Jose Alonso and Gaston Arias Munoz

Jose’s Columbia University graduate school card
Jose’s Columbia University graduate school card, 1968-69.
Source: Jose Alonso

Two men, born in the same year, on the same continent, speaking the same language. Two men who left the political turmoil of their beloved homelands to migrate to Australia. Yet their experiences could not be more different.

Jose Alonso

Jose Alonso was born in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba in 1943. His parents instilled in him the importance of a broad education and humanitarian social values.

In 1959, Fidel Castro took power and Jose remembers it as a ‘heady period’ – extremes of social reform and violence. It was at this time that Jose and his parents made a momentous decision – to send him to the United States to gain a university degree and job, probably never to return.

Having secured a teaching position in Melbourne in 1968, he migrated with his wife and child. They planned to stay for three years – they stayed for life.

Gaston Arias Munoz

Gaston Arias Munoz was born in Valparaiso, Chile in 1943. As a student with left wing political views in the southern city of Punta Arenas, he participated in the 1960s campaigns to elect the socialist Salvador Allende.

After the overthrow of the Allende government in 1973, Gaston was detained for three years, principally at the remote Dawson Island detention centre off the southern coast of Chile. He suffered torture and solitary confinement.

Unable to find his place in Pinochet’s Chile, Gaston finally migrated to Melbourne in 1987 through the humanitarian program. He has found some solace and strength by working with the local Chilean and Spanish-speaking communities, and in the love of a Uruguayan refugee.

Image Gallery

Gaston on Easter Island Jose playing accordion Gaston as a young man at a Chilean independence celebration

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