Psychedelic Chile: Youth, Counterculture, and Politics on the Road to Socialism and Dictatorship

Psychedelic Chile: Youth, Counterculture, and Politics on the Road to Socialism and Dictatorship

Psychedelic Chile: Youth, Counterculture, and Politics on the Road to Socialism and Dictatorship

Psychedelic Chile: Youth, Counterculture, and Politics on the Road to Socialism and Dictatorship

Synopsis

Patrick Barr-Melej here illuminates modern Chilean history with an unprecedented chronicle and reassessment of the sixties and seventies. During a period of tremendous political and social strife that saw the election of a Marxist president followed by the terror of a military coup in 1973, a youth-driven, transnationally connected counterculture smashed onto the scene. Contributing to a surging historiography of the era's Latin American counterculture, Barr-Melej draws on media and firsthand interviews in documenting the intertwining of youth and counterculture with discourses rooted in class and party politics. Focusing on " hippismo " and an esoteric movement called Poder Joven, Barr-Melej challenges a number of prevailing assumptions about culture, politics, and the Left under Salvador Allende's "Chilean Road to Socialism."



While countercultural attitudes toward recreational drug use, gender roles and sexuality, rock music, and consumerism influenced many youths on the Left, the preponderance of leftist leaders shared a more conservative cultural sensibility. This exposed, Barr-Melej argues, a degree of intergenerational dissonance within leftist ranks. And while the allure of new and heterodox cultural values and practices among young people grew, an array of constituencies from the Left to the Right berated counterculture in national media, speeches, schools, and other settings. This public discourse of contempt ultimately contributed to the fierce repression of nonconformist youth culture following the coup.

Excerpt

Live, let live, and help live.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1838

Live, let live, and help live.

—A Chilean hippie, quoted in El Mercurio, 1970

I sat next to Jorge Gómez Ainslie as the lights dimmed inside the sold-out Teatro Nescafé de las Artes (née Marconi), a historic theater in Greater Santiago’s municipality of Providencia. We were among a thousand or so ticketholders and special guests who had gathered on that mild evening in the austral spring of 2011 to await the premier of the documentary Piedra Roja, which had received the coveted distinction of kicking off the capital’s eighth annual In-Edit Film Festival. Looking younger than his sixty years and somewhat nervous, Gómez was about to see a chapter of his young adulthood flash before his eyes, so to speak, as were many others in the crowd who, like Gómez, had been protagonists in an exceptional and revealing moment: the Piedra Roja festival of October 1970—Chile’s version of Woodstock. the work of first-time filmmaker Gary Fritz, and conferee of an honorable mention from In-Edit’s panel of critics, Piedra Roja captures criollo (homegrown) counterculture as it was generated, lived, and has been remembered, focusing on the intent, meanings, and consequences of the three-day festival that drew thousands of young people to Los Dominicos, a hilly and grassy sector of the capital’s municipality of Las Condes. There, festivalgoers listened to the music of local rock bands like Los Jaivas and Los Blops; many smoked marijuana, and some made love freely and openly. While most everyone there contributed to the atmosphere in one way or another, the festival would not have occurred without Gómez. Piedra Roja was his idea, after all, and it embroiled him in a brouhaha that grabbed a nation’s attention. He garnered more than his fair share of notoriety and public scorn as the media, the state, and a range of sociopolitical actors transformed him from an anonymous teenager into a poster child for a generationally specific malady.

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