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Communist Party honors Gladys Marín and her legacy

This Monday, Mar. 6 marks 18 years since the death of Chilean activist and politician Gladys Marín. On Sunday morning, the Chilean Communist Party hosted a memorial at Marín’s gravesite in the General Cemetery in Recoleta. Hundreds of party members gathered to remember the former party leader and anti-dictatorship icon.

Outside the cemetery’s main gate on La Paz Plaza, red flags waved, and an enormous sign read, “Comrade Gladys Marín: You are Present in All the Struggles of the People.” The crowd marched to Marín’s tomb, where she was laid to rest in 2005 following a battle with brain cancer.

Defining Marín’s legacy

Under a canopy tent, party leaders spoke in Marín’s honor. Among them was Karen Araya Rojas, a union-leading teacher in La Florida who is running to represent Santiago in the Constitutional Council later this year.

“Comrades,” began Rojas, “We gather today to honor our comrade Gladys Marín, but the best way to pay homage to her is to continue with her legacy.”

Two longtime party members who fled Chile after the 1973 military coup, Alejandro Jory and Anabela, who preferred to use only her first name, agreed on one word to sum up that legacy: “Consequence.”

A life of consequence

After working on Salvador Allende’s early presidential campaigns, Marín was herself elected to Congress in 1965. Forced into exile after the coup, she returned to Chile in secret, risking her life to plant the seeds of rebellion. After Augusto Pinochet stepped down as head of state in 1990, Marín came out of hiding, and in 1994 was elected Secretary-General of the party.

“We were not in agreement with the post-dictatorship government,” explained Anabela, who knew Marín personally. “Chile had adopted a constitution that still favored the dictatorship, when what we needed was to change the system.”

In 1998, Marín brought the first formal legal charges against Pinochet for the disappearance of her husband, Jorge Muñoz. She continued to resist the system that allowed Pinochet to remain in power, and was the victim of a police assault protesting his appointment as senator-for-life that same year.

Daniela, another party member present at the ceremony (who, like Anabela, used only her first name) echoed Jory and Anabela’s words: “Comrade Gladys is seen as a symbol, so to speak, of consequence within [the party], but her action, her conviction is also recognized in all the leftist parties.”

Moving forward, the party hopes to channel Marín’s propensity for action. Concluding her speech, Rojas invoked this legacy: “As our dear comrade Gladys said, we should never stop fighting, even if we lose our lives, since being a communist means giving yourself to a cause.”

As Chile endures political polarization and social unrest, with the stage set for the new constitutional process, the only certainty is that this will go down as a period of great consequence.

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