Allende's twisted helmet


September 11th was a special date way before the World Trade Center attack. In that day, back in 1973 General Augusto Pinochet gave a military coup in Chile. The elected president, Salvador Allende fought until his death to defend the legimiate government. It is widely accepted that this is the last picture taken of Mr. Allende alive.

The famous photo of Salvador Allende coming out of La Casa de la Moneda with a rifle in his hand, a twisted helmet and dressing with clothes like he was going to the library, is now part of Mankind's Visual Heritage. That man with a boring teacher's face, who would not survive the day the photo was taken, together with those accompanying him -except maybe the policeman at the back- has been and still is an inspiring image for two or three generations already. A simple analysis of the image shows the urgency of the moment, the improvisation. Three people looking towards the sky, perhaps due to the presence of Pinochet snipers and planes around the building. The four on the foreground are wearing civilian clothes. Moreover, they are wearing suits. It doesn't seem like they were ready to die when they woke up that morning. This image makes me think of that moment when someone is aware that everything is lost and he decides that this will be his last day, instead of trying to negotiate a way out.

Perhaps Pinochet's political stability has left the foundations of the current Chilean booming economy, but the image of Allende willing to die fighting, has left Chile a legendary heritage that balances the terrifying image of ruthless Pinochet. An image whose legacy can not be bought with a good trade balance. Some things can only be bought with a man's life.


This famous photo, winner of the prestigious World Press Photo 1973 award, was taken by Chilean Air Force NCO Leopoldo Víctor Vargas.
See the complete story at:
Also at the prestigious Mexican magazine Proceso:

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In 2008 I started to write a weekly post about people and issues related to photography, with a wide range of subjects.

Archived Blog 2008-2013

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