Santiago’s prime tourism attraction, the Museum of Memory and Human Rights is a must-visit for all those wishing to learn about the atrocities that happened at the hands of Augosto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990.
It is also an important attraction to commemorate the victims of this regime. The museum was opened by President Michelle Bachelet in January 2010.
In 1973, Pinochet was appointed Commander in Chief by Salvador Allende, the then-president. Allende’s leadership was in crisis and he thought Pinochet would help to turn it around. However, just three weeks later, Pinochet led a coup with the military and overthrew Allende – resulting in the president committing suicide. Pinochet’s aim was to ‘liberate Chile from Marxist oppression’ but his consequential regime was militant, eradicating freedom of speech and killing any opposition. Ironically, Chile then entered the most oppressive phase it has ever encountered.
Pinochet appointed himself head of his own military regime and instituted a constitution where he gave himself an eight-year presidential term. He and his military committed atrocities like human rights abuses, persecution of opponents, state terrorism and political repression. State-sponsored torture – which was perpetrated against anyone who was thought to favour left-wing politics – included beatings, electric shocks and sexual abuse. Around 3,000 people died and more than 1,000 people disappeared with no explanation. Even those who suffered least were still repressed, lost their freedom of speech and other basic human rights and were forced to live in a state of constant anxiety.
The museum pays tribute to the victims of Pinochet’s regime and educates visitors about the dangers of political repression and extremism. It pays tribute to the thousands of lives lost during Pinochet’s 17 years in power. It is a really important place to see to learn about the danger of political unrest even in a stable country – Chile was the most secure country in Latin America for decades before this traumatic period.
The museum is a mix of exhibits, including some very shocking video footage of detention centres, newspaper excerpts and countless photos and audio clips. Due to the horrific nature of the content, it might not be one to take the kids to, however it is very important for anyone mature enough to visit to understand the enormity of what happened.
Admission to the museum is free and exhibitions run from Tuesday to Sunday. The museum is open from 10am to 6pm except during January to March when it is open until 8pm. Its digital library and collection of historical documents are open year round from 10am to 6pm.
As most of the exhibits are only in Spanish, it is essential for non-Spanish speakers to hire an audio guide. This costs 2,000 Chilean pesos. To reach the museum, you can take the metro to Quinta Normal station, which it is right next to – or it is a 45 minute walk from Plaza de Armas. A related spot to visit is Parque La Paz Villa Grimaldi, which was made into a camp under the regime; another sobering spot but very important to understand this part of Chile’s history.
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