At IES Abroad, we love seeing photos of our students brushing shoulders with some of the world’s most important global figures. This month, two IES Abroad Santiago students had the honor of meeting Chile’s current president, Michelle Bachelet.
As part of their academic internship, Monica Melendez (Rice University) and Julia Sykes (Penn State University) are working with the Salvador Allende Foundation, which was created in 1990 to honor “the courageous decision of the Chile population to restore democracy after seventeen years of military dictatorship,” and “to restore and promote the legacy of President Salvador Allende.” (website)
On September 11th, Monica and Julia, along with other members of the Foundation, were invited to La Moneda, the presidential palace, for the commemoration of the 1973 Chilean coup d’etat. It was on that day 41 years ago that Chile’s then-President Salvador Allende was overthrown by the armed forces and national police, establishing a dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet.
Monica, who is also an IES Abroad student blogger this semester, describes the experience of meeting the Chilean president on her blog: “I walk in the room, grab a cookie, and look up to see la Presidenta casually sipping on some coffee with no guards in sight. I immediately stick the entire cookie in my mouth and walk towards her.
“After several attempts to get her attention, I finally reach out my hand and say, ‘¡Presidenta!’
“She shakes my hand and I proceed to blurt the following words before losing her attention, ‘Hola, me llamo Monica Melendez. Soy estudiante de intercambio de los Estados Unidos y trabajo con la Fundación Salvador Allende. ¿Puedo tomar una foto contigo?’ (Hello, my name is Monica Melendez. I am an exchange student from the United States and I work with the Salvador Allende Foundation. Can I take a photo with you?) She nods, I pose, snap.”
Monica goes on to say, “Chile still has a lot of wounds to address that the dictatorship left wide open, but in time, I am confident Chile will continue to choose democracy and address the issue of human rights violations and justice for those who were treated as enemies of the state during that dark time period (1973-1990) in Chilean history. So whether I am in the United States or Chile, September 11th will forever remain a reminder of Never Again. Nunca Más.”
Read more of her thoughts—and see additional photos!—from the event here.
First Photo, L to R: Julia Sykes, President Bachelet, and Monica Melendez
Second Photo: Monica Melendez (second from left), President Bachelet (center), and staff from the Salvador Allende Foundation