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INSIDE STORY

Five Degrees of Exile

California Is Haven to Many Political Figures Forced to Flee Their Native Countries

July 11, 1999|ERIC PAPE | Eric Pape's most recent foreign reporting posts were with the Cambodia Daily and the Phnom Penh Post. He now lives in Venice, Calif

Fearful and facing increasing harassment under the Pinochet regime, Quiroga secured an associate researcher position at UCLA and brought his wife and three young children along for what he thought would be a brief sojourn. That was 22 years ago. "Basically we had to create a social network here where there was none for Chileans. And eventually, they began to get strength, knowledge, work, English, and we were able to survive quite well."

While he has frequently returned to Chile for brief visits and become something of a leading activist within Los Angeles' relatively small Chilean American community, Quiroga suggests that an exile's two lives can never be entirely reconciled. "The kids have grown up abroad. It is impossible to go back with them. You are basically lost. You try to rediscover your country. You lose your family if you go back, and you lose all your friends if you stay here. You can't win. It is funny because you always think that this is a transition period, that you are going to go back. Slowly you realize that the more time you remain here, the more difficult it will be to [leave]. I never in my life thought to emigrate. I always thought I would leave for a short period. This wasn't my plan in life, never."

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