Getting Ahead: Social Mobility, Public Housing, and Immigrant Networks

Getting Ahead: Social Mobility, Public Housing, and Immigrant Networks

Getting Ahead: Social Mobility, Public Housing, and Immigrant Networks

Getting Ahead: Social Mobility, Public Housing, and Immigrant Networks

Excerpt

We woke up on September 11, 1973, an early spring day, to the radio broadcasts describing troop movements all over Chile. My parents had been working for several years against the far Right, an elite influence in Chile, and were at that time working with President Allende. My mother cofounded and directed a party based on liberation theology, and my father, who was educated at Harvard, worked in the Department of Agriculture and taught sociology of law. Salvador Allende was the first socialist president elected democratically in Latin America and in the context of the cold war; this was not acceptable to the U.S. government. The United States provided the Right with financial and military power to challenge him. My sisters and I had been living through rather uncertain times as we struggled with the fast pace of life and the confrontations between our family members. While some sided with the privileged classes, others, like my parents, favored the ideals of social justice that were sweeping through Latin America, in different avatars, during those difficult yet hopeful days.

That early spring date came to be known as “El Golpe” (coup). My parents took us to our grandparents’ house and said good-bye. Convinced that we would never see them again, we cried as they rushed to their party’s headquarters to burn all the documents containing names, addresses, and anything else that could be used to track down the party’s members. We sat and waited while our aunts and grandparents drank champagne to celebrate. We knew that they did not realize what was happening, but also that we could count on them. The radio told us that people were being rounded up all over the country. Although my sisters and I were terribly afraid, our family did not notice because they, like the country, were so profoundly divided along political ideology that my sisters and I lived in different realities.

Having suffered in silence for most of the day, we were greatly relieved when my parents showed up to take us home, just in time to avoid the new curfew roundups. From our apartment windows on the thirteenth floor, which overlooked the Mapocho River, a mountain called San Cristobal, and . . .

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