I was born in Santiago, Chile during the military dictatorship. With both of my grandfathers in detention centres and the rest of the family on the run, there was no option but to leave Chile. Thanks to Scottish ancestory and much lobbying we were able to come to the UK.
I grew up among the Chilean Refugee communities in Cambridge, Birmingham & London until the 1990 plebiscite and subsequent removal of my fathers name from the exile blacklist. It was time to go back ‘home to Chile.
In November 1990 my father & I became part of the ‘Retornado’ phenomenon alongside thousands of others from Canada, Switzerland, France, Germany & beyond, who went back to Chile with the aim of rebuilding their lives post dictatorship. Despite making many friends, I couldn’t adjust to life in Latin America and was particularly upset by the prevailing repression & lack of salt and vinegar crisps.
I arrived back in Britain shortly after the New Labour win at the elections in 1997 but my experience in Chile haunted me, especially with regards to my now fragmented sense of identity. Desperate to understand my road to my now eternal exile, I became interested in discovering my family’s role in Allende’s Chile.
Through oral history, and the only recorded testament to what happened to my family in Chile; my grandfather Santiago Bell’s sculptures, I’m hoping to piece together the murky narrative that has overshadowed my Anglo-Chilean existence.
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