The Other 9/11

On 9/11, there will be the flag-waving and the speeches, the hoopla and memorials, pledges by politicians to maintain the “war on terror” — wrong preposition there! Should be “of”!—pundits pontificating and celebrities trying to cerebrate. Few Americans will pause to reflect on the 9/11 of 1973, when the CIA-engineered coup against the most democratic government in South America—that of Chile—resulted in the death of President Salvador Allende, the establishment of the 17-year-long dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and a reign of terror that saw the immediate imprisonment of some 40,000 “political enemies” — i.e., democratic opposition — in Chile’s National Stadium, widespread torture and terror for almost 2 decades, and, in a nation with about 1/20th the population of the US at that time, at least 3,000 deaths—about the same number of Americans and others as died on 9/11/2001!

I was reminded of these horrors recently when, to my surprise, my newly hired “house-painter” engaged me in a conversation about literature! I mentioned my enthusiasm for certain Latin American authors, and Oscar asked me if I knew the work of the Uruguayan writer, Mario Benedetti. I confessed my ignorance, and Mr. Gonzalez passed on a book of Benedetti’s collected poems; I wrestled with the Spanish, but understood enough of the poem about Allende to suggest to Oscar that we attempt a co-translation. [The original Spanish version may be linked to here. © Fundación Mario Benedetti, Uruguay; c/o www.schavelzon.com.] The following is the result of our dialogue, and our humble tribute to the brave souls everywhere who struggle against corruption, deceit, tyranny and injustice. — Gary Corseri

“Allende”

By Mario Benedetti
(translated by Oscar Gonzalez and Gary Corseri)

in order to kill the man of peace
to strike his forehead clean of nightmares
they had to become a nightmare
to defeat the man of peace
they had to congregate all hatreds
and planes and tanks as well
to batter the man of peace
they had to bombard him and turn him into flame
because the man of peace was a fortress

to kill the man of peace
they had to untie the turbid war
to vanquish the man of peace
and to silence his modest and piercing voice
they had to push terror to the abyss
and kill more just to keep killing
to batter the man of peace
they had to assassinate him many times
because the man of peace was a fortress

to kill the man of peace
they had to imagine he was a troop
an army a fleet a brigade
they had to believe he was another army
but the man of peace was just the people
and he had in his hands a rifle and a mandate
and they needed more tanks more rancor
more bombs more planes more shame
because the man of peace was a fortress

to kill the man of peace
to strike his forehead clean of nightmares
they had to become a nightmare
to defeat the man of peace
they had to join themselves forever to death
kill and kill more just to keep killing him
and condemn themselves to blinded loneliness
to kill the man that was the people
they had to lose the people.

Oscar Gonzalez was born and raised in Uruguay, immigrated to the USA, with his parents, as a teenager. Gary Corseri has been published at many venues worldwide, including two novels, two collections of poetry, and editing the “Manifestations” anthology. His dramas have been produced on Atlanta-PBS, and published at Hollywood Progressive. He has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Contact at: gary_corseri@comcast.net.

Read other articles by Gary Corseri and Oscar Gonzalez.