Arts, Culture & Media

Returning to Chile after September 11, 1973

When I saw the wife of this family at the bus station, she was so familiar to me and yet 35 had passed and I saw she was now in her mid-70s. I was so happy to hug her and the words poured out of both of us. When I met with her and her family, I brought her a cake and other gifts. She opened the gifts with such care. The reason I chose to bring them this cake, when they hid me I used to bake them cakes. The carrot cakes became a source of joy during some tough days of all our lives. I heard from the wife that my boyfriend from back them ended up living with them for a couple years after I left and he became a member of that family. He was part of the Chilean underground leadership and he was eventually tracked to the house. The family that hid me was arrested soon after and they spent six terrible months in captivity, the first two weeks of which they were at a secret torture prison. My boyfriend was apprehended, tortured, and is now one of Chile's disappeared. It was hard for me to learn of how much the family suffered. It felt like I had a huge amount of responsibility for their pain and fear, after they had been caring and generous to me. I asked the wife to explain to me why they took in a stranger who only brought them trouble. She said she and her husband discussed whether or not they could give me sanctuary. They felt I was a young woman in their country during a time of turmoil and they needed to do what they could to get me home safe. I was so grateful for what they did. I was in touch with the family before my visit now, and one of the daughters told me not to carry a burden or guilt about what happened to their family. The daughter says when her parents came back from prison, they reconnected through the family's love. She said we are a resilient family and we bounced back and I shouldn't carry this burden. In addition to having saved my life, this was an incredible gift. I'm still in touch with them.

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