Three Political Figures You Should Know Before Coming to Chile

Anna Dillon is a student at Ohio State University and was an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Valparaíso, Chile.

Chile is a dynamically beautiful country with a tremendous and undeniable history of resilience. I am absolutely shocked that I had never heard of any of its history before coming to college. Honestly, before coming to my summer study abroad program in Valparaíso, I had not been exposed to even a quarter of the depth of tragedy this country has endured in the last century.

In order to appreciate any country, it helps to know where they’ve been. I am taking full advantage of the daily opportunities to talk with my host mom about her first hand experience. I also enrolled in a History of Latin America course in order to expand my knowledge. When coming to another country, it is hard to fully grasp their reality, it is our responsibility to at least scratch the surface and be curious. So here is a starting point of three political figures you should know before coming to Chile:

Pablo Neruda

Now if you’ve ever taken a Latin American literature class, you’ll recognize Pablo Neruda as a very famous Chilean poet. Born in 1904, Neruda started to write poetry as a young boy despite being discouraged by his father.

Neruda was also involved in Chilean politics. He spent a large portion of his life abroad as a consul to countries in Asia, Europe, and South America. Neruda was a member of the Communist party and eventually was a Senator.

Neruda’s poetry and life is famous throughout Chile. You can visit his three houses, now museums, located in Valparaíso, Santiago, and Isla Negra. There, you can learn more about Neruda and Chile.

Pablo Neruda’s profile is an icon throughout his houses and even all of Chile.

Salvador Allende

Salvador Allende (1908-1973) was the first Socialist President of Chile. He was a doctor before getting into politics and co-founded the Socialist party of Chile.

During his presidency and political career, Allende made many efforts to change the economic and social structure of Chile in order to benefit the poor and the sick. Former President of the United States, Richard Nixon and his administration opposed Allende’s socialist agenda.

On September 11, 1973 there was a military coup, led by General Pinochet that led to the end of Allende’s presidency and, ultimately, his life.

The courtyard of La Moneda which was bombed during the 1973 coup d’etat.


The military coup of 1973 was led by General Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet would become an infamous dictator of Chile, holding power from 1974-1990. He was born in 1915 and was involved in the military his entire career; he was the commander in chief of the Army in Allende’s presidency before the coup. However, Pinochet aimed to reverse the socialism Allende started to implement.

During the dictatorship, many Chileans were tortured and disappeared. He was charged for many crimes due to these violations. The Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago is an excellent place to learn more about Pinochet and the memory of the many Chileans affected by the abuse of his dictatorship.

Really, there is so much to learn about the history of Chile; it’s best to come and see for yourself!

This is the view Pablo Neruda had from his study in his house, La Sebastiana, in Valparaíso.

Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits. 

One thought

  1. Thanks for your blog post. What strikes me the most is that learning Latin American history is also learning US history, because our country has done so much damage there.

    If you like films, “No” and “Battle for Chile” (on YouTube) have some interesting perspectives on that historical period.

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