Edited By Kim Christiaens, Idesbald Goddeeris and Magaly Rodríguez García
Chilean Political Exile in Western Europe
Thomas C. Wright
Chilean exile began on the day of the coup that overthrew the government of Salvador Allende and the Unidad Popular (UP) coalition, 11 September 1973, and continued even beyond the end of the military dictatorship on 11 March 1990.1 In the era of mass exile from Latin America, Chilean exile stands out for its volume, its geographic breadth, and its political activism. At least 200,000 individuals, roughly 2% of Chile’s 1973 population, were exiled for political reasons, and the economic crises of 1973-77 and 1982-86 drove hundreds of thousands more out of Chile in search of survival.2 Chileans were dispersed around the globe and settled on every continent. Upon arriving at their foreign destinations they immediately organized to wage political war on the dictatorship from afar. While mass exile was key to Pinochet’s ability to gain and hold absolute control over Chile, it turned out to be a double-edged sword. Forced expatriation removed a major part of the left from the country, but it also gave opponents a platform from which to disseminate their message throughout the world and deny the military regime the legitimacy it sought. They did this by engaging in very intense and persistent political activity in collaboration with supporters in their host countries.
Chilean exile can be examined from a number of perspectives. It clearly constituted a diaspora, a forced dispersion of a defined group to multiple sites that lasted a substantial time, during which transnational...
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