Edited By Kim Christiaens, Idesbald Goddeeris and Magaly Rodríguez García
France: Welcoming Chilean Exiles, a Mark of the Resonance of the Unidad Popular in French Society?
Long ignored by France, by the early 1970s Latin America moved to the forefront owing to its history and in particular a specific political experience: the Unidad Popular coalition in Chile and the subsequent military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. From the victory of Salvador Allende onwards, Chile became a leading media topic.1 The development of this openly socialist regime lay within the scope of the French national political debate while the French left closely followed what could become an example of governability if it were to win the legislative election of 1973 or the presidential election of 1974. And thus a mythology built up around the Unidad Popular coalition that was to endure in the collective imagination from 1970 onwards. Paradoxically, its grand finale was its overthrow by a military junta.
This pronunciamiento resonated very powerfully in France, and networks of solidarity were immediately established to denounce the many human rights violations and to welcome the thousands of refugees who sought to come to France.2 Cross-referencing statistical sources, it is estimated that France took in around 15,000 Chileans between 1973 and 1994, the year from which they were no longer accorded refugee status. The vast majority of them arrived between 1973 and 1983.3 Although France had long boasted of its history as a land of asylum, it had never been so deserving of the claim as with the welcome given to the Chileans. In fact, with the exception of immigration...
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