In barely a decade, she has gone from being a pediatrician at a humble, underfinanced clinic here to the first woman to be her country's chief of state, and one of only a handful of women elected to lead any country in the Americas.
Some of those qualities are personal, while others stem from her real and symbolic connections to Chile's recent history. She is a toughened survivor of the Pinochet dictatorship, which was responsible for her father's death, her imprisonment, torture and exile, and she embodies for many Chile's painful reconciliation with those dark years.
"Violence came into my life and wrecked it," Bachelet said Sunday night, in an impassioned victory speech to a jubilant crowd gathered on the main downtown avenue here. "I was a victim of hatred, and I have dedicated my life to reversing that hatred."
With all the Latin American countries veering to the Left, maybe it's time for a new "Domino Theory." Surely the Bush Administration employs someone who was in Valparaiso in 1972. Maybe it's time they opened another front in the War on Peace. I'm sure Pat Robertson would welcome that sort of decisive action. Once he'd done celebrating the demise of Ariel Sharon, that is.