There are so many things to do. I do heaps of stuff here, I love it. It is growing so lovely. I love it every day more and more. It’s an industrial city so there’s good income here. I’ve been back to my country many times but each time I feel more at home back in Australia. There is more respect here, it is cleaner. This is my place.
Date of birth 13 December 1960, in a small mining town called El Salvador in the north of Chile.
My dad’s family, they were very stringent evangelical Pentecostal, but when they met, my dad wasn’t in any church. Until the age of eight, my dad used to drink, smoke, parties at home. 1968 there was this, like a evangelism campaign, my mum made a commitment for Christ in the Baptist Church.
The parties stopped, the drinking stopped, everything stopped there. But my dad, he went back to the Pentecostal Church. So we grew up in a Christian Church, not Catholic, Christian, but split into two ways.
In my dad’s church they wouldn’t allow radio or TV, or pants or short hair. We tried to follow a little bit of that but because my mum was in another, she would let us wear pants – no make-up, always long hair – but my mum bought a TV when the TV came up.
For me, both were extremes. It was compulsory to go every single Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. It was church all the time. My mum’s was set time from 730 to 9, but my dad’s would start at 7 o’clock and they would finish when the Holy Spirit tell them to finish, so it could be very late. It was worse going with my dad! When I would say to my mum, for example, ‘I don’t want to go to church tomorrow’ she would say ‘OK, you don’t want to come with me, go with your dad.’ ‘…I’ll go with you!’
My mum used to make us, you know, long hair with plats, and we were pulled, and bullied and because my dad used to go in the streets preaching with the Church, we were embarrassed sometime.
Everybody was Catholic, everyone. I remember once, when they have this mass, and I had no idea even how to do the signal of the cross. I didn’t know, you know, the prayers they say. It was very embarrassing.
With Pinochet in power everything was a sin. No miniskirts, these guys are on drugs, these guys are using marijuana, these are ‘marijuaneros’, these are hippies.
1973 was the coup in Chile and my mum and dad were on his side. My mum start burning all the magazines that could say something about the politics. Music changed in general in Chile because many groups were, you know, sent out from Chile, their music were not allowed. My mum never knew, for example, that I liked some music from Chile that she would never allow me because she would say I was a Communist. My dad, he never said exactly which party he would be. I always guessed he was right as well.
So when Allende, which was a socialist party, came to power, my mum and dad were not happy. And very quickly, like in Cuba, you know, there was no food, no detergent. The basic things were not there. Because my mum was a hairdresser, her customer, instead of money, they would pay with sugar, with oil, with flour, so at home we never missed anything. We didn’t have to do this long queues to get a kilo of meat or chicken.
In El Salvador in particular many people disappeared but because I was just 13 years old I didn’t realise what was happening. My mum and dad, they were happy.
The first thing, knowledge that I had was as soon as the coup happened. My brother was in the navy. We went to visit him. We saw from top of the building there were some trucks coming in with men walking like this. My brother start telling us that they were being torture. He told us some of the thing they were doing to that people, terrible things, like they had a, like a small swimming pool, and they put bleach and urine in there. They would put them in there to get their skin itchy, and take them out, try to make them talk, and put them again. I was just 12 or 13. I felt bad about it. But he would say, like ‘you know, these are Communist. If we don’t do anything they will kill us.’ My mum and dad always would say ‘Oh, Pinochet saved us. If it weren’t for them we would be dead.’ I grew up with that thinking.
But when I went to study English at university, I start seeing things and listening things that I never knew. For me they were sent overseas, or they were in jail. But I never knew that the people was actually killed. And there was this riot with police outside. Some of the girls start having panic attacks in the class. I never saw anything like that in El Salvador, it was like a bubble, you know, nothing happened in there. And that particular girl, her brothers and father had been killed or disappeared. And it was the first time, you know that I heard ‘Oh, this really happened.’ And that changed my way of thinking.
I always thought a little bit different to my parents; I was never in favour of what was happening, but I wouldn’t say anything because I didn’t know any different. But when I went to university I realised that in Chile there were crimes that nobody was saying anything, that people had been kidnapped, people had been tortured and we didn’t know.