Neruda's Case:

The citizens of the world are waiting for the scientific revelations about the murder of Pablo Neruda, the government of Chile, to be delivered soon.


"Please, no more pictures," Matilde asked. Flashes flashed insistently over the poet's lifeless body, flashing a flashing light in the dark corridor of the Santa Maria Clinic. It was the morning of September 24, 1973. The night before, after ten o'clock, Neruda had died pronouncing-in a startling delirium-his last words: "They are being shot, they are being shot!"

The photographers paid no heed to the widow's desire, and they persisted in the flashing of their cameras. Beside the press, a dozen personal friends crowded around Matilde. The body was placed in a gray coffin that arrived shortly after. Francisco Coloane finished buttoning his shirt, closed the coffin and the procession headed towards La Chascona, on the slope of San Cristóbal hill


As a result of the military, La Chascona was a disaster: torn pictures, half-burned books, broken objects everywhere, curtains and telephone had been ripped out. He stepped on glass. Not content with the raid, they had diverted a channel that ran down the hill directing it directly over the house. Mud accumulated on the floor, there was no electric light, and cold air poured through the broken windows.

Someone suggested bringing the coffin to the Society of Writers. "Pablo wanted to be transferred to his house. We will not take him anywhere else," said Matilde.

People began to arrive. The first were the workers of Quimantú who came that day to be fired, and wanted to accompany the coffin: they stood beside the drawer and made an honor guard. The diplomatic missions arrived, and the first crown appeared, "To the great poet Pablo Neruda, Nobel Prize winner Gustavo Adolfo, King of Sweden." The Swedish ambassador had been choleric, while urging the photographers: "Take photos, photos, photos, it is the most obvious proof of the savagery of these people!" The ambassadors of France and Mexico jumped among the puddles of mud to reach the living room.


With dark glasses and wearing a rigorous black, in a corner was Alone, the literary critic who had not spared words to demand, from his stand at El Mercurio, the coup. Also appeared some representatives of the Military Board that Matilde did not want to receive. Many friends of Neruda were there despite knowing the risk they were running.


On Tuesday 25, at nine o'clock in the morning, they pulled the drawer through the water and mud that flooded the entrance and ground floor. The foreign journalists who were coming to cover the funeral of Neruda were astonished at the scene. Outside, in the street, a group of workers and students had already gathered, and the first shouts began to be heard, defying the vigilant eye of the soldiers stationed on the sidewalks, and they would give the tone of protest that morning to the funeral procession: "Companion Pablo Neruda!", And the chorus response: "Present!".


Probably the most complete record of that tragic event (along with the images that that day Patricio Guzman made in the celluloid of "The Battle of Chile"), have been collected by the journalist Sergio Villegas in a brief text he called "Guarded Funeral" , which is almost 25 years old, and which is published for the second time in Chile (the Committee Pro Return of Exiles made a small edition of fifty pages in 1984). It appeared originally in 1978, in the third issue of the Araucaria magazine that directed and edited Volodia Teitelboim and Carlos Orellana from Madrid, and has been profusely translated into several languages, adapted for the radio, and collected in a few anthological works.

"Vigilant funeral" retains that freshness of dramatic tone that Villegas managed to collect testimonial fragments of people close to the poet, and who were direct witnesses of that funeral filled with rage, an event that many are not slow to mark as the first manifestation of rebellion against the dictatorship. Barely mentioned by one of their names (Aida, Luis Alberto, Bello, Loyola), as if no matter who really tells the story but history itself, witnesses overlap their voices by rebuilding a memory full of affection, dramatic, but above all collective.



"Guarded Funeral" is also a testament to the resistance in exile. The text that narrates the funeral of Neruda is added as short as that one, "Night Exercise", written in 1983 and that tells another story of obstinacy and obstinations, the one of Radio Berlin, and of those programs that by shortwave account to the whole world of the atrocities of the dictatorship. Like Volodia on Moscow Radio, Sergio Villegas from Berlin was the voice that came from far and wide to tell what was happening here, which included the testimonies of the exiles, the Latin American and European intellectuals against the regime, who realized every night of the meetings of the United Nations Military Crimes Investigation Commission, an unprecedented initiative that the international organization had not undertaken with any other country. It was the time when many people became accustomed to tune in and look for the nightly downloads of truth that came in short wave from the other side of the world. Despite the fear.


And also in spite of the fear, the people left that morning of warm sun to dismiss to Neruda. Purísima Street, Mapocho River, La Paz Avenue. In front of a power station, the army's black berets pointed toward the cortege. People were tight. At times, someone with a book in his hands recited verses of the poet: "Jackals that the jackal would reject, stones that the dry thistle would bite by spitting vipers that the vipers would hate!"


In the cemetery there were speeches, poems in honor of Neruda, vague metaphors urged by the prudence of not saying what would have preferred to shout. They put the coffin in the mausoleum, and covered it with flowers. The risk of leaving was still to be avoided. Rumors were circulating. "They're stopping outside," someone says. "Go back, mate," another one recommended. At the entrance to the cemetery were the military, saw the people leaving, vigilant, without moving.


Photos: Marcelo Montecinos / Alejandro Texeira

Florilegio SIN (Nerudian Informative System)