As I stood in the quiet halls of The Memory and Human Rights Museum, I couldn't help but be moved by the powerful images and names etched on the walls. They told the story of the immense suffering endured by the people of Chile during General Augusto Pinochet's regime; a time of anguish, shattered lives, and countless individuals subjected to torture, execution, and forced exile. This dark chapter in Chile's history sheds light on the significant impact of authoritarian rule on the nation's political landscape.
A Difficult Past Leads to a Promising Future
What struck me further was the connection between this difficult past intertwined with Chile's current economic landscape.
Pinochet's regime, alongside its abhorrent human rights violations, implemented far-reaching neoliberal economic policies, focusing on free markets, limited government intervention, and deregulation. While these policies led to economic growth, they also deepened income inequality and concentrated wealth through the privatization of state-owned enterprises. This created a pro-business culture that persists today, with fewer labor rights and a preference for self-employment over large corporations.
Yet, amidst this reflection, I couldn't help but notice the resilience and adaptability of the Chilean people. Walking through the vibrant streets, I saw how the architecture itself told a story of Chile's rich history. The lower floors, with their antique homes and Castilian architecture, transported me back in time. Above them, the towering glass skyscrapers symbolized Chile's embrace of modernity. It was a testament to the country's ability to honor its heritage while progressing forward. As our tour guide aptly put it, "Chilean people don't destroy; they transform."
Art Reflects the Chilean Spirit
The streets of Chile were filled with a captivating love for their homeland. Colorful murals adorned the walls, reflecting a deep appreciation for art and culture. Local business owners warmly welcomed us, proudly showcasing their establishments. Even simple acts like people picking up trash highlighted the strong sense of community and collective responsibility.
The Chilean people's resilience and unity throughout their history left a lasting impression on me. Despite facing different forms of government, revolutions, dictatorships, and economic fluctuations, they have emerged as one of the strongest economies in South America. Their commitment to preserving their heritage and fostering strong community bonds has played a pivotal role in their ability to navigate challenges and embrace positive change.
It has reshaped my own perspective, reminding me of the profound impact personal history can have on one's life journey and the importance of support from others along the way.
An Experience of a Lifetime
As my college classmates and I conclude our business-centric trip to Chile, we bring back newfound ideas and insights. We recognize the significance of inclusive business practices and the need for equitable economic growth. We appreciate the delicate balance between progress and heritage, where acknowledging history doesn't hinder innovation but fuels it. Chile's past has taught us the importance of upholding human rights and advocating for social justice.
Ultimately, Chile has shown us the transformative power of resilience and unity, not only for a nation but for our own perspectives on life. We return home inspired to embrace our personal and shared histories, working together to build a future that is fair, just, and filled with possibilities.
About the Global Entrepreneurship Program
Lee Business School’s Global Entrepreneurship Experience, or GEE for short, is a four-year curriculum that teaches students of any discipline the necessary skills in creating and scaling a business -- all while earning a minor in entrepreneurship.