The micro archive of our exile is a sample of the history of the exiles, a part of humanity that absorbed energy and dust from a large part of the planet. From Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, France, Bulgaria, Belgium, Sweden, Holland and Mexico, the archive collected memory. This archive is my heritage, it was shaped by the forced migration of a trans-generational utopia trapped in the cold-war. An archive that rescues the survival strategies of the Chileans fleeing the first laboratory of neoliberalism. Auratic flows, as Walter Benjamin will name the photographs that can still make us dream of something, hold the imprints and soul shaping experiences of our diaspora. These images form a testimony of a collective history that still claims to be repaired by sharing it. Some of the adults portrayed here died prematurely due to the effects of State Terrorism. This is an archive build in the whirlwind of trauma and shame in an attempt to memorialize the remaining miracles of a defeated revolution. Being unrecognized as a “real” refugees did not stop the recollection of this archive, it made it more relevant. This material is a proof constructed by us, the surviving refugees.
“I remember by the time we left Belgium for Mexico, expelled from western Europe unrecognized as “real” refugees — coming from communist Bulgaria with obedient militant adults not wanting to declare themselves refugees from the Eastern bloc — we had so much lugage. My parents by then were so tired of doing and undoing houses, so this time they took 15 suitcases! My hand luggage was a small, heavy suitcase of probably 9 kilos, when I was 9… I remember the very long corridors in the airports, my parents going ahead, also desperate with their own weight. They could not help me much. I remember my dad, sometimes stopping to take for some meters my suitcase, though he was already heavy with weight like a donkey — una mula. I felt sorry for him, I was carrying his pain, too. It was hurtful to see him torturing himself like that, carrying more than what anyone could. The adults did not want to abandon their things, their objects and treasures. Before any departure, my mother handed us a black rubbish bag to fill with the toys we wanted to take with us. There was a ceremony to say goodbye to some of them, dolls and bears, an explanation given to them. I remember when we stopped in the Atlanta airport on our way to Mexico. my father was carrying all the slides on his shoulder, in one of his pieces of “hand luggage.” It was very heavy but he wasn’t going to take the risk to check them in with the normal luggage. We were in a security control, 1980 in America, and we don’t speak English. I am small and can see everything from below; he is tall, I see him from below, with his huge bag and suddenly a big black security guard pulls him aside and starts scanning him with the machine to detect metals through the whole body. This wasn’t new — at every airport or security check in Europe, my father, dark and Arab or Indian looking was interrogated and checked, while my mother, German looking, was never checked. The guard had the whole day to do his job and wanted to show off his power, he was having fun with this exhausted man full of luggage (and looking like a Palestinian). The guard kept passing the machine, while my father, desperate, pretended nothing was happening, and that is the moment when I always became like a sponge of his fear and impotence. He was vulnerable in front of the guard, he is really scared of him and the security guard enjoys feeling his power. My father refrains himself from complaining and accepts the humiliation with terror (the terror and self control that he probably experienced in torture). So then finally the rope of the hand luggage breaks and the bag with the slides that had been hanging from his shoulder falls onto the perfect grey floor of the new airport, impeccable, like it had just been polished. I see the box of slides being smashed on the hard floor, the contained rage and humiliation of my father that silently has to start to collect the slides, his treasures, his humble trophies from the floor on his knees. Meanwhile the big guard makes jokes in English and laughs with his female colleagues. My father attaches somehow his bag again and we continue to walk the endless corridors…”
extract from Our wounds are our trophies, Marisa Cornejo, 2012-2018