The Republic of Chile, currently presided over by Sebastián Piñera, has one of the strongest economies of the Latin American continent, which is mainly down to the exploitation and exportation of raw materials. Before him, Michelle Bachelet, the first female President of the country, made many improvements in women’s rights during her tenure. The country has recently recovered its political stability, but the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and its political repression is still strong in Chilean memories. Pinochet’s dictatorship ended with 3,000 murders and left an indelible scar on the Chilean national psyche. He assumed the presidency after overthrowing Salvador Allende, who allegedly committed suicide during a bomb attack on the government headquarters. The poet and singer Victor Jara was another casualty of this violent period; he had always struggled to preserve democracy through his songs, becoming an international icon of protest music. He was tortured and murdered in the Estadio Chile, now named Estadio Victor Jara, were he is commemorated with a plaque engraved with his last poem ‘Somos Cinco Mil’ (We are Five Thousand).
Chileans call themselves a country of poets and it is true that they have produced many world renowned writers. Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda’s erotically charged love poems Twenty Poems of Love and a Song of Despair were written in his trademark green colored lettering, which was his personal color for hope. Gabriela Mistral is another important poet, and was the first Latin American recipient of the Nobel Prize in 1945 for her lyrical work which, ‘inspired powerful emotions, and has converted her name into an icon of the idealistic aspirations of all the Latin American world’.
Isabel Allende and Roberto Bolaño are two fiction writers who have achieved international fame. Allende, with 51 million books sold, is the most read novelist in the Spanish language. Her novels are characterized by their humor and realism. Her most popular novel is The House of the Spirits, which also became a successful movie. Some of her other novels are Paula and Daughter of Fortune. Roberto Bolaño’s novelsThe Savage Detectives and 2666 are considered amongst the greatest novels of the last few decades. As a poet he belonged to the Infrarrealista movement, an avant-garde group that produced dissonant, surreal works of poetry.
The current icon of Chilean cinema is Sebastián Silva, who with his film The Maid was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2010, and was awarded the prize in the Sundance Film Festival for Best International Drama Film.Alejandro Jodorowsky, on the other hand, is a multifaceted artist who has become famous in the cinema world for his controversial movies such as La Montaña Sagrada (The Holy Mountain); a 1973 cult film produced by Beatles manager Allen Klein, and considered a classic of art house cinema.