Object of the month: Frei Montalva’s most famous speech

Throughout August, the full speech written and given by Eduardo Frei Montalva at the Teatro Caupolicán (”Caupolicán Theater”) in 1980, goes on display as an especial exhibition, highlightig the former president as a leader opposed to the Regime of the time.

The speech given by Eduardo Frei Montalva at the Teatro Caupolicán in August 27th, 1980, is without a doubt one of the most popular and prominent ceremonies highlighted by the press of the time and that of our own time. The typed up speech, only 20-pages long, and currently considered a highly valuable historical document, will be on exhibition in the main hall of our Museum throughout this month.

In order to appreciate the contents and the historical significance of the speech, it is essential to understand that the words said by Frei Montalva before thousands of people, that day of August, represent the focal point of his thought, which he had expressed years before.

In spite of leaving office in 1970, Montalva maintained an active leadership and a strong presence abroad. His participation in the (1) Brandt Commission , an advisory body formed by leaders from different countries around the world, stands out.

Hoy Magazine

Hoy Magazine

After the disruption of democracy in Chile, and given that freedom of speech was no longer guaranteed in the country, Montalva skillfully made use of his strong media presence in international forums, to later introduce his thought in Chile through publications and interviews. This, in turn, made him into a well-known and respected figure among those opposing the Regime. An example of these publications are two of his sixteen books written between 1975 and 1980: “El mandato de la historia y las exigencias del porvenir” and “Futura Institucionalidad para la Paz en Chile”. Both texts reaffirmed the former president’s belief that, in spite of the 1973 crisis, the “historical mandate of Chile” had to be restored, in the sense of preserving the democratic achievementes that had made our national social history stand out since 1883 (the time when the independence of Chile was consolidated).

In the context of the celebration of the first 100-year anniversary of the former president’s birth, the “El mandato de la historia y las exigencias del porvenir” book has been reissued by our Museum and will soon be available for the public.

Frei Montalva’s ideas as an opponent of the Regime made themselves felt in the ‘80s. Six days before the “Caupolicanazo”, as the press of the time called it, the former president sent a letter to the Regime’s Minister of Home Affairs, requesting, in his capacity as former President of the Republic, to be authorized to give a public discourse with a radio and a television network.

The dining room of his house in Hindenburg

The dining room of his house in Hindenburg

The authorization was granted on August 24th–three days before the ceremony–however, with the exception of Radio Cooperativa and Radio Chilena which would broadcast the event live, there would be no media network. Hours before announcing the speech, Frei Montalva arranged an international press conference, which was held in the dining room of his house in Hindenburg street (see picture); a space which remains untouched and is currently open for the public.

 Thousands of people, with different opinions and political orientations, attended what was called “Acto de los Chilenos Libres” (“Ceremony of the Free Chileans”) at the Teatro Caupolicán.

An essential point in his speech was the rejection of any system making power reside in a minority group, even more when that system sustains itself by restricting the basic principles of individual freedom and individual rights, thus breaking the consitutional and democratic normalcy. According to him, totalitarian regimes of any political orientation could only lead to catastrophe.

The former President created not only a speech to say “No” to the Plebiscite–which called citizens to support the 1980 Constitution–but also pointed the path–one in accordance to a democratic perspective–to give people back the power which would guarantee their individual freedom.

We invite you to tour our Museum–the place where this speech was written–to appreciate the contents of this discourse, which, in 20 pages, summarises the former President’s thoughts and allows us to understand, in large part, the social and political context of our recent history.

(1) Commission created by Willy Brandt, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (1969-1974) and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in 1971. Created in September 1977, the commission had the aim of giving reports to improve the efforts made by world organizations in order to solve problems related to the economic disparity between the First and the Third World.


For the speech in its full length, please visit here

Come and visit our new object of the month!

Free admission.

Location: Hindenburg Street 683, Providencia.

Admission: General Admission: $1300 pesos; students, children and senior citizens: $700 pesos.


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