Battling for Hearts and Minds

Memory Struggles in Pinochet’s Chile, 1973–1988

Battling for Hearts and Minds

Latin America Otherwise

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Book Pages: 576 Illustrations: 36 photos, 2 maps Published: September 2006

Author: Steve J. Stern

Activism, History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Southern Cone

Battling for Hearts and Minds is the story of the dramatic struggle to define collective memory in Chile during the violent, repressive dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, from the 1973 military coup in which he seized power through his defeat in a 1988 plebiscite. Steve J. Stern provides a riveting narration of Chile’s political history during this period. At the same time, he analyzes Chileans’ conflicting interpretations of events as they unfolded. Drawing on testimonios, archives, Truth Commission documents, radio addresses, memoirs, and written and oral histories, Stern identifies four distinct perspectives on life and events under the dictatorship. He describes how some Chileans viewed the regime as salvation from ruin by Leftists (the narrative favored by Pinochet’s junta), some as a wound repeatedly reopened by the state, others as an experience of persecution and awakening, and still others as a closed book, a past to be buried and forgotten.

In the 1970s, Chilean dissidents were lonely “voices in the wilderness” insisting that state terror and its victims be recognized and remembered. By the 1980s, the dissent had spread, catalyzing a mass movement of individuals who revived public dialogue by taking to the streets, creating alternative media, and demanding democracy and human rights. Despite long odds and discouraging defeats, people of conscience—victims of the dictatorship, priests, youth, women, workers, and others—overcame fear and succeeded in creating truthful public memories of state atrocities. Recounting both their efforts and those of the regime’s supporters to win the battle for Chileans’ hearts and minds, Stern shows how profoundly the struggle to create memories, to tell history, matters.

Battling for Hearts and Minds is the second volume in the trilogy The Memory Box of Pinochet’s Chile. The third book will examine Chileans’ efforts to achieve democracy while reckoning with Pinochet’s legacy.


“[A] brilliantly crafted, deeply layered narrative of the interaction between memory and history. . . . It is a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in understanding the dynamics of authoritarian rule and democratic resurgence in the Cold War period of Latin American history. Given its conceptual resonances and unique methodology it is sure to be of interest to students of historical memory anywhere in the world.” — James A. Wood, The Latin Americanist

“[A] remarkable tale of the inner contest between rival public memories—those of the regime’s backers and those of its detractors. Going well beyond some of the (now conventional) reliance upon testimonials, Stern follows the hopes and heartaches of civic activists, teachers, officers, and churchgoers as they organized themselves around real and symbolic struggles during the dictatorship’s most brutal years and its eventual demise.” — Jeremy Adelman, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“[T]he theme of memory, a rigorous interdisciplinary methodology, and a creative narrative structure are the combined source of this work’s brilliance, one that sets a benchmark for future historical studies and challenges the conceptual boundaries for the study of Latin American dictatorships.” — Elizabeth Quay Hutchison, American Historical Review

“[T]his is an impressive synthesis based on prodigious research. . . . His focus on social memory, which allows him to consider the moral and subjective elements of human experience, together with his historian’s sensitivity to indeterminacy and human agency make this a compelling interpretation of how Chileans lived the Pinochet years.” — Alexander Wilde, Left History

“As a superb study of contemporary Chilean history, Stern’s two volumes are certain to become classics for all those interested in the social, political, and economic evolution of Chile. Yet, Stern’s extraordinary accounts of how memory is built, signified, and reconstructed—as a dependent and independent variable, as methodologically rigorous jargon would have it—can also provide a useful and attractive framework for those interested in how memory is, ultimately and within constraints, created and re-created.” — Patricio Navia, Latin American Research Review

“In a classic oral historian’s fashion, Stern shares stories and voices of the seldom heard. . . . Battling for Hearts and Minds also provides meticulous explanations of how Stern gathered and assessed distinct memory strands. In this 500-page work, almost 100 pages are notes, and Stern includes a thoughtful essay on primary sources as well as oral research as methodology. Combined with his lucid prose, this makes the volume quite valuable as a model for young researchers as well as for classroom use.” — Katherine Hite, Journal of Latin American Studies

“Stern has also provided scholars a window to understanding the logic and strategy of the Left. This book deserves wide reading and consideration by scholars both within and outside of the Latin America specialty. His forthcoming volume should be eagerly awaited.” — Keith D. Dickson, Canadian Journal of History

“Stern successfully paints a broad picture of the dictatorship, its effects, and the struggle against it. Elegant and accessible, his book is likely to remain, for many years to come, a central reference text on the Pinochet regime and its ensuing battles to define historical memory.” — Michael J. Lazara, A Contracorriente

“Stern’s collection makes an important and original contribution to our understanding of how interpretations of the role played by the Chilean coup influenced subsequent political culture, and is a valuable exploration of personal histories through ethnographic research. Stern can only be praised for recording and disseminating stories that have rarely if ever been heard before, demonstrating a rare gift for eliciting testimony that is a tribute to his skill as a researcher and providing the reader with a potent and, indeed, moving sense of the full impact that the Pinochet dictatorship had on Chilean society.” — Gavin O’Toole, Latin American Review of Books

“The work operates at a high level of theoretical sophistication of memory studies, but it applies that theory most concretely and insightfully to the events in Chile. . . . Recommended.” — J. A. Rhodes, Choice

‘Accessibly narrated and based on extensive archival research and ethnographic interviews, Stern's volume is certain to appear on many course syllabi in the near future. . . . [He] manages, quite adeptly, to add a dimension of complexity to concepts like censorship that are often discussed in rather unambiguous and generalized terms both in scholarly work on dictatorship and in university classrooms. . . . Stern brilliantly traces the evolution of memory as a critical category in Pinochet's Chile and helps us to see how the scripting of the past became a fierce political battle that would last long into the years of transition.” — Michael J. Lazzara, The Americas

Battling for Hearts and Minds is the first comprehensive history of the struggle to define collective memory in Pinochet’s Chile and one of the first of its kind about Latin America in general.” — Peter Winn, editor of Victims of the Chilean Miracle: Workers and Neoliberalism in the Pinochet Era, 1973–2002

“By probing the dark undercurrents which shaped the Chilean dictatorship, as well as the wondrous ways in which the resistance managed to defeat Pinochet, Steve J. Stern has given us an indispensable guide to recent Chilean history.” — Ariel Dorfman

Battling for Hearts and Minds is an extraordinary narrative and analysis of the ways conflictual interpretations and memories were framed and built in the Pinochet years.” — Paul W. Drake, coeditor of State and Society in Conflict: Comparative Perspectives on Andean Crises


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Steve J. Stern is Alberto Flores Galindo Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His most recent books include Remembering Pinochet’s Chile: On the Eve of London 1998 and Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980–1995, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xi

Maps xvi

Introduction to the Trilogy: The Memory Box of Pinoche’s Chile xix

Introduction to Book Two: Battling for Hearts and Minds 1

Part I. Foundational Years: Building the Memory Box, 1973–1982

1. Chronicling a Coup Foretold? Previews of the Impossible 11

Afterword. “This is Chile” 29

2. Saving “Chileans of Well-Placed Heart,” 1973–1976 33

Afterword. Rumors of the Impossible 77

3. Witnessing and Awakening Chile: Testimonial Truth and Struggle, 1973–1977 81

Afterword. Laughing and Singing in Times of Trouble 129

4. Road to Oblivion? Crisis and Institutionalization, 1977–1982 137

Afterword. Coming of Age 179

5. Digging In: Counterofficial Chile, 1979–1982 196

Afterword. Fending off Despair 231

Conclusion to Part I: Building the Memory Box: Foundational Years 237

PART II. Struggles for Control: Memory Politics as Mass Experience, 1983–1988

6. Great Shakings: Memory War in the Streets, 1983–1986 249

Afterword. Away from Santiago 287

7. Time Travel: Memory War in Media and Politics, 1983–1986 297

Afterword. Desire 330

8. “Did You Forget Me?” The Unexpected Faces of Chile, 1987–1988 336

Afterword. Taboo: The Making of a Memory Moment 378

Abbreviations Used in Notes and Essay on Sources 389

Notes 391

Essay on Sources 485

Index 507
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Winner, 2007 Bolton-Johnson Prize

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3841-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3827-7
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