September 11th Elsewhere

Americans aren’t the only ones that pause to reflect on this terrible September day. While we mourn our own loss of life and a sense of security, and mark the beginning of an interminable war on stateless terrorism, it is worth remembering that others around the world commemorate events as ignominious as ours today.

Two of these take place in the Spanish-speaking world, and exacted tolls far greater than the attacks in 2001.

If you’re Chilean, September 11th is the day when General Augusto Pinochet staged a coup on Salvador Allende’s democratically-elected government. The coup, which would turn into a brutal military government lasting nearly two decades, marked the beginning of a regime that killed more than 3,000 people and tortured more than 40,000. It also turned Chile’s political culture on its head, with ramifications that still persist today in its divided society.

If you’re Catalan, September 11th is your most solemn national holiday. In true southern European fashion, the holiday does not commemorate a victory or achieved independence, but rather a loss of sovereignty and a relegation of authority nearly 300 years ago that helped seal the national tension between Catalonia and Spain. Over the course of the last 299 years, this has led to conflicts ranging from political disenfranchisement to outright civil war, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and the corrosion of a national political system that looks to be irreparable.

In broad strokes, each of these days represents a loss of freedom and the victory of an undemocratic aggressor. Whether the day itself has  dastardly powers or it’s just an unfortunate coincidence of history, it’s worth reflecting on what broader values Americans can project on a day like today to the world, particularly in places like Chile and Catalonia that have suffered immeasurable losses the way we did.

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