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Dr a w ing by Ca r lo s Low ry A CHILE-TEXAS CONNECTION Austin DURING THE SIXTIES, memories were deeply etched. Now that two decades separate us from the intensity of those years, nostalgia seems to be in vogue. It is a time of reunions for the generation that came of age in the Sixties. One such gathering took place on the outskirts of Austin in May. It was a lovely setting; the invitations had promised the warmth and camaraderie that endeared audiences to “The Big Chill.” This reunion was for former participants of a Texas-Chile exchange program or more precisely it was for the “Tejanos” of the exchange. Few Chileans could afford to take this jaunt down memory lane. Between 1959 and 1967 the University of Texas at Austin, under the careful guidance of Dr. Joe Neal of the International Office, sponsored an exchange program between Texas and Chilean student leaders. In its ninth year, the program washed up on the rocky shores of international politics and came to an end. But during its life some 126 UT students participated in the exchange. As college students, they were Daily Texan editors, student body presidents, Bluebonnet Belles, Student Assemblymen and more. In the past twenty years, many have risen to influential positions as journalists, academicians, lawyers, and politicians. A former Austin mayor, a mayoral candidate, a U.S. Senatorial candidate, a District Judge and several Congressional aides were among the program participants. The common experience of the exchange forged an unspoken bond among participants. In Chile, the Texans had tasted the culture, the wine and pisco sours, the political diversity. Romances flourished, marriages were forged, and careers were launched. Marking this year as the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Texas-Chile Leadership Exchange Program, several former participants decided to honor the Alice Embree is a long-time Austin resident. By Alice Embree anniversary and Dr. Joe Neal, who is soon to retire from the University, with a reunion. The reunion organizers located addresses for almost every Texan exchange student and invited them to an evening of music, vino and pisco sours, authentic Chilean empanadas, and, most important, reminiscing. The affair took place at Neal’s ranch, Horse Thief Hollow, just northwest of Austin. Developments lurked just a bulldozer away, but in the starlit night it was possible to forget that times had changed. Chilean wine and pisco evoked memories of Chile’s long expanse the snow-tipped cordillera, the beach at Viria del Mar, the rain forest for the south, the Andean folk instruments and haunting voice of Violeta Parra. It was a wistful glance backward. Nostalgia allows a romanticism rare in 1984, but it also requires that we remain frozen in the past. The Chile remembered is not the Chile of today. But nothing, can intrude upon a festive mood like a reference to a bloody military coup, so no mention was made of Chile’s last ten years under military dictatorship. Even during those happier days of the exchange era, tremors were beginning to run through Chile’s political foundations. In 1970 a coalition of leftist parties, the Popular Unity, consolidated an electoral victory and the government of Salvador Allende began an experiment unique in Latin America. Between 1970 and 1973 the Allende government attempted a revolutionary transformation of Chilean society within a democratic and constitutional framework. As has been documented in U.S. Senate testimony, the U.S. intelligence apparatus expended much money and effort in “destabilization” and ultimately assisted covertly in the overthrow of the democratic government by a military coup. A particularly brutal chapter in Chile’s history began. To tell of Texans traveling to Chile is only half the exchange story. A comparable number of Chileans journeyed north through the years. Political ideology figuring more prominently in their student lives, they came to Austin representing a wide range of political beliefs. This political diversity, which Texans found quite colorful, became a matter of life and death for THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15