AP PHOTOS: Dictatorship-era detention center finds new life as Chilean homeless shelter

  • Updated: June 17, 2013 - 1:05 AM

SANTIAGO, Chile — Just days after Chile's bloody 1973 military coup, popular songwriter and theater director Victor Jara was dragged down to the basement of an indoor stadium that had been converted into a detention and torture center.

The new government considered Jara, a member of the Communist Party, an enemy. Many people believe he could have served as a powerful voice against the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

But Jara's life was cut short inside the scraped concrete walls of a locker room now guarded behind a heavy red door. Pinochet's agents beat his head and shot his body with 44 bullets.

Four decades later, eight former army officers have been charged with Jara's murder. And the infamous Chile Stadium, now renamed Victor Jara Stadium, has become Chile's largest homeless shelter, housing about 500 people a night during the biting Chilean winter.

"For me, it's a miracle to be here where they are now giving shelter and food to everyone and where they killed Victor Jara," said Ana Luisa Villaroel, 78, who lived through the dictatorship.

Such shelters have been improved under President Sebastian Pinera's government.

A census for the homeless says 12,225 people were living on the street last year. The number of homeless people who died on the street because of the cold fell from 150 in 2010 to 28 last year.

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