Los 80: Fiction, Reality, Memory and Trauma in Chile.
Gonzalo Bacigalupe published in Spanish at Movimiento Generacion 80 Blog
Memory is fragile and the space of a single life is brief, passing so quickly that we never get a chance to see the relationship between events; we cannot gauge the consequences of our acts, and we believe in the fiction of past, present, and future, but it may also be true that everything happens simultaneously. … That’s why my Grandmother Clara wrote in her notebooks, in order to see things in their true dimension and to defy her own poor memory. (Isabel Allende in the House of the Spirits)
The fourth season of the Chilean television series Los 80 (dirigida por Boris Quercia) ended this week with record ratings in viewership. The reaction to the series by television viewers took over social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. Despite the dissatisfaction of many with the fictional plot based on historical facts, the memories that the series evoked and its success debunked the notion that Chileans wish to be amnesic about their past. For some of us, the Chilean diaspora abroad, watching the series through an Internet videostream, watching the series is even a more intense experience that is not softened with the interruption of shampoo and car commercial spots.
For my generation, the one that lived its adolescence during the worst repressive years of the military dictatorship and then played an active role in the opposition to Pinochet during the 1980s, the series brings back the emotional tone and the remembering of the crazy repressive circumstances in which we grew up from adolescence to adulthood.
Some of the facts may be distorted to make the series more palatable to the large majority of Chileans. However, the plot as a whole, not only reminds us of a military and police repressive regime via its thread of detention, torture, and death, but also the authoritarian tone that permeated every institution—family, school, and work. Reflecting about this was in itself a dangerous task even in families. Questioning your teacher could be costly academically or personally. And obviously, to stand pacifically protesting the detention and torture of a classmate or friend was considered a delinquent act.
Los 80 move us to struggle with the difficult task of identifying the torturer with an actual human being, a person who may in its daily life have similar feelings to the rest of us. The plural identity of those who held the authority during that time is hard to accept though. This is particularly difficult since those responsible and those that defended the government-institutionalized violence have not made amends, have not offered to restore some of what was lost to the family of those that were victimized, nor have fully acknowledged the pain that they inflicted on their compatriots.
The fictional plot intermingled with radio and television footage offers us the opportunity to learn about, quoting Allende again, “the deepest truths with the lies of fiction”. Andres Wood, the producer of Los 80—the director of the most acclaimed Chilean film dealing with the aftermath of the dictatorship from the perspective of a child—Machuca—leads us into reclaiming a piece of history that is made even more painful today in lieu of the continuous and ferocious rejection of the traumatic truth by those who still defend the military dictatorship human rights violation legacy.
To still be a witness to the denial of historical facts and the traumatic consequences, in commentaries by television viewers is, however, excruciating. The denial is vast. There is little acknowledgement by many of my fellow compatriots of the suffering by the families of the disappeared, the existence of an immense group of exiles who are not accepted as part of today’s Chile, and the lives of so many that were forever changed because of a savage dictatorship. For those of us who survived, suffered through, and/or were witness of the tragedy around us, the denial and lack of accountability is tremendously painful. The denial of facts and its consequences is a reminder that reconstructing memory in itself does not necessarily still change the soul of a large segment of the Chilean population.
The series is not at fault. Its success is based on the ability to engage the various truths that have been constructed based on historical facts. The death of a journalist as form of vengeance on the part of the Chilean secret service is undeniable. However, for some the facts are still considered a fiction, are minimized, or justified in the name of patriotic unity, economic development, or any other utilitarian goal that sustains the atrocious human rights legacy of the military dictatorship.
Version en Espanol: Movimiento Generacion 80 Blog