She was working as a personal secretary for a TV personality; A giggly bubblegum-blowing teen on her first assignment at the nation’s largest television studios. Her mind was preoccupied with fashion, parties and ‘la nueva ola’. Despite the incumbent violence of the newly established political regime, her life was filled with the niceties of showbiz. One day her lifelong best friend and underground political party member asked her for a favour.
It turned out that he had this friend, ‘Jorge’ who was on the run from the secret police and she needed to look after and hide him. It was the end of October 1973 just a month or so after the coup and the country was being purged of all political opposition. Despite the risks, she agreed to carry out the rather curious favour, after all this was her childhood friend asking. The following week she finally met Jorge.
Her first impression of him was that he was rather arrogant and had impeccable manners. His calm blue eyes and impressive stature were not what she originally expected of her new daytime companion. She stood there chewing gum and shyly observing him in the rather tense room. The man, Jorge, was a serious chap. Extremely handsome with long elegant fingers, immaculate fingernails and a very confident quiet manner.
He observed the girl, about 12 years his junior in skintight jeans and platforms. She was annoying and loud and talked constant gibberish.
How awful to be in this predicament so far away from everything he loved, he pondered, And he would have to spend his days with her…He turned to the girl and asked her to stop tapping her feet as it was making him nervous. She looked at the man, ‘Jorge’ and rolled her eyes at the absurd command which she begrudgingly observed. The mutual friend intervened in the awkward standoff between the raucous teenager and serious political figure by pronouncing ‘Your new name is Claudia’ and smiled mischievously whilst ushering them out the door with precise instructions.
They made their way downtown on foot and boarded the bus which was a shock to both of them. Her, because she was from the plushest part of town and him because he was from Concepcion and not as familiar with Santiago as his more urban brother-in-arms ‘Carlos’. The bus was hot and heaving with poor people and weird smells. After an hour long ride they reached their destination; the posh suburbs, and walked to her gated community where he finally achieved a good rest and decent cup of tea.
As the weeks uneasily drifted by, despite their differences they became rather fond of each other. Her anti intellectualism and giddy youth was a welcome respite from the political militancy that had separated him from his son. She learnt lots from him too, he helped balance her frenetic energy and taught her to hold her tongue and maintain composure.
One tedious afternoon he asked if she’d read Marxist-Leninist theory, ‘what is that?!’ She screeched, first to his horror and then to his amusement. Claudia said it was one of the few times she really saw him do a proper belly laugh. After the tough job of gaining his trust she managed to get him to loosen up a few times, not be such a square. There was one frisky afternoon where she briefly sampled his masculinity and another occasion in which she managed to persuade him to come along to a party. She discovered that he was a wonderful dancer but he soon wanted to return back to the quiet, away from the giddy glitz, so far removed from the reality of his possible capture and most likely, immediate execution.
Most of the time he’d be solemn, listening to music and international news on an ancient pocket radio he kept on his person at all times, and expressed his sorrow at being separated from his little son. She listened to him lament not seeing his child grow up: not being able to hold him. She asked him to let her help, her dad could pick up his son and bring him, even just for an afternoon, but Jorge just welled up and nodded no. The risks were too great.
She felt sad for him so isolated, on the run and having to spend his days between meetings and sleeping in safe-houses. On days they had enough money they would get around the city by car but mostly they used buses as they were cheaper and less easy to follow by the secret police.
She tagged along to many meetings and even got to meet ‘Carlos’ the enigmatic first man of the outlawed political party, but mostly nobody paid attention to the young girl and she found their rambling meetings a little dull. Sometimes she would be sent on risky missions to meet a nurse for medical supplies as he suffered from a progressive colic condition.
Over those damp autumn days she became Jorge’s ally, She cared about whether he ate or had proper underwear or the cigarettes he loved to smoke. Their routine had now become like second skin. Her lack of political awareness shielded her from the reality that protecting this man could cost her the things she held dear. Namely, life as she knew it.
Her mother constantly fretted about Claudia’s whereabouts and insisted on knowing why she spent so much time with that older man and had become his chaperone but Claudia kept to her word and brushed off the questions whilst wangling extra money to keep them afloat.
As the indiscernible days agonisingly stretched out before them, Jorge became increasingly agitated. He had not settled into his routine and bad news continually filtered through the networks. In effect his dead-man-walking status haunted him which is why he and James, who was also living in phantasmagoric clandestinity, decided to change tack and go into hiding someplace else where their scent wouldn’t be detected.
James thought that they should take cover in a church downtown. Jorge wasn’t so sure, Claudia intervened, seeing holes and risk in their plans but was promptly brushed off. She pleaded with them to let her hide Jorge in some private land that belonged to her family. They said no and dismissed her ideas as absurd. Undeterred she conjectured that the centrally located high footfall church would not be safe, but her words fell on deaf ears.
The last day she saw him alive was on December 10th 1973. Three days later, the church where they took refuge was raided and Jorge and James were taken by military personnel never to be seen again. It was on that day that ‘Claudia’ discovered ‘Jorge’s’ real name. And then it was her turn to run.