Guillermo Calderón, the playwright of B, was born in Santiago, Chile in 1971. This was two years before Augusto Pinochet, notorious Chilean dictator, violently overthrew Chile’s socialist president, Salvador Allende. When Calderón was four years old, his uncle was murdered by the dictatorship. In an interview with American Theatre Magazine by Alisa Solomon, he says the murder “defined my childhood and my upbringing in general.” He lived “in a context of forced silence in which my parents would say, ‘Whatever you hear at the kitchen table you will never talk about outside—never repeat this.’ I completely hid my thoughts.” Living in a world of secrecy, he turned to theatre as a form of expression and escape.
Chile’s tumultuous political history runs much deeper than the 1970s. Beginning in 1535 with the Indigenous Araucanian people resisting the first Spanish invasion to the 1891 Civil War over dispute between the president and congress, Chile is no stranger to revolution. Below is a timeline outlining Pinochet’s rise to power, his 17-year dictatorship, and his demise.
1970 – Salvador Allende becomes world’s first democratically elected Marxist president and embarks on an extensive program of nationalization and radical social reform.
1973 Coup – The presidential palace comes under attack
1973 – General Augusto Pinochet ousts Allende in CIA-sponsored coup and proceeds to establish a brutal dictatorship.
1988 – Pinochet loses a referendum on whether he should remain in power.
1989-90 – Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin wins presidential election; Pinochet steps down in 1990 as head of state but remains commander-in-chief of the army.
1998 – Pinochet retires from the army and is made senator for life but is arrested in the UK at the request of Spain on murder charges.
2000 March – British Home Secretary Jack Straw decides that Pinochet is not fit to be extradited. Pinochet returns to Chile.
2000 Onward – Chilean courts strip General Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution several times but attempts to make him stand trial for alleged human rights offences fail, with judges usually citing concerns over the general’s health.
2002 July – General Pinochet resigns from his post as a lifelong senator.
From 1973 – 1990 Pinochet implemented grotesque human rights violations on the citizens of Chile which institutionalized fear and terror throughout the country. This included forced disappearances, barbaric physical and sexual torture, and the construction of torture centers.
How many citizens were affected?
Who committed these crimes?