On the 10th of October of 1974 a bunch of about 30 Chileans political refugees left London on a coach for Glasgow. I was one of them. About 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: the West End, Bearsden, Drumchapel,and places such as Cumbernauld, Balloch etc. Also some families were sent to live in Dundee, Stirling, Falkirk and Aberdeen. These were cities were Chilean Solidarity Committees were formed with the purposes of helping the refugees and be an important part of the Solidarity movement with the People of Chile throughout the UK.
When I arrived in Glasgow in 1974 I lived at no. 30 Kersland St. It was a large and beautiful flat. Suzi Weissman, an American academic from Montana, offered me accommodation and I was happy here. Suzi was a very kind person who spoke Spanish and was a member of the first Chilean Solidarity group formed in Glasgow. I remember that in our flat there was a lovely grand piano. I soon moved to Drumchapel, where a number of Chileans were sent to live. I wanted to be near my Chilean friends.
After I moved to Drumchapel, Roberto Naduris, a socialists party member, a nice and gentle person, 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, who worked for Gardens and Parks for the Glasgow Corporation, originally from Chiloe, died in Glasgow and another Mapu academic refugee, 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 other members of the Chilean solidarity in Glasgow: Canadian Jacqueline Roddick. She worked tireless with the Chileans refugees as all the members of of the solidarity Group as Mike,Philip, Mae. Jackie also died and of course, I as very sad.
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 by the Pinochet's dictatorship.
One of the main problems for us was to learn a new language. Most of us had to learn English from scratch while trying our best to live and integrate in Scotland a country that was very different from Chile.
When we arrived we were happy to see that we were safe and with no worries about visas to work or study if we wanted. We were also able to enrol for social security and apply for English courses. Nevertheless, we were full of uncertainties and worries. Families have to see the welfare of their children, medical care and many other issues. In sadness, I witnessed the disintegrations of several families among the exile community. On top, we have a lot of worries about those left behind: our families, our friends, our comrades all facing a bloody dictatorship. Some Chileans came to Scotland direct from prisons. Scotland received us well and I am very grateful for that.