On Friday, February 2nd, a devasting wildfire ripped through our neighbourhood on Chile’s Pacific Coast. We lost everything: our house, my parents’ and mine, and my dearest friend's home. It’s devastating and unbelievable how fire can take everything from you and make your home, which took years to build, disappear in seconds.
Like most family stories in Chile, our family story starts from poverty. My parents came from nothing, from different regions and met in exile in Switzerland. Why is this relevant? Because after telling my story, it will make sense why I had to come to ask for your solidarity and resources.
In 1973, Chile had to go through a brutal dictatorship; my parents were some of the many persecuted who had to flee the country. Thanks to international solidarity, they could save their lives and start over in another country, Switzerland. My parents met there; both from different cities would have never met in Chile, but they came together. It was not only the sadness of living far away from their homes, family, and friends that united them but also their beliefs for a better, more just future and world. I was born in exile, and so was my brother. My childhood was full of love and dreams of returning to Chile and building our lives in this beautiful country when democracy came back. My memories in exile were the ones I made while living and being schooled in the Swiss culture, as well as those of working for Chile, helping the people in need in Chile and participating in international campaigns to stop the dictatorship. My parents gave everything to international solidarity, not only for Chile but also for other countries that had similar stories to ours.
In 1990, finally, the referendum happened; the people won, and we got our democracy back. Many Chileans in our community returned immediately; however, we couldn’t. My parents had dedicated their entire lives to taking care of our small family and working for international solidarity, which didn’t allow them to save enough money to return. Three years passed and the Chilean government called for the last exile to return as the help was coming to an end. So, my mom made the decision, and we moved to Chile in 1993; I was 12 years old. The government paid for a small container so we could bring everything from Switzerland, and those objects and furniture had been with us until the day of the fire. My dad, however, had to stay back because he had to work and save more money so we could have a better future and a restart in the home country.
Thirty years have passed since we started to build our lives back in Chile. We had the dream of the poor: to own your house and have the kids go to university, and both came true. We built our house from scratch, literally; we didn’t hire anybody to help us; we did everything ourselves, brick by brick, wood by wood, slowly, with patience and lots of effort. We were happy; we had our dream house. We were able not only to build the family house, but I was able to build mine and my brother his. It took at least 20 years to make our home what it had become; it was beautiful, full of love and memories, which disappeared in front of the eyes of my parents and my little dog under the uncontrollable wildfire.
This is why I had to tell my story, my family's story, and why we had to come to ask for your kind help. Again, solidarity helped us start over. We made friends throughout the years living in our neighbourhood. They have become family to us, and we want to reach out to help them, too, if possible.
The situation that we are living in is so terrible that it is for us impossible to build anything, not even a tiny house; we invested everything to build our homes, and there is nothing left now. The fire burned everything down: pipes, walls, electrical cables, trees. It was unimaginable; nothing could be saved. We have to start from zero again and we trust you will support us in this time of hardship.