Forging Democracy and Locality

Democratization, Mental Health, and Reparations in Chile
  • Lessie Jo Frazier


The chant from a 1990 human rights demonstration I participated in highlighted a litany of places in Chile where the remains of the victims of the military dictatorship had been recovered: Mulchén, Lonquen, Laja, Pisagua, and Colina. We marched through the streets of the capital, Santiago, proclaiming, “It wasn’t a war, it was a massacre, all were assassinated,” and finally, “They spilled the blood—now they want to erase their guilt. There will be neither pardon nor forgetting in the earth— Pinochet is guilty. Justice and punishment for all of the guilty,” indexing the struggle over whose history of the dictatorship would achieve credibility and which governing regimes would be considered legitimate. Upon the conclusion of its 1973 to 1990 rule, the Chilean military claimed to have won a civil war fought against the forces of global communism, while the human rights movement referred to a long, national history of the repression of the Chilean people. The exhumed bodies became artifacts of this struggle over history as forensic anthropologists traced the stories of torture and execution encoded on the corpses. Each additional mass gravesite mapped out the topography of state terror.


Mass Grave Regime Transition State Violence Military Regime Truth Commission 
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© Rosario Montoya, Lessie Jo Frazier, and Janise Hurtig 2002

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  • Lessie Jo Frazier

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