Jose with family during his first return to Cuba in 1988.
Source: Jose Alonso
Political turmoil and economic collapse swept across Latin America in the decades following the 1950s. In Cuba, Fidel Castro forcibly took control of the Batista government and installed a communist regime. In Chile, Salvador Allende’s socialist party, democratically elected to government in 1970, was overthrown in a violent coup in 1973.
These events were to have a profound and lasting impact upon Jose and Gaston.
Jose was the son of relatively wealthy parents, a lawyer and a teacher. While the family lost property in the new regime, they were in no danger. Jose, a gifted student, would have been sent to the Soviet Union or Czechoslovakia to study. The decision for him to leave Cuba was to enable Jose to determine the course of his own life.
Gaston found the late 1960s and early 1970s an exciting time of political change, and social and economic reform. Following the military coup, Gaston’s subsequent imprisonment and later branding as a ‘criminal’ for his political activities left him with no option but to leave.
For Jose, life had become an opportunity. When an offer came to work in Melbourne, he was ready for change and adventure with his young family. For Gaston, life in Chile had become a closed door, with no job prospects, psychological trauma and a broken marriage.
Neither can return home permanently. Jose believes his life has changed too much to fit into the new Cuba. For Gaston the pain is simply too great.