From 1970 to 1990, the country of Chile went through a very uncertain period of governmental rule. A Nation of Enemies: Chile Under Pinochet, written by Pamela Constable and Arturo Valenzuela, is a novel that gives a detailed explanation of the events in Chile from the time the armed forces led by Augusto Pinochet overthrew the former president of Chile, Salvador Allende, until the citizens of Chile took Pinochet out of office according to his own rules. Constable and Valenzuela wrote this outstanding and meticulous novel to provide a detailed account of Pinochet's manipulation of Chileans, to educate people about the atrocities Pinochet allowed and commanded, and to explain how the Pinochet Regime turned the people of Chile against each other.
Throughout A Nation of Enemies, Constable and Valenzuela give vast amounts of support for their points leaving little room for doubt. This proves true for all of their ideas including the Pinochet's manipulation of the people. In discussing examples of this, Constable and Valenzuela bring up one of the main groups that Pinochet targeted: women. "Traditionally preoccupied with order and stability, wives and mothers had been a key element of support for the coup"(160). In one of his speeches, Pinochet made women feel important by saying, "the Chilean woman suffered...the most terrible consequences of the Popular Unity...Thus she was transformed into a solid foundation of my government, which liberated her from the nightmare"(160).
The Pinochet Regime also controlled people through propaganda. Constable and Valenzuela write, "Official propaganda stressed the violence and chaos of the Allende years and depicted the coup as a glorious act of liberation"(152). Yet another way Constable and Valenzuela show the government's manipulation of the people is by providing examples of the secrets the government kept from the people. When human rights groups were opposed to Pinochet, his government tried to destroy their credibility. The government took a list of people who had supposedly disappeared and claimed that they were either alive or had died of natural causes. "But three years later the bodies of seven people he had listed as dead of natural causes--with medical examiners' certificates to prove it--were discovered in the lime ovens of Lonquén"(153).
The main goal of A Nation of Enemies, is of course, to prove that the Pinochet regime had turned the people of Chile against each other and into enemies. By illustrating the extreme difference of the lives of the rich versus the lives of the poor, Constable and Valenzuela show both the economic effects of the Pinochet regime, and the drastic split of the population. The authors show this split by devoting a chapter each to the rich and the poor, respectively, and then go on to explain the effects of the differences. The chapter entitled "The Rich" includes descriptions such as, "Among affluent urbanites, a fast new status-symbol culture emerged, departing markedly from Chile's tradition of upper-class modesty. Puegots were replaced by flashy BMWs, shopping malls and condominiums sprouted in the affluent suburbs, and lavish residential developments crept up the Andean foothills"(204-5). The following chapter, "The Poor" contains intense contrasts. "In this marginal world that is home to Santiago's two million poor, men rise at dawn to take three buses to work as machinists, women scrub laundry in dirt yards, and teenagers linger on corners sniffing cans of leather clue. Junk collectors' horse carts clop along the dusty alleys; people crowd around kiosks to read the days head lines and haunt the flea market displays of doorknobs, tea kettles, socket wrenches, eyeglasses, work boots, and cracked china plates".(222)
Not only do Constable and Valenzuela show the differences between the upper and lower class lifestyles, but they tell of the lack of interaction that led to the animosity between Chileans. "Formed under military rule and insulated in suburban enclaves, Chile's new economic elite had little contact with the working class and no recent experience with democracy"(219).
After establishing the division of classes Pinochet's regime created, Constable and Valenzuela go on to talk about how this created a polarized Chile. "In fact, many polls reflected a deep division among voters. For the affluent, the Pinochet years had been a time of public order and private freedom that many wished to see continue; for the poor, they had brought certain welfare benefits that would be painful to give up"(305). However, "For many other Chileans, military rule had been an experience of humiliation and deprivation. Families had been sundered and dignity violated; a proud democratic tradition had been replaced by the furtive, arbitrary atmosphere of authoritarianism"(305). By showing the division of the people when the Chileans had to chose between a new unknown government or a familiar dictatorship, Constable and Valenzuela perfectly illustrate the nation of enemies Pinochet created.
Pamela Constable and Arturo Valenzuela accomplished their goals wholeheartedly with the publication of A Nation of Enemies. They talked with hundreds of people, who lived through the Pinochet regime and its effects, to gather their information. The manner in which they presented their information and the credibility of their sources leave no room for doubt. The evidence for all of their ideas was overwhelming. At times it was dense and hard to sift through, but it proved to be very educational. One fault of the novel was the length and amount of facts and numbers Constable and Valenzuela presented, however, they counteracted this by adding in short narrations about individual people. Those short stories added a great deal of reality and entertainment to the numerical support.
Overall, Constable and Valenzuela's A Nation of Enemies: Chile Under Pinochet is a greatly informative and interesting novel about the years of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile. As I began the novel, I felt as if I might not give a favorable recommendation of it, but by the end, I had learned so much that I can do nothing but endorse it. A Nation of Enemies is an excellent book to educate about the Pinochet regime for those who already have some information about it and for those with a great curiosity to learn.