21 julio 1988 – carta a Jorge

Querido Jorge,

You don’t know how sweet it is to address an envelope and be able to write ‘Chile’ in the return address! Getting back into the country was not as difficult as I expected. I did end up coming in through the Argentine border, like you suggested. It took me nearly a week to make it to Santiago, because I was trying to move mostly at night, and I have not been able to start working since being reunited with Maite and Mateo in Concepcion. I help out around the house but I don’t know if it’s safe to let the rest of the world know that I am back. I feel safer here than I would in Santiago, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to exist in public until Concertacion por el No has their say in October.

It is very strange being confined to my parents-in-laws’ home. Maite’s mother is very ill so I am glad that I can at least care for her. It makes me feel useful. But I am worried about the effect that growing up in this topsy-turvy world will have on Mateo. He’s so big now – he was only a baby when we left for Jubilee – but even so, he’s too young to really understand why I am in hiding or why he cannot tell anyone where his father is. He barely remembered me when I first arrived. I know this must be so strange for a young child like him, but he seems to take the strangeness in stride. I feel confident that he will not reveal our secret to any of his friends or teachers, but his life has been so different than the way you and I grew up.We didn’t have much sometimes, but at least we could rely one another – family, friends and community. Mateo doesn’t have any of that. He can’t have friends over. He can’t talk to his teachers about his household. Chances are he won’t have any siblings – both Maite and I want more children but things are much too uncertain to have more. He doesn’t have his favorite uncle (how’s that for a subtle hint that you should come home?)

I am hopeful for the future, but it saddens me to know how my son’s life has already been turned upside-down by the crazy state of this country. And there are many, many families who have been impacted much more than we have. This kind of life we have had is not living, and Mateo doesn’t know any different. A few days ago Maite and I were talking about the first few months of our courtship and how writing to her parents seemed so much more important than the election. Mateo asked me who Allende was. We realized that he has no idea what it’s like to have a president other than Pinochet. Even if the no vote wins the plebiscite, what’s going to become of our country 15 years from now when children like Mateo are running for office?

Well, I guess I’d better wrap up this letter. I just wanted to let you know I was safe and that the family is well. I met briefly with what’s left of our family in Santiago on my way to Concepcion. The laundry is gone and the building is vacant. Maybe one day after all of this we’ll start a new business in the same building. I don’t want to continue to just barely scrape by. If things turn out in October, we can start rebuilding a future here, and I hope you are around to be a part of it!

Con cariƱo,


1 thought on “21 julio 1988 – carta a Jorge

  1. ssvolk says:

    You said it just right: what’s going to become of our country when those who have grown up under Pinochet have come of age? I guess that means that we’re going to be responsible for their real education, because it doesn’t look like they are doing it in the schools. Now we just wait for the plebiscite and see what happens!

    [Pinochet began loosening up rules for the return of exiles in the mid-1980s. By early 1988, there were only about 1,400 names on a proscribed list (and all of those names would be dropped by September 1, 1988). So it would have been likely that Jorge could have returned openly.]

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