I am a Chilean of Palestinian origin on my father’s side and Syrian on my mother’s side. I grew up in a home where those origins were identity signs of both an “Arabness” that we proudly defended against racist behavior, and of a “Palestinianness” that gave political meaning to and permeated our childhood. We grew up with the feeling of injustice when confronted with the dispossession and occupation of our ancestors’ territories.
That feeling, those impressions have been present in my academic and professional life. Perhaps for that reason, when I was living in exile after the coup d’état that overthrew President Allende in 1973, I returned to Chile as soon as I could so as not to reenact the story of my grandparents, who died far from the land of their birth.
Regarding my career, I have always thought of “a successful woman” as someone who works hard, with conviction and commitment to what she does. And that is not always subject to public recognition.
I am a journalist, writer, and a member of the academic staff at the University of Chile. I was distinguished with the “National Journalism Award,” the highest award granted by the Republic of Chile to those who have contributed to the country and to training the new generations. I was also distinguished with the “Amanda Labarca Merit Decoration,” awarded by the University of Chile to academics who have performed “with exceptional excellence in the field of their profession, in the field of culture, or in the service to the country.” I also received the “Elena Caffarena” award, presented by the Region of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica on International Women’s Day. Both Elena Caffarena and Amanda Labarca were women who have marked the history of Chile on account of their struggles for women’s rights and women’s suffrage.
I have founded and directed several cultural magazines, authored nearly a dozen books, some of which have received awards. I served as vice-rector of the University of Chile, where I currently hold a tenured full professorship. I was appointed by the president of the Republic as president of the National Television Council – an autonomous state body that oversees the proper functioning of Chilean television.
As I write these notes, I receive the news that the Ramallah-based Lady of the Earth Foundation has distinguished me as Woman of the Year 2022. I am told that it is for my commitment to the Palestinian cause, and that at an award ceremony to be held in that beautiful city on November 15, an olive tree bearing my name will be planted in Jerusalem.
I feel moved and honored by this acknowledgment. As I receive it, I think of my ancestors, of my children, Sergio and Alia, and of those who are resisting and fighting the occupation. Above all, I think of my colleague Shireen Abu Akleh, the Al-Jazeera journalist murdered by the Israeli army, to whom I dedicate this award, six months after her killing.