Carlos Arredondo, Carlos, Arredondo, Chile, Scotland, music, poetry, culture, Latin America  

The Story of the Gallardo Family

Victimes of the bloody Pinochet's regime.

I have fond memories of all these people as wonderful and generous human beings
who gave me friendship and political awareness. When I left Chile in 1974, I took with me
a bunch of photographs and, among them, several in which Rolando, Catalina, and Monica
are shown with happy smiles on their faces as if to
say, we are all enjoying life

I was living in Glasgow when I learned something terrible had happened in Chile to some of my friends from The"JUventud Obrera Catolica" (JOC). A friend had sent me from Paris the pro-Pinochet newspaper El Mercurio of the 23rd of November, 1975. I began to read it eagerly and in one of its pages I found something that interested me very much. That a group of "extremists" had been killed by the Army at Maipu in the periphery of Santiago. In the group mentioned, to my astonishment, there were a number of people from our barrios and members of "Juventud Obrera Catolica" (JOC). The group mentioned included my good friend Catalina Gallardo, her father and her brother's wife, Monica Pacheco. I found it bizarre that my friends were called "extremists fighting the Armed Forces". Soon I learned the truth about their death. A Chilean refugee living in Edinburgh, who had been a prisoner at the Villa Grimaldi, told me that my friends had been taken by force to the are of Maipu but not before being tortured at the notorious Villa Grimaldi torture centre in Santiago. Our friends never had had any armed encounter with the Army Forces at Maipu. Everything had been fabricated by the regime.

1972 - JOC group - Rolando and Cathy. See arrows.

At the centre of the lie was El Mercurio -the right-wing paper. This horrendous news makes me feel sick and fills me with hate for El Mercurio, the Chilean Army and, in particular, for Pinochet. The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission known as the Rettig Commission concluded that:

"all these people listed above were executed by DINA agents in violation of their human rights".

Dr Sheila Cassidy, the English doctor who was detained and tortured* at Villa Grimaldi in 1975 for assisting an injured opponent of the Pinochet regime, speaks about this horrendous crime in her book: 'Audacity to Believe'. The Gallardo story does not finish here because previously, and in a separate incident, Catalina's brother Roberto Gallardo had also been killed by the Army.

This story continues in a rather fragmented way. I learned that in 1976 Rolando Rodriguez and Mauricio Jean Carrasco, also a friend of mine, had also been killed by Pinochet's men.

Rolando was the husband of Catalina Gallardo, killed in 1975. I remember Mauricio as a very gentle person and with lovely blue ayes and gentle parents already of a certain age. According to the Rettig Commission, Mauricio and Rolando were sitting on a bench on the sidewalk when a convoy of vehicles stopped in front of them and a man got out of a car and without saying a word opened fire on them. One was killed instantly, and the other was left wounded and died later…:

"The commission has drawn enough evidence to come to the conviction that these two men were executed by government agents in violation of their human rights" *.

There is available a statement submitted, in evidence by Dr Cassidy, to the United Nations - 20 January 1976 - in which she relates in details her experiences at the hands of Pinochet's agents: the DINA. But Chile's recent past history still continued to surprise me and tend to unfold in front of my eyes.

As the 30th anniversary of the killing of my friends approaches, I found out, through the internet that my friends Catalina and Rolando had had a son
called Alberto and that he is now 28 years old and a university student. This was unknown to me. I did not know that they had had a son. I have recently (December, 2004) been in touch with Alberto in Chile to say how happy I was to have found him.

Cathy Gallardo,"wee" Alberto, Rolando

I was able to say so many things to him: that I had been a friend of his parents, his uncle Roberto and Monica Pacheco his wife. It was a very interesting experience to talk to him and to be able to say who I was and what I knew and felt about his family. I told him that we were all members of JOC and that his family members were sensitive people preoccupied with many social issues affecting young people, Chilean society and the world.

I told Alberto that I had photographs of his family, including his parents, which he had most probably never seen. I told him that I have the book "Audacity to Believe" by Sheila Cassidy in which his family's story appears. I told him that I had written a song about the circumstances of his parents' death and that El Mercurio was a newspaper supporting the Pinochet Regime. I told him that I have an Edinburgh Evening News article which appeared in November of 1998. The newspaper's article tells the story of his family and it was accompanied by photographs showing his parents and many of their friends from JOC. The article in the Evening News came at the time when General Pinochet was being detained in London. The Edinburgh paper asked me to be interviewed to say something about the event. I also told Alberto that the tragic death of his parents and of other friends had served me as a driving force to become, in Scotland, a committed song-writer and performer in the vein of Violeta Parra and Victor Jara. I told Alberto that I was going to send to him all the material mentioned above. (I did so at Christmas, 2004 and he was very pleased!)

Alberto was delighted to know about me and as a friend of his parents. He said that my call came just at a time when he was very much in search of his parent's cultural roots and that he was pursuing his solitary personal quest to respond to the everyday challenge of confronting his life as a victim, like his parents, of the Pinochet regime.

1972 - my birthday and Rolando and Cathy signature

I learned the story of his family, the Gallardo's, from him: His parents, he said, had been in the resistance against the regime as part of a splinter group from the MIR (Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria).

On the early hours of the 18th of November 1975 Alberto, only 6 months old, and all the members of his mother's family (Gallardo's side): his grandparents (Ofelia and Alberto Recaredo), his aunt Isabel, his uncle Guillermo, his uncle's small daughter Viviana and Mónica Pacheco Sánchez, wife of his uncle Alberto Gallardo, were taken by Pinochet agents to a detention centre in a street called General Mackenna located in the centre of Santiago. (This was very near from where I used to live).

Monica Pacheco Sanchez wearing a skirt

After a terrible humiliating ordeal at this Police headquarter detention centre, the Gallardo family were split up for ever: 'wee' Alberto, his grandmother Ofelia, his aunt Isabel, his uncle Guillermo and his daughter Viviana were all released at five O'clock of the morning of the 19th of November. Alberto's grandfather, Alberto Recaredo Gallardo Pacheco, his mother Catalina and Mónica Pacheco Sánchez were taken from General Mackenna Street to the notorious Villa Grimaldi detention centre where they were tortured, killed and taken to the area of Maipu. The Armed Forces put on a show here on television about an armed confrontation between them and Alberto's family.

Maipu is in the outskirts of Santiago and it is famous for historical reason and because here there is a huge catholic temple. "At General Mckenna detention centre", Alberto said – " I was in my mother's harms and just before she was taken away, she gave me to my grandmother Ofelia. I never understood why my grand-dad was killed as he did not take any part in the resistance as my parents had. In his case, he had been a communist exiled to Argentina in the 1940s by Gonzalez Videla (Regarded in Chile as a President-traitor) We can assume that he was killed because he was a communist. At the Villa Grimaldi, my mother and my grandfather were tortured and killed". Señora Ofelia, a devout catholic person, is well-liked and a respected 'abuela' in the working class area of Renca in Santiago. She works hard on behalf of the poor people

I have had the opportunity to hear her experiences on three hours recording session made for me in January 2006 by the musicologist, Jan Fairley who met señora Ofelia in her home in Renca. When we hear Señora Ofelia telling her story in such an articulate way, we do not fail to notice that this incredible woman, who raised Alberto Gallardo, displays not a hint of hatred in her voice. With dignity, we hear her experiences and her sorrow at the horror what she and her family had to go trough. We heard from señora Ofelia that during her detention she was forced to listen to a recording of her son Roberto Gallardo, killed by the Armed Forces on the 17th of November of 1975 : "While Roberto was being tortured he asked his torturers, whom he called cowards, to kill him".

Below testimony in Spanish

The recordings that you are about to hear, in Spanish, were made in Santiago of Chile in January 2006 by the English ethno-musicologist Dr Jan Fairley and it is about the testimony of Alberto Rodriiguez Gallardo , the son of Catalina Gallardo Moreno and Rolando Rodriguez Cordero and "Señora" Ofelia Moreno de Gallardo, grand mother of Alberto who had to cope with the killing of five members of her family.


Sra Ofelia first part


Señora Ofelia lost her husband Roberto Recaredo Gallardo, her married daughter Catalina Gallardo, her married son Alberto Gallardo, her daughter in law Monica Pacheco Sanchez, and her son-in-law Rolando Rodriguez Cordero.

The Rodriguez family, who I knew so well as devoted Catholics, thought it proper that 'abuela' Ofelia could take care of 'wee' Alberto. This generous gesture was very important for Alberto's grand mother: In her words:

"The prospective to raise my grandson brought my life back, something worth to live for as I am able to see in Alberto: the faces and the attitudes of those who are not longer alive in my family"

When I learned about the fate of my friends in the Mercurio newspaper, Glasgow become a distant place in the mist of my sorrow for the cold and unnecessary killing of these beautiful young people, who had taken the difficult decision to remain in Chile to fight against the fascist* Pinochet dictatorship.

In the Chile of today (2009) these people are the forgotten ones and they should not be! They were honest freedom fighters tormented by the ferocity of the dictatorship which had decided to turn its weapons against the Working Class People supporters of the Allende's socialist government.

Alberto said that after the killing of his mother, his father, Rolando Rodriguez decided to stay in Chile and although Rolando was offered the opportunity to leave the country by a friendly priest he refused: "You should think of Alberto" he was told by the priest on more than one occasion, but Rolando always responded - "I have to think of all the Albertos of Chile".

For what Alberto understood there was a pact between his parents: If one of them was killed, the other had to continue with the struggle against the dictatorship. "My father was faithful to this pact" said Alberto.

Who can blame these people for using firearms against the Chilean Armed Forces or who can condemn their angry words of disapproval against the regime? Today, as I write their story and knowing some of the circumstances of Alberto's existence, I ask myself the vile question:

Was it at all necessary for my friends, and many others young people, to give their precious life, in atrocious circumstances, for something that they thought that it was right?

In this case to support, at the ballot box, an elected socialist government and
then to fight the brutal Pinochet's dictatorship which came to replace it with the lost of our freedom and our democracy. In this solitary quest they gave away their irreplaceable lives. I can feel in my mind their reverberating YES!! as an answer to my evil question: In this imaginary answer I can see my own failure as a person and in my friends' courageousness I am able to perceive the best that one can find in people: the act of being extremely generous with our fellow human beings. This is a rare quality these days in a country. Rare because Pinochet initiated an era of profound cultural and political changes based on strict individualism and aggressiveness and fascism of some sort. According to the Logman dictionary: fascism is a right-wing political system in which people's lives are completely controlled by the state and no political opposition is allowed: In the Chilean case, Pinochet was God. Chileans lives were in his hands.

The death of my friends makes me to reflect that perhaps I was never brave or generous enough to give my own life for an ideal, in this case: to fight for the restoration of freedom and democracy in my country. During the dictatorship there were in Chile million of people fighting, in different ways and always in uneven circumstances*, the dictatorship.

I am not convinced that the only cause that led my friends to their death at the hand of the Pinochet's regime was their left-wing ideology. In my view, it was their unconditional generosity and love for their country and it people.

When Rolando Rodriguez Cordero was offered to leave Chile for his own safety he said to the priest: "I must think of all the Albertos of Chile", then it makes me think that I am in front of an altruist, a generous man prepared to give his own life to fight a fascist dictatorship tormenting, as he Rolando had said, "all the Albertos of Chile". From Alberto and his family point of view, however, the self-sacrifice taken by his parents' may well represent conflicting emotional thoughts. I can only picture in my mind the idea of Alberto saying: "Mum and dad you were engaged in a war against Pinochet but, what about me! - I was a six month old baby? What about the rest of our family?

On this account, I am more than sympathetic towards Alberto, his family, and all the Albertos of Chile. Why?

Many people in our country will say today (2009) that "democracy" and "freedom" in our country owns nothing to people like my friends: I totally disagree with this view. Are they, the so called "democrat", "the moderates" telling us that the behavior of a group of people fighting, with weapons in their hands, a horrifying dictatorship was out of character?, are their telling us that their actions were regarded as intolerable? or are they suggesting that their armed activities were a sort of unwelcome nuisance?

This is painful! stuff for the victims and their families. We know that Chile, under the fascist Pinochet regime, was full of heroes and cowards and if I am to believe the Chilean judge Juan Guzman taking about the role of Chilean Supreme Court during the Pinochet's years:

"The Chilean Supreme Court during the Pinochet's regime rejected 10.000 Habeas Corpus appeals".

If I interpret properly Judge Guzman, it means that The Supreme Court was not interested in saving peoples lives. It also means that Pinochet was above the law! and that the Judges were not doing their job: to offer justice when it was more needed. Those administrating the laws in our country become, under the dictatorship, an active element of what we call state terrorism. That is, the action of the Chilean Armed Forces bringing unnecessary terror, and for seventeen years, to the civilian population with the complicity of state institutions such as the Chilean Supreme Court.

It gave not pleasure to have mentioned all the above and to mention now the case of Alberto's aunt: Carmen Rodriguez one of his father sisters, detained for nine months in a concentration camp called Los Cuatro Alamos. Carmen, a good friend of mine from my childhood, never was a terrorist: She was just a woman enraged with the Pinochet's regimen for the unnecessary killing of some members of her family. She was lucky to come alive from this notorious place, as many people taken there were never seen again

At the end of the year 2004, and when I learned about the existence of Alberto, Chile was in shock after learning, through news paper reports, that General Pinochet had managed to hide millions of dollars in the Riggs Bank in the United States all under the complicity and protection of the Riggs's executives. The news caused uproar in Chile among Pinochet's right wing supporters who had for some reason not grudged against his criminal activities against Human Rights.

Pinochet's supporters were happy to see him killing their opponent but unhappy to see him to conceal his fortune in the United States resulting, as a reward, from his enormous power as a dictator. In 1975, Pinochet said on a Chilean Television clip that he was not going to be in government to swindle the Chilean State. On the TV clip we could see Pinochet waving, in one of his hand, an envelope saying that Chileans should rest assured that when he retire from power, it happened 15 years later, he probably was going to be a poorer man. Pinochet failed to his word and was, of course, not ashamed of it! Many entrepreneurs supporting Pinochet helped themselves to the opportunity to loot the Chileans state of its assets belonging to all the Chilean
people. These days, end of October 2006, some entrepreneurs are immensely wealthy Pinochet is under house arrest and charged, by Judge Alejandro Solis, with kidnap, homicide and torture.

Margaret Thatcher and the Scotsman Norman Lamont, her former Chancellor of the Exchequer (l990-l993), embraced with great enthusiasm the cause of General Pinochet in this country when he was arrested in London in 1998. I was never sure what they were defending: the General's integrity? his democratic credentials? his human right records? or the terrorism he took to the streets of Santiago, Buenos Aires, Rome and Washington?.

Were they defending the dictator because he helped Britain to defeat the dictatorship of General Galtieri in Argentina in their 1982 war for the control of the Falklands islands (las islas Malvinas)? or to thank him


  Carlos Arredondo, Carlos, Arredondo, Chile, Scotland, music, poetry, culture, Latin America