After the Fact:El Mercurio and the Re-Writing of the Pinochet Dictatorship

"This thesis examines the construction of a popular conservative historical memory specifically though an analysis of Chile’s newspaper of record, El Mercurio. As the country’s leading conservative outlet, one can safely say that El Mercurio is the voice— vocero—of the Right in Chile. First founded in 1827 but later established in 1900 in Santiago by the very affluent Edwards family, El Mercurio has garnered a degree of power and influence in Chilean society unrivaled by any other media source.5 Its location at the heart of conservative politics in Chile has also made El Mercurio into a site of memory (lieux de mémoire) in Chilean history.6 The archive of El Mercurio is a central site where the Right in Chile has located its memories and through which it will revise its narratives of the past. In short, El Mercurio is a vital source to study the Right’s (re)production of the meaning of the 1973-1990 period in Chilean history. While El Mercurio has been for nearly two hundred years the privileged media voice of the Right and a key player in the formation of Chilean conservative memory, one also studies El Mercurio because of the ways it has helped mold Chilean cultural and political identity. El Mercurio claims to be not just a shaper of public opinion, but the “representative” of Chilean society—the cultural agent that dictates the terms of what it means to be Chilean. That El Mercurio is not just the “voice” of the Right but also the self-proclaimed definer of chilenidad (Chilean nationality) necessitates an examination of the crafting of its post-dictatorship historical narrative. Many studies have been published that examine El Mercurio’s ideology and its critical role in both the overthrow of Allende and during the course of Pinochet’s regime.7 But there is little scholarship regarding El Mercurio’s historical memory narrative, particularly since the return to civilian rule, that is, the different ways El Mercurio has represented and inserted Chile’s recent past of authoritarian rule into a larger narrative about Chile’s history. For El Mercurio, a newspaper that has, despite its conservative biases, maintained its reputation as a defender of democracy and democratic ideals, constructing a narrative of Pinochet’s dictatorship poses familiar and not-so familiar challenges. 7 El Mercurio was a propaganda machine during Allende’s dictatorship and helped facilitate his overthrow. El Mercurio was also, for majority of Pinochet’s dictatorship, the only media outlet permitted to continue publishing. "