Earthquake stirs thoughts of famous Chileans

We've all heard about Chile and the massive earthquake that may have shifted the earth's axis and briefly shortened the life of the planet by milliseconds.

We know that the Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said at first they didn't need international aid but it's become obvious that they do. And this week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered aid to Chile in what was a previously scheduled trip.

We've seen some of the images of looting and collapsed bridges and there have been many deaths although for several reasons, including less poverty and stronger infrastructure, they were far fewer than what we saw in Haiti.


Isabel Allende photo by Lori Barra

This we all know. I waited a few days to write about Chile because I
didn't want to just make a plea for people to help or donate to the Red

So I decided instead to write about three Chileans - Pablo Neruda, Isabel Allende and Salvador Allende - who will help put a human face on this South American country with a rich culture and compelling history.

1)One of the greatest poets of the 20th century was Chilean Pablo Neruda. Fellow South American writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez called the late poet "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language."

A good way to learn more about Neruda is to pick up any of his books. I recommend the bilingual book "Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems."  Or also rent the movie "Il Postino," a somewhat fictional account about the writer's exile on an Italian island.

2) Salvador Allende was a socialist elected president of Chile in 1970.  He was removed from office in a coup by military general Augusto Pinochet on Sept. 11, 1973. (That date held infamy for Chileans years before it did for us in the United States.)

Now it's also important to say that the coup was orchestrated with support from the United States. If you want to know more, you could read the book "Chile:The Other Sept. 11: An Anthology of Reflections of the 1973 Coup."

3) One of my favorite Chilean writers is Isabel Allende. (Her uncle was Salvador Allende.) She lives
in California now and is the author of 18 books. One of her most famous
books is "House of the Spirits" (1982). It was made into a not so good movie with Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep and Winona Ryder. She wrote a powerful memoir "Paula"
when her daughter was gravely ill and in a coma. Allende is now  U.S.
citizen. She fled the Pinochet regime. She is one of Chile's best
writers and many of her books celebrate the strengths of women.

Some of you may already be familiar or even fans of these famous Chileans. If you are, great. If not, I hope the earthquake will help you think more about Chile.

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