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Podcast Transcript:

            Hello and welcome to the “Chile and the Cold War” podcast series. My name is Emma Woolley. I am a third-year history major at SUNY Potsdam and I will be your host today as I discuss The March of the Empty Pots and Pans. Follow along as I talk about the events leading up to the March, who participated in the March, and the impact that the March had on Chile

            During the early evening of December 1st, 1971 roughly five-thousand marchers gathered in Plaza Italia to begin marching towards the center of Santiago, Chile and La Moneda, the Chilean presidential palace.[1] When we think of the overthrow of Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist President of Chile, we often think of the dramatic and violent military coup that ended with Allende’s suicide. This March, however, was a key turning point in the political conflicts leading up to the coup. The march, led by Chilean women, is known today as the March of the Empty Pots and Pans.[2]

            Socialist President Salvador Allende came to power in a polarized nation.[3] At the time of his presidency there was a significant shift in political culture in South America that made women for the first time political actors in their own right.[4] The March of the Empty Pots and Pans led to the formation of El Poder Femenino, the Feminine Power, which was formed and in control less than 3 months after the March.[5] This group, led by female representatives across all of the political parties of the opposition, was the primary right-wing women’s organization at the time.[6] As the wives of the opposition, they hoped that their actions would serve as a catalyst to invoke anger in their male counterparts.[7] Through this, they were able to pressure the military to carry out the coup against the democratically elected President.[8]

            One reason for the March of the Empty Pots and Pans was that the Right felt Allende’s government was concentrated on organizing male workers and paid inadequate attention to the women.[9] The women in the March argued that the Left criticized family values which the Right saw as very important to their platform.[10] The March acted as a pivotal moment in which beliefs about the states responsibility for familial welfare were transformed into a powerful critique against Allende and his government.[11] During his first year as President, Allende proposed a new Ministry of the Family built around a number of core beliefs about the relationship between family and the state.[12] In his proposal he wrote the following:

The State recognizes the family as the basic and fundamental cell of the society, the primary formatting agent in the personality of men, and the organic unity charged with transmission of experiences and values; [the State] recognizes that the family contributes to the formation and education of children and performs ethical, disciplinary, protection, guardianship and material assistantship functions, and [the State] also recognizes that [the family's] stability is indispensable for the good equilibrium of the society and the Nation.[13]

Something that both Allende and his opposition agreed on was that women were the legitimate representatives of the family and that promoting familial welfare was a basic duty of the state.[14] Allende’s approach to doing this however, through the expropriation of Chilean owned businesses and large agricultural estates, put him and his government in direct confrontation with the Chilean upper class.[15] In order to achieve his goals Allende opted to bypass the legislature with executive orders.[16] This only acted to increase tensions between him and his opposition and made the opposition feel as though the government was threatening the life of the nation by making it impossible for women to fulfill their duties as wives and mothers.[17] They saw this as a direct threat to the well-being of their family.[18] Strikes during Allende’s presidency led to food shortages which forced women or, in the case of wealthy women their maids, to stand in long lines waiting.[19]

            Not only were they protesting the food shortages and Allende’s government, they were also protesting the recent visit of Cuban president Fidel Castro the month prior.[20] The March was initially seen as a spontaneous reaction in order to show discontent with the government, but it left a lasting impact on Chile.[21] The fact that it was organized by women was critical to the success of the anti-Allende movement and the legitimacy of the Pinochet regime that followed.[22] This March was the first act of large-scale female opposition against Allende and it demonstrated the possibilities for an opposition women's movement that was effective.[23] The March convinced women that they should be a force in politics. Placing them at the forefront of the March increased its impact.[24] In the months and years following the March of the Empty Pots and Pans anti-Allende women frequently banged pots at night to indicate that they had no food.[25] In order to blame the government in the months leading up to the 1973 coup, many of these same woman who participated in the March engaged in other acts of protest such as throwing white feathers and wheat at the military in order to shame them into overthrowing Allende.[26] They did this because they believed that not protecting the mothers of the family was the greatest disservice the soldiers could do to the country.[27]

            Not all of the women in Chile were engaged in the strike, but in fact it was mostly the wealthy women.[28] This is interesting to consider as the simple fact that they were wealthy made them less-likely to actually be starving. It was not so much that there was a lack of food during this time but that there was a lack of options which the wealthy preferred.[29] In fact, mismanagement and hoarding of goods were two contributing factors to the scarcity and rationing that occurred under Allende.[30] These mismanaged and hoarded goods could then be found on the black market where they were purchased by—you guessed it—the wealthier classes.[31]   

            During the March there were some skirmishes between anti-Allende and pro-Allende groups. The police also became involved towards the end of the march with a total of 99 people being injured.[32] After the March the Christian Democratic Party and the National Party launched a joint congressional investigation into the violent outcome of the March and the government's actions in response.[33] The opposition argued that the government condoned violence against women and children and portrayed the violence that occurred as being specifically directed at Chilean women.[34] In this scenario, women were portrayed as innocent victims of a government that abandoned its duty to protect them and their families.[35] This signaled the beginning of an organized conservative women's movement against the government and helped to create a foundation for the first center-right coalition between the Christian Democrat party and the National Party.[36]

            To this day there's a divide between the many political parties in Chile.[37] Many of the women who participated in the March of the Empty Pots and Pans later denied the violence of the Pinochet regime believing that he saved them from the food shortages, violence, and chaos of the Allende years.[38] Even when they are presented with the evidence of Pinochet’s violence they dismiss it as false.[39] In 1998, as pro-Pinochet demonstrations occurred around Chile, these women were once again at the forefront of the demonstrations.[40] This all goes to show the massive impact that the five-thousand women had that day in Santiago when they marched with their empty pots and pans.

            This has been Emma Woolley with the “Chile and the Cold War” podcast series. Thanks for listening!



[1] Gwynn Thomas, "The Legacies of Patrimonial Patriarchalism," The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 636, no. 1 (2011): 78, doi:10.1177/0002716211398435.

[2] Thomas,  83.

[3] Thomas, 69.

[4] Jane S. Jaquette, "Right‐Wing Women in Chile: Feminine Power and the Struggle against Allende, 1964–1973. By Margaret  Power. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.Contentious Lives: Two Argentine Women, Two Protests, and the Quest for Recognition. By Javier  Auyero. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 31, no. 2 (January 1, 2006): 553-555, doi:10.1086/491793.

[5] Maria De Los Angeles Crummett, "El Poder Femenino: The Mobilization of Women Against Socialism in Chile," Latin American Perspectives 4, no. 4 (Autumn 1977): 103,

[6] Crummett, 104-105.

[7] Crummett, 105.

[8] Jaquette, 553-555.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Thomas, 70.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid, 76.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid, 86.

[15]Thomas, 77.

[16] Ibid, 77.

[17] Ibid, 79.

[18] Ibid, 79.

[19] Jaquette, 553-555.

[20] Ibid, 70.

[21] Crummett, 104.

[22] Thomas, 78.

[23] Crummett, 104.

[24] Thomas, 78.

[25] Margaret Power, "Women on the Right," NACLA Report on the Americas 32, no. 6 (May/June 1999): 24,

[26] Power, 24.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Machuca, dir. Andres Wood, perf. Matías Quer, Ariel Mateluna, Manuela Martelli (Chile: Menemsha Entertainment, 2004), DVD.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Steve J. Stern, Remembering Pinochet's Chile: On the Eve on London 1998(Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006), 22-23.

[31] Stern, 23.

[32] Thomas, 70.

[33] Ibid, 80-81.

[34] Ibid, 81.

[35] Ibid, 80.

[36] Ibid, 83.

[37] Jaquette, 553-555.

[38] Jaquette, 553-555.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

Works Cited

Chogo El Bandeno. "Cuando El Negro Roba.” Free Music Archive. April 8, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2018.

De Los Angeles Crummett, Maria. "El Poder Femenino: The Mobilization of Women Against Socialism in Chile." Latin American Perspectives4, no. 4 (Autumn 1977): 103-13.

Jaquette, Jane S. "Right‐Wing Women in Chile: Feminine Power and the Struggle against Allende, 1964–1973. By Margaret  Power. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.Contentious Lives: Two Argentine Women, Two Protests, and the Quest for Recognition. By Javier  Auyero. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society31, no. 2 (January 1, 2006): 553-56. doi:10.1086/491793.

Machuca. Directed by Andres Wood. Performed by Matías Quer, Ariel Mateluna, Manuela Martelli. Chile: Menemsha Entertainment, 2004. DVD.

Power, Margaret. "Women on the Right." NACLA Report on the Americas32, no. 6 (May/June 1999): 24.

Stern, Steve J. Remembering Pinochet's Chile: On the Eve on London 1998. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006.

Thomas, Gwynn. "The Legacies of Patrimonial Patriarchalism." The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science636, no. 1 (2011): 69-87. doi:10.1177/0002716211398435.

Further Reading

Brown, Kendall. "Chilean Military Overthrows Allende." Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2013.