’m posting this blog post ahead of time because it is sure to be a very busy few weeks, with some of the most incredible people in the world.

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