Chile on the Road to NAFTA, Accompanied by the National Police Band

Martha Rosler

1997 | 00:10:46 | Chile / United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | Video

Collection: Single Titles

A bouncy music-video burlesque shot in and around Santiago, Chile, entwines reminders of U.S. corporate presence and of past political terror, with national and international musical strains. Chile, at the southernmost end of South America, was in 1997 on the fast track to admission into the economic alliance known as the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Chile was enjoying its reputation abroad as a free-market success — a reputation promulgated by those who aided or supported the fascist coup led by General Augusto Pinochet, which had violently overthrown the elected government and led to the deaths of the President, Salvador Allende, and thousands of others, and the exile of tens of thousands of political refugees.

To the strains of The Blue Danube Waltz, a taxi drives down a back road, passing a horse-drawn cart and a gigantic upraised fist that turns out to be a Coca-Cola billboard; a tourist bus passes huge isolated billboards advertising flights to Miami; warships are seen from a hilltop in Valparaiso, the home of the coup; a newly unveiled memorial to the coup’s victims is viewed by visitors to the cemetery in which it is located. Back in Santiago’s bustling, festive town square, the national police’s “Odeon” band members play a Star Wars medley, while a tot in military uniform dances. Away from the square, a blind singer mourns lost love in front of a row of shuttered shops, and Indian schoolchildren listen to men playing a folk tune on Andean pipes.

The video’s drive-by style suggests the thematic backdrop of tourism and internationalizing elites versus the indigenous poor. For those whose historical memory needs jogging, a short epilogue details the 1973 coup and its aftermath.

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