We publish here the words of the Mayor of Valparaíso, Jorge Sharp, at the ceremony held on 11 September to posthumously declare President Allende an illustrious citizen of the city:
“This September 11, 2023, 50 years after the coup d’état, we are gathered in an extraordinary solemn session of the City Council to hear the request of a group of neighbours and social leaders of Valparaíso, to declare President Salvador Allende Gossens, posthumously as an Illustrious Citizen of our city”.
It is worth mentioning that unofficial references indicate that President Allende would have received some honorary distinction from the Municipality of Valparaíso in 1971. However, there is no reliable proof of this in the municipal and other official registers consulted. Beyond this question, in my opinion a minor one in view of the historic day we are living, we consider, as Valparaíso City Council, that it is far from being abundant that this collegiate body can know and pronounce itself on this recognition. We consider it an exercise of Memory and, above all, of building the Future.
President Allende’s personal and political life is profoundly linked to Valparaíso.
It began in 1920 when he entered the Liceo Eduardo de la Barra to complete his secondary studies. The Port at that time was a city with an intense social, cultural and intellectual life, it had just been a protagonist of the rise of the Chilean popular movement with the strikes of 1903 and 1905, its unique geography was already forging the character of its inhabitants and it continued to stand out as the main Port of the South Pacific. This was the context that forged the personality and broad and humanist thinking of Salvador Allende.
Between 1932 and 1936 he returned to live in Valparaíso to work as a public assistance doctor, making outstanding contributions to the organisation of this profession as well as to the study of medical sciences. By that time Valparaíso had 193,000 inhabitants, unemployment, poverty and famine in the country continued to skyrocket as a result of the world economic crisis of 1929, and he had been part of the founding of the Socialist Party.
He was a Member of Parliament between 1937 and 1941 and Senator between 1961 and 1969 for Valparaíso, carrying out outstanding parliamentary work, which led him to occupy the presidency of the Senate between 1966 and 1969.
On becoming President of the country, President Allende remained preoccupied with the development of Valparaíso. It is revealing that, less than three months after taking office, from the balconies of the former Regional Intendancy building located in Plaza Sotomayor, within the framework of what he called the Government in Campaign, he dedicated part of his speech to share the plans he had for our city:
“From 18 January we will start the Popular Discussion Days. We want the port community, workers, employees, professionals, shopkeepers, industrialists, students and intellectuals to participate alongside the government technicians. We will discuss the necessary plans to change the face, the soul of the port, to vitalise its economy and to turn it, by everyone’s efforts, into the main port, so that Valparaiso can see the sea at close quarters.
We will remove the obstacles that prevent the use of the waterfront. We want to create green areas that are almost non-existent here. A large aquarium, a maritime museum and a fishing port, because I said as a candidate and I am going to do it as President, that the fishing port there, in Caleta Portales, must be burnt down because it is unhygienic, because it is dirty, and our colleagues cannot continue to work there, and we want to build a port worthy of Valparaíso.
We want to study the new railway route through Lipangui. We want to see whether it is advisable to move the Maestranza Barón, to occupy that land and to recover the land of the railway line: if the train should or should not go as far as the port itself. All these projects will be discussed and analysed.
When we reach technical and definitive conclusions you will know them and you will be informed beforehand in the press and on the radio. And finally, if comrade Humberto Martones, Minister of Lands and Colonisation, has come to Valparaiso, it is because we agree to study the transformation of this Ministry into a Ministry of the Sea, to be based, not for two months, but definitively in Valparaiso”.
Before the abrupt end of his government, President Allende was able to realise, through a series of public works, part of his progressive look at the future of Valparaíso, such as the housing projects in Playa Ancha in the Third and Fifth Sector, the Fermín Vivaceta Building near Plaza de La Victoria and the construction of the Plaza del Pueblo on Avenida Pedro Montt, which to this day form part of the urban landscape of our city.
In consideration of the above, there is no doubt of the justice, integrity and soundness of the proposal of the neighbours of Valparaíso, in order to declare President Salvador Allende Gossens posthumously as an Illustrious Citizen of our city.
I must admit that I am voting in favour for additional reasons, reasons born of the profound impact and influence that President Allende’s example has had on my political convictions.
Allende was one of the outstanding leaders of the entire 20th century, on a par with Gandhi, Mandela or Martin Luther King. His leadership was linked to the profound trajectory of democratisation that our country’s society experienced. His trajectory demonstrates that there is no transformative leadership possible outside of society. To name just one example of the latter: we are still surprised by the lucidity and in some cases the validity of several of the proposals that his government called “The first 40 measures”: the abolition of fabulous salaries; administrative honesty; the Treasury will not make nouveau riche; social security as a right for all; protection of the family; preoccupation with feeding children with half a litre of milk; the construction of maternity and infant clinics in the towns to ensure health as a right; to ensure housing, electricity, drinking water, for all; to fix rents at fixed prices; to establish taxes only on mansions; medical assistance without bureaucracy and free medicine in hospitals; no more price gouging on medicines; to put an end to inflation; or no more taxes on foodstuffs.
I dare to point out that Allende’s hypothesis is still valid.
Without popular protagonism, social transformations are not possible. The possibilities of having fairer, more supportive, more libertarian, more egalitarian, more humanitarian, more dignified conditions for the lives of millions of Chilean families, to devise a society where we all genuinely have a place, require an educated, informed, aware, restless, organised, participatory and, above all, protagonist of their destiny.
We cannot lose sight of the fact that the 21st century, and the profundity of the mutations that neoliberalism has generated at the base of our society, have given birth to a Chile that is very different from that of 50 years ago. We live in a different world, without a doubt. However, the need for citizens to take a step forward in order to move towards a new life and a new society is today taking on a new urgency.
It is urgent because in recent decades we have pushed our ecosystems to the limit; because profit continues to be the vehicle for receiving a good education, adequate medical care or access to housing; because pensions for the elderly are still modest; because there are still persistent inequalities between women and men; because the place where a child is born still determines its life trajectory; because wealth is still irrationally concentrated in the hands of a few; because ancestral lands have not yet been justly returned to the people; because the cultural, territorial and social peripheries are still being siphoned off from the central spaces.
This urgency is also given by the stubborn and, it seems to me, irremediable will of an important right-wing political and social sector to consider the coup d’état, and therefore violence, disappearance and torture, as a legitimate political solution. This sector does not want us to meet today.
So there is no excuse to go back to the people. We must recover the conversation, meet again, build again with the youth, the working men and women, with the people, the communities and territories, with the sporting, intellectual, cultural and professional world. We must regain the initiative, with determination and firmness, to overcome these times of such confusion and unrest.
Let us declare and assume that the old formulas are no longer useful.
We need a new vision and project that connects with the dreams, yearnings and hopes of the Chilean people, far from those who want to solve the national stagnation with the same recipes of the last 50 years. In these times, this position has a profound revolutionary profundity.
Revolution is democratic, majoritarian, pluralist, humanist, constructive, civilising, not violent, insurrectional, hateful or destructive. It is a hopeful fact, full of love and respect for others, because it is built by talking with others.
The revolution takes care of what belongs to everyone; it is present in the love of families, because today more than ever it is a revolutionary fact to love, to love whoever and however one wants, desires or prefers.
The revolution is painted, sung, and danced to the rhythm of the cueca. It is a festive event and an encounter. It is present in the creation of every artist, in the production of ideas that seek the progress of society, of intellectuals and in the work of professionals committed to reversing the injustices that surround them.
The revolution is set in motion when the public servant becomes a true public servant. It is embodied in the commitment of the teacher to the formation and teaching of his or her pupils with no other stimulus than to wish them the best possible future. It is also in every medical care given to those who do not have the resources to provide it in any other way. We put it into practice through the selfless commitment of every social leader to his or her community and the selfless commitment of every political activist in times of profound disaffection and mistrust.
The revolution is built when governments do not lie, do not steal, do not betray and act inspired by the common good, favouring the humblest and forgotten.
Allende lives in us. We carry the memory of the popular movement that reached La Moneda in 1970. All those men, women, young people and children who were disappeared, violated, harassed and tortured inhumanely by the bloody military dictatorship will always be present in our hearts. With us is also the exemplary struggle of the Chilean people who put an end to those 17 years of horror. We carry in our memory the creativity, massiveness and organisation of the student, territorial, feminist, labour, environmental and citizen struggles of the last 30 years against neoliberalism. And undoubtedly the cry of no more injustices and abuses of the social revolt of October 2019.
They can waste seas of ink and they will not be able to erase History, Allende’s legacy belongs to the emancipatory struggles of the peoples of the world, of all times.
“I request you to understand that I am only a man, with all the weaknesses and frailties that a man has, and if I was able to bear yesterday’s defeat, today without pride and without a spirit of revenge, I accept this triumph which is not personal, and which I owe to the unity of the popular parties, to the social forces that have been with us. I owe it to the anonymous and self-sacrificing men of the homeland, I owe it to the humble women of our land. I owe this triumph to the people of Chile, who will enter La Moneda with me on 4 November”, Salvador Allende, 4 September 1970.
Long live Allende!
Long live Valparaíso!”