Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Clandestine in Chile

Play it: Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín

I just finished the long out-of-print report from Gabriel García Márquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude) on filmmaker Miguel Littín's covert entry into Chile to shoot a secret documentary inside the country that twelve years prior had exiled him. A couple songs made their way into the text... one is Chilean folksinger Violeta Parra's "Gracias a la Vida" which was later made popular here by Joan Baez. It remains one of the most covered Latin American songs in history. The other is the song "Sabrás Que Te Quiero," which Littín and his crew nerviously sing along to as they're blindfolded to a secret location.

Some background... we sometimes forget that Chile has it's own 9/11... in 1973, a military coup backed in spirit (if not hand) by the U.S. took out then President Salvadore Allende, after he nationalized several industries in the country. U.S. President Nixon was quoted of saying at the time he "didn't want another Cuba," and the CIA backed Allende's opponents in his prior bids for Presidency. When the coup happened September 11th, 1973, President Allende refused to resign and instead achieved a sort of martyr status at the hands of General Augusto Pinochet (he either committed suicide or was shot in the head - still being argued to this day.) Miguel Littín was a filmmaker who Allende had appointed to head up Chile's Film industry, and he was only able to escape the firing lines because one of his captors was a fan.

Pinochet refused to relinquish martial law, and instead took over as dictator. With advice from his "Chicago Boys" (who were trained in the Chicago School of Economics, United States' hand again,) Pinochet privatized all national interests, removed all minimum wage restrictions, rescinded trade union rights, and abolished taxes on wealth and profits - basically a conservative's dream economy. This initially led to world of wealth for the ruling class (the Miracle of Chile,) but divide between the haves and have-nots led to a collapse of the economy (unemployment was at 34.6% in 1983) and later to a massive debt to nations like the United States.

In 1985, Miguel Littín, with help from the Chilean resistance, took on a new identity as an affluent Uruguayan businessman. Three separate European film crews entered Chile, each unaware of the other, under the guise of shooting advertising releated pieces. Littín directed them all via secret liason's and pre-ordained locations. Gabriel García Márquez writes this book (in first person) based on Littín's notes and a personal (recorded) interview with the director.

It's a fascinating look at another time, when the Cold War had the CIA in a lot of unseemly alliances. Nowadays it's our dependence on oil and corporate profit (ie, globalization) that forces on the odd side of morality in foreign policy, and it's not a far reach to think that Venezuela's Chavez is viewed by the Bush administration in the same light that Nixon/Kissinger shown on Allende. History has a habit of repeating itself, thanks to our ignorance (or indifference) to it.

NY Times Book Review from 1987

Novel Sndtrck: Anansi Boys
Novel Sndtrck: Lunar Park
Novel Sndtrck: The Hot Kid
Novel Sndtrck: Glass Soup
Novel Sndtrck: White Apples
Novel Sndtrck: Kafka On The Shore (Ribaldry and Schmaltz's J Shifty)
Novel Sndtrck: Killing Yourself To Live (Drive Like Hell's Dallas Hudgens)
Novel Sndtrck: Drive Like Hell
Novel Sndtrck: Fortress of Solitude
James Frey's My Friend Leonard
Jonathon Lethem's The Disappointment Artist

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drake leLane said...

Clandestine in Chile

* "Gracias A La Vida" - Joan Baez
* "Sabrás Que Te Quiero" - Placido Domingo

J Shifty said...


You continue to educate with regular, well-written posts and enriching playlists while I continue to occasionally throw up another Captain & Tenille song. From each according to their abilities, indeed.

Please do keep it coming, El Guapo!

drake leLane said...

Thanks... I sometimes feel like such a blowhard, but I guess all we're essentially doing is sharing what's got our attention right now. Whether it's a book report or a cool frog we found at recess, it's all good, right?

Obviously what I have here is a cliff note, and anyone who knows about the subject could easily rip me a new one for glossing over the finer points... consider this an invitation.