Ana González, Chilean Justice Crusader, Dies at 93
Ana González, a relentless crusader for human rights in Chile, whose husband, two children, and pregnant daughter-in-law disappeared during Augusto Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship, has died at the age of 93. González never learned the fate of her family.
González died in Santiago after years of suffering from a prolonged breathing disorder. Her daughter, Patricia Recabarren confirmed her death.
Born in Tocopilla, a city 800 miles north of Santiago, in 1925, González was one of six children raised by a widowed mother. In her teens, González became involved in the Communist Party and eventually married Manuel Recabarren, an active party member. The couple’s sons and daughter-in-law were also active members of the Communist Party.
González dedicated four decades searching for her loved ones and over 3,000 other Chileans who were forcibly disappeared during the military dictatorship of Chile. In April 1976, González’s two sons and daughter-in-law, who was three months pregnant, were seized by the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) on their way home from the print shop where the men worked. The DINA left the couple’s two-year-old son wandering in the streets. Early the next day, González’s husband left home attempting to find what happened to his children. He, too, was kidnapped. None of her family members were ever seen again.
Following a 1973 coup d’etat, which caused the overthrowing of Chile’s democratically elected President Salvador Allende, Augusto Pinochet came into power.
Disappearances began almost immediately after the coup. Opponents of the military rule were taken from the streets of Chile and sent to torture centers.
Ms. González became an early member of the Association of Relatives of the Disappeared (AFDD), vowing that her grief would turn into political action.
González joined dozens of others in the mostly female group who took to the streets of Chile, during a time where fierce political repression dominated. These women showed no fear as they proudly went on hunger strikes and marched relentlessly with photographs of missing loved ones pinned to their chest.
“They never thought that a woman, a housewife who didn’t know anything, not even where the courts were located, would take up the battle cry,” she said in an interview with The New York Times in 2010.
Yet, González did take her battle all the way to the United Nations where, in 1977, she denounced the Pinochet regime and was briefly barred from re-entering Chile.
“She was on the front lines, showing tremendous courage,” said José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas’ director for Human Rights Watch. “Without her courage, more people probably would have been disappeared, and the national attention to this would have been close to zero.”
This year, in an ode to the human rights crusader, muralists painted González’s face on a one-story house in downtown Santiago.
After her death, hundreds of people spontaneously came to her home in a beautiful expression of affection reflecting “what she represented, her principles, her values and her struggle,” said Maya Fernandez, a member of Chile’s Chamber of Deputies and the granddaughter of Salvador Allende. “She kept on fighting, but with a strong love for life.”
In an emotional video UN Human Rights Chief honored González saying, “You will remain in the hearts of thousands of Chileans for your selfless struggle for the rights of all,” said Bachelet, a former Chilean president who was tortured and fled her country’s dictatorship into exile.
Despite being laid to rest, her contributions to the fight for justice in Chile will always remain in the minds of the Chilean people, and hopefully, of the rest of the world.