Hate has always loomed large in my life but this took time to realise. I could only comprehend its foul language when my eyes were truly open.
Like most of my Chilean friends, I’d grown up with the Chile-tragedy narrative that’d become mythical; a story ‘de los viejos’, distant and magical like unicorn tears.
As a child, Saturdays involved being whisked off to a community hall for Chilean parties, Once there I’d be skidding on my knees red-faced and running amok with the kids. Those very kids that formed the backdrop to my formative years in the UK, are now my solid life partners: the one’s who, no matter how immersed in my current British life, always take me back to the early days of refuge, solidarity and warmth of our communal lives, bound together by the grief and sadness that forced us out of Chile.
The ‘story of Chile’ didn’t even come to life for me when I ‘returned’ in early 1990. Consumed by a teenage mind far too preoccupied with rebelling against my parents and their unwavering desire to send me to Chile, when all I wanted was to sneak off to raves in the soggy English fields.
I could not see what was around me. The inner toils of my selfish teenage world had blinded me. I wasn’t aware of the context in which I had returned to Chile, nor did I care.
I left Chile 7 years later having amassed a full catalogue of images and sounds that still trouble my thoughts on dank winter nights, such as the glum terracotta brick wall of the Villa Grimaldi on Jose Arrieta for example, where we would gather at night and harass the guard on duty. Just yards away from where perhaps my own aunty and uncle were raped, cut, beaten and discarded like cattle and then dumped into the sea via the lovely aeródromo by Tobalaba, that I would pass daily, awed by the sight of the luminous white helicopters juxtapositioned between the mountains and cobalt sky.
When Pinochet was arrested in London I was catapulted into stark realisation. It’s one thing hearing los viejos vaguely referring to the ‘terrible things happening in Chile’, and quite another to read a full length feature in The Guardian, about the violation and torture of the lovely tia you have visited nearly every Saturday for years on end, or indeed your own relative. Week after week, front page articles appeared in the press and on the radio, Chileans were on Question Time and NewsNight.
Pinochet and his crimes against humanity became a national obsession and also a personal one. I learned horrible things, that as time goes on, become more horrible and dark and unbearable. But once I learnt, there was no turning back.
From this rolled forth the avalanche of hate: this historical hatred I’d heard being detailed by my folks through their memories of their Unidad Popular years, with its scuffles and fierce divisions followed by the phantasmagoric hatred unleashed by the facist coup, spreading through Chile like a cancer.
The hate dimension now began to engulf my adult life, from social network interaction, to framing how I interpret what Chilean people are saying to me. I understand the meaning of ‘marxista’ as it’s spat out between the teeth of the blonde viejas cuicas I come across in Chillán. I now understand the strange gleam of hared in the eyes of my Chilean ex-boyfriend’s parents, whose father was in the Navy. With this clarity I can make sense of my experiences in Chile and those weird interactions I had with upper class Chileans. The language of hate has made itself apparent to me and I understand it’s key words like I never did before.
I’m not sad about recognising the hate in me and others. I see how this hate shapes the world and my personal history. The discourse of Trump. The tone of the papers. Attitudes towards refugees and black people.
Being aware of this hate while painful and irreversible has equipped me for this era. Yes, the world looks gross through shit tinted lenses, but it’s dark force is not to be underestimated as we enter a new post-hope political epoch.