On the 10th of October of 1974 a bunch of about 40 Chileans political refugees left London on a coach for Glasgow. I was one of them. Six of them continued their journey the same day towards Edinburgh. We were the first bunch of refugees in Scotland. After that, more Chileans refugees began to arrive and went to live in different areas of Glasgow, Cumbernauld, Balloch and other cities: Dundee, Stirling, Falkirk and Aberdeen. We were here as a direct result of the bloody coup d' etat of the 11th of September of 1973 carried out by General Augusto Pinochet against the democratically elected Socialist Government of Salvador Allende
When I arrived in Glasgow in 1974 a number of us went to live in the West End of the city. I lived at no. 30 Kersland St. in a beautiful flat . Suzi, an American girl from Montana, offered me accommodation and I was happy here. Suzi was a very kind person and was one of a number of volunteers who offered accommodation to some of the refugees. I remember that in our flat there was a lovely "piano de cola". After I arrived at Suzi flat, I moved to Drumchapel, where a number of Chileans went to live in corporation houses. Roberto Naduris, a nice and gentle refugee, came to stay with Suzi and subsequently both felt in love got marry in Glasgow and moved to the US. Roberto died in that country. A big pal of Roberto was another gentle Chilean: ‘el Flaco’ Antonio Valenzuela who went to marry a French girl. They moved to France and Antonio died in that country. Tito Alvarez originally from Chiloe died in Glasgow and another Chilean returned to Chile in 2004 to become, after a few years, head of ENAP, a highly paid executive top post in the Chilean oil industry.
During our first days we met the Canadian Jacqueline Roddick who was one of many people in Glasgow who had worked tireless with the Chileans refugees . Unfortunately, Jackie also died a few years ago.
The experience of exile was sad and very hard. After the coup about one million Chileans left the country and ended up in many part of world. About 3000 of them ended up in Britain of whom about 500 came to live in Scotland during the 1970s and 1980s. You may explore our experience by looking at the "Chilean Refugees" - above on the left.
Little is known in Chile of the exiles and what is known is what the Pinochet's regime and its supporters have said about us."Refugees had had a wonderful life" - This is far from the truth and all was part of the propaganda war against us, Allende's supporters, by the Pinochet's dictatorship.
One of the main problem for any refugee was to learn a new language. In our case, we had to learn English and try to live and integrate in a society that was very different from ours. When we arrived we were full of uncertainties and worries. Families have to see the welfare of their children, medical care and many other issues. I could see the disintegrations of several families among the exile community.
On top, we have to worry about those left behind: our families, our friends, our comrades all submerged in a bloody dictatorship. Some Chileans came to Scotland direct from prisons.
Most of us, however, who came to live in Scotland were well received by the Chilean Solidarity Campaign and the people of Scotland.