The Puchuncaví detention camp’s daily routine included mandatory participation in the ceremonies of raising and taking down the Chilean flag on the flagpole at the entrance to the camp.
The flag was raised in the morning and taken down in the afternoon. In other words, the ceremony was repeated twice a day.
The process began by assembling the prisoners. On the camp’s central square, the commander and some of the soldiers would take roll call. Afterwards, we were marched to the camp entrance, singing military songs such as 'Lili Marlene' in unison (yes, indeed, the same one sung by the Nazi armies, but with the lyrics translated into Spanish).
Finally, when we were neatly assembled around the flagpole, the commander would order a soldier to slowly begin raising the flag, while all of us prisoners sang the National Anthem that included an unfamiliar stanza about the 'brave soldiers'.
The soldier had to adjust the speed so that the flag would reach the top of the pole at the same time as the end of the Anthem.
We also had other sporadic participants: dogs of the town of Puchuncaví who often came to the camp to eat the leftovers and were friendly with the prisoners.
They steadfastly joined us as we marched from the square to the flagpole, as well as during the flag-raising ceremony. But they did not always keep the composure that would have been appropriate to the ceremony’s solemnity.
One of the dogs, that seemed to have a good ear and musicality, joined us in the song, although not in unison. His howl could be heard between stanzas:
“. . . es la copia feliz del Edén” (“… is the happy copy of Eden”).
“Majestuosa es la blanca montaña . . .” (“Majestic is the white mountain…”)
Another, very extrovert dog, participated when all of us were quietly awaiting the commander’s order to leave. The dog approached the flagpole, sniffed it, assessed it as the closest thing to a tree available at that moment. Then he did what he had to do by the flagpole.
There was no reaction from the commander or the soldier, and we prisoners didn’t make a sound either, although we were biting our tongues to stop ourselves from laughing or making a comment.
Published on: 15 December 2014
pure breezes traverse you besides,
and your field of embroidered flowers
is the happy copy of Eden.
Majestic is the white mountain
that the Lord gave you for bulwark
and that sea that serenely bathes you
promises the splendour to come.
[Your names, courageous soldiers,
who have been the pillar of Chile,
are engraved on our breasts,
our children will know it besides.]*
Sweet Fatherland, receive the vows
which Chileans swore on your altar.
May you be the tomb of the free
or their refuge against oppression.
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