Salvador Allende (1908 – 1973) was the first democratically elected Marxist socialist to become president of a state in the Americas. After running unsuccessful in three previous elections, a physician Allende won the election in 1970. In early September 1973, Allende decided to resolve the constitutional crisis with a plebiscite on 11 September. On that fateful day, the Chilean military staged a US-backed coup against Allende, ending democracy in Chile.
Prior to the capture of La Moneda Presidential Palace, with gunfire and explosions clearly audible in the background, Allende gave his famous farewell speech on live radio, speaking of himself in the past tense, of his love for Chile and of his deep faith in its future. Shortly afterwards, an official announcement was sent out that he had committed suicide. To this day, his supporters believe that he was killed by the generals staging the coup.
The anonymous photo of Allende surfaced four months after the coup. The New York Times‘ Latin American correspondent, Marvine Howe, was given the photograph by an intermediary who said the photographer must remain anonymous. The Times ran the photo of Allende wearing a metal combat helmet and carrying a Soviet-made automatic rifle given to him by Cuba’s Fidel Castro, on the front page. It may be the last photo of Allende. The photo won the World Press photo award in 1973, but it has been alleged that it was taken at a previous coup attempt, one which failed.
In February 2007, the Chilean newspaper La Nación revealed that the photographer was Luis Orlando Lagos Vásquez, aka “Chico” Lagos, at the time La Moneda’s official photographer, who had passed away in the previous month at the age of 94.