October 21, 1968

Dear Papa,

It’s Joaquin, again. I know I just wrote you like a month ago, but I couldn’t resist. I miss you, Papa. It’s odd that I can so deeply yearn to know you, when we’ve never even met. You may as well be another figment of my imagination. I’ve thought about looking for you among a list of all the Oliveras’ I could find. But, as Mama pointed out, you’re one among thousands and I’d really be giving my hopes away for nothing. Everyday I continue to wonder who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Mama says I have your deep chocolate brown eyes that caught her gaze from across the room way back when. She also says my hair catches the light in the same way, transforming into a gleaming mound of burnt sienna strands, tousled every which way. They can’t really be controlled. And that’s the last thing she tells me. I have your vibrant, defiant, childlike spirit. It gets me into trouble more often than not, but Mama says it will serve me and the people of Chile well in the future. She says the country needs those willing to continue fighting for the working class. I’m willing to fight with everything I’ve got, Papa, I really am. I hope that if somehow, someday this letter makes it into your hands you will be proud to know that.

Mama’s still gone almost every night. It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to— her line of work that is. She did what she had to do to raise me and get me to the point I’m at today. I miss you, Papa. But, there’s a part of me that will never forgive you for leaving her. I know you probably had your reasons. You put Mama through things she should never have had to go through, though. I got teased all the time too. Shamed. The fatherless boy with a mother who sells herself to the scum of Santiago. At least now she gets to perform in a local nightclub, Casa de la Noche, not too far from our apartment. She’s been treated much better since getting that job. I can’t tell if she’s happy though. Her endless positivity is amazing; even when I know she’s dead tired because of the small grimaces hidden in the lines of her forehead she keeps on going.

It’s been a month since I’ve been able to enroll at the Universidad de Chile. Mama and I just don’t have the resources right now to make it happen though. She knows how much I want to go and I feel guilty everyday knowing how defeated she feels. It’s not fair that she’s had to struggle the way she has until this point and think that she has so little to show. I want to make her proud in more ways than I can convey, Papa. My closest friend since I can remember, Simon, was able to enroll. He said he’d lend me his books and notes and things like that when he didn’t need them. I pick up books wherever I can find them, too, if they’re not super expensive, that is. I’ve been working at Martina’s, a local restaurant, bussing tables and cleaning dishes. Martinashe owns the place, makes the best empanada de horno I’ve ever tasted. The recipe is secret— it’s been passed down from her great great grandmothers generation. I want to be a historian, Papa, so I can know where and how and why people like me and Mama have had to struggle for the past hundreds of years, even if it’s not always in the same capacity. I feel tied to them, to those that have struggled. I want to know how traditions can be so deeply engrained in each particle of steam wrapped by baked pastry layer after pastry layer. Someday, Papa. Someday I will enroll and have the knowledge to answer these questions.

With much love, your son,

Joaquin Oliveras Vidal

3 thoughts on “October 21, 1968

  1. Malena Acosta Ramos says:

    It’s good that you have a friend who will share his books when you cannot go to school. But it’s so sad that your mamá tries so hard to help you but cannot make enough money. I will pray for her to find a good job. My mamá also has to work very hard now that my papá is not with us. My mamá says that we know hardship so that we can prevent it from happening to others in the future – I hope that someday you can find the answers you are looking for.

  2. Carlota says:

    Hola Joaquin,

    I imagine it must be hard to be the son of a sex worker in conservative, Catholic Santiago. Do you go to church? I think it is great you want to be a historian, I hope that you are able to make it to la facultad in order to achieve your dream. It is so crazy to have all those attributes from a father that you don’t even know. Take all the positive that can come from that and be your own person! I am college-aged like you, and am learning more and more how important it is to think for myself…

  3. ssvolk says:

    Hi, Joaquin. You made me so hungry for an empanada de horno right now – I could almost taste it, coming on the olive hidden somewhere in the middle. Yum. Well, if I were your father, I’d be incredibly proud of you. Look how hard you’ve worked to get to the university! That’s amazing, and you know how hard your mom has worked to get you there. What besides history are you studying at the Uni? Are you active in any groups?

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