[ARCHIVO] President Bachelet: “Those who liberated our countries understood from the outset that independence for one was impossible without the other.”
On Sunday evening, President Michelle Bachelet and the President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, participated in the Bicentennial Commemoration of the Battle of Chacabuco. The ceremony, which was held in the Metropolitan Region district of Colina, represents the culmination of a commemorative campaign of the recreation of the Crossing of the Andes, considered one of the most important military operations in the history of Latin America.
During her speech, President Bachelet stated, “this battle was more than a military victory; it was the first triumph of a regional cause and a shared vision held by the fathers of our nations, and one that we wish to recover”.
The battle, which took place on February 12, 1817 at the Chacabuco Hacienda, 55 kilometers north of the city of Santiago, was decisive for Chilean Independence. It was fought by the Andean Army of the United Provinces of Río de la Plata against Spain’s Royal Army. The result was a firm victory for the pro-independence side, which was led by General José de San Martín and included contingents that emigrated from Chile to join the United Army.
The procession that participated in Sunday’s ceremony included over 670 soldiers from Chile and Argentina, 400 mules, 27 horses, 5 airplanes and tons of fodder, provisions and equipment. It traveled across five of the six crossings of the original San Martín route: Come Caballos (in La Rioja), Los Patos (in San Juan), Upsallata, Portillo de Piuquenes and Planchón (in Mendoza) to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the general’s heroic campaign. The journey through the Andes lasted 16 days and the crowning moment was the binational meeting at the statue of Christ the Redeemer.
“The line against oppression began to be drawn here, rekindling the desire for liberation throughout the continent. This is where we fought and won alongside our Argentine brothers after crossing the second highest mountain range in the world. We knew how to excel in battle, and along with freedom, we asserted a basic principle that has marked our relationship and our destiny: the principle that unity produces strength. Just as we fought together then, we commemorate this anniversary and celebrate together today,” President Bachelet stated.
President Bachelet was accompanied by the Chilean Minister of Foreign Relations, Heraldo Muñoz, and the Minister of National Defense, José Antonio Gómez. She said, “many of those who stand with us today traveled the same route as the forefathers who gave us a nation. They crossed enormous mountains and bypassed deep abysses; they suffered under the hot sun during the day and from the intense cold at night. And what they experienced for themselves has made them admire that handful of men.”
She added, “those men started out under unhappy circumstances, as the Chilean patriots were received on Argentine soil after the disastrous battle of Rancagua. It was there that our Andean brothers generously and with fraternal affection joined the patriotic cause and cried out for Freedom along with our people.”
The President noted, “those who liberated our countries, San Martín and O’Higgins, understood from the outset that independence for one was impossible without the other, and that the region’s freedom depended on joint effort”. She quoted a letter from San Martín to an officer of San Felipe: “America will either win its freedom or bow to the gallows that the tyrants prepare for it. There is no in-between. My army will be free or die trying.”
During her speech, the President stated, “at a time when the planet is facing the resurgence of ideas that propagate fragmentation, xenophobia, isolationism and trade protectionism, the sister republics of Chile and Argentina one again come together to assert unity, strength and the scope of coordinated efforts and bilateral and regional integration. We stand together to renew our vows of cooperation and friendship between our countries and with other nations.”
President Bachelet explained that she and her Argentine counterpart had signed the Chacabuco Declaration, which sets out key aspects of the bilateral relationship and highlights a shared vision of the regional context.
“Chile is willing to make similar progress in its relationship with Peru, just as the liberators of Argentina and Chile did in their great emancipatory undertaking. We are working with the administration of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to achieve this, and we are committed to making steady progress,” she noted.
“Today Chileans, Argentines and Peruvians defend the same values as those men with different accents, cultures and skin colors who fought and won in Chacabuco. We firmly believe in peace, solidarity, freedom and justice. We believe that there is a community of interests between neighbors and that prosperity depends on integration,” she said.
She continued, “today is a triple anniversary for Chile.” Pedro de Valdivia founded the city of Santiago on February 12, 1541, formally beginning the process that would eventually constitute Chile as a nation. The most decisive battle for Chile’s independence was won on February 12, 1817. Finally, its declaration of independence was signed on February 12, 1818.
“Today is a day that speaks of solidarity that reaches beyond borders, as we observed a few weeks ago when Argentina sent its firefighters to battle the wildfires alongside ours. I have personally thanked President Macri for this gesture of solidarity, which was accompanied by the support of other friendly nations,” she said.
As she brought her remarks to a close, the President emphasized, “two hundred years ago, we demonstrated that no natural wall, not even one stretching thousands of meters high, could be an impassable barrier for the desire for freedom and unity that motivates people and free nations. Today we assert that the existence of these mountains should not separate us, but rather stand as a sign of the shared destiny that the forefathers who fought and won here forged for our people in order to form the free and prosperous nations that we are charged with further enhancing today.”