Winiped, Part 4

The long trip to Chile 


The "Winnipeg" moves slowly with all its lights on, on the Gironde estuary, away from Trompeloup - Pauillac. Speed ​​up your ride when going offshore. Days later passed near the Azores, Portuguese island, heading for the Guadalupe Island, a French island in the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean, in order to replenish water, food and fuel. 


Inside the ship, in the early days of sailing, deploys a gigantic work of organization, the refugees met in a disciplined manner. It could not be otherwise, given what they meant more than 2,000 people, men, women and children, crowded into the old freighter, hastily fitted tight wooden bunks, makeshift toilets, temporary kitchens, kitchens running at peak day and night, precarious ventilation systems, warehouses converted into bedrooms, etc, etc. 


First, they divided by lot berths. Women were separated from men. Young children were with women in the stern of the ship. Each bunk had a blanket and a straw mat. Each bunk bedroom, with three in height, fit fifty people and there were only a temporary toilet. Electric Fans tried to ventilate the spaces. 


Shifts were established several food while the galley worked day and night. Overall, the meal consisted of chickpeas, beans, lentils, potatoes, sometimes tortillas. They also sold beer and some liquor in a small makeshift bar running on deck. 


The crew were all French, but obviously the majority of care services to refugees was made by them in an organized manner. The boat, as you can imagine, was full of volunteers: for peeling potatoes, cleaning toilets, taking care of 350 children, nursing assist, etc etc. 


It was not an easy task, but we all worked together to measure their strength. The trip to the "Winnipeg" and their discomfort was appreciated differently by refugees. For less than had been seen in French homes, the trip was unpleasant, given the overcrowding that were .. But, for most, those who came from the French concentration camps, the trip was a paradise. The narrow wooden bunk with a blanket were a delight for those who, just days before, sleeping in a hole in the sand, in the French concentration camps, homeless and enduring the rain and strong winds. 


Games and classes were organized to distract the 350 children who came on the ship. There was also a nursery for children. All of which was staffed by volunteers from the refugees themselves. 

Later formed choirs. The few Chileans who were in the boat dictated lectures on Chile. They argued about international news. 


Children generally enjoyed the trip for them was the great adventure. Consulted by the author, as adults, some children who came on board having confessed enjoyed it. Up and down the stairs of the ship. Hiding in the most unlikely twists of "Winnipeg". Interpenetrating of novelty which meant navigating offshore. Using typical childish pranks, etc, etc 

Were most enjoyed the trip. 


The Second World War was about to start any minute. Until a couple of newspapers published in the boat, reporting on world news and Chile. Partition between refugees a brochure on Chile Neruda had written especially for refugees. 


Men and women slept in separate bedrooms. However, most spirited couples discovered in lifeboats, covered by a tarpaulin, a great place to hold intimate encounters, moments respected by refugees. 


Births were also on the boat, on August 6, 1939, two days after the departure, Winnipeg born daughter Agnes American refugees and Piedad Bollada Eloy Alonso. Weeks after a child was born, Andrew Marti, son of Eugene and Elizabeth Castell Torelló. The deliveries were attended, smoothly, in the ship's infirmary bringing joy and happiness to the passengers of the ship. 


On August 15, 1939, eleven days after the departure of France, the "Winnipeg" arrived on the island of Guadeloupe, a French possession, which is supplied in a few hours of food, water and fuel. Then the boat continued its march to Panama. On the trip to Guadalupe Island, the ship had endured severe storms that rattle like a nutshell, scaring the refugees, most of whom sailed for the first time and I thought the old boat sank between stormy waves. 


On the way to Panama by the Caribbean Sea, the refugees heard the news of the imminent outbreak of another world war. 


The ship arrived at the port of Colon, Panama on August 20, 1939, where he stayed about five days Panamanian enduring high temperatures. The "Winnipeg" was transformed into a giant oven. The delay was because nobody had bothered to pay the rights of passage through the Panama Canal, a spectacular feat of engineering that allows the movement of the ships from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean and back, up and down, using locks, considerable elevation. 


Solved the problem, the ship continued its journey in one day and crossed the Channel by the dense tropical forest surrounding it. Despite the heat, immigrants looked surprised and ecstatic nature lush tropical vegetation. 


In all the way to Panama, refugees feared the outbreak of World War II and the French, under pressure from Germany and Spain, did return to "Winnipeg" to France. Therefore, the old ship, now sailing in the Pacific Ocean, accelerated his trip to Chile, from long off to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. 

The fear that refugees had to return to France and into the hands of Hitler was not unfounded but very real. In 1940, after the invasion of France, Nazi Germany took prisoners to thousands of Spanish Republicans who were sent to forced labor. It should be noted that about 7,000 Spanish Republicans died in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria during World War II as a result of forced labor and the gas chambers. During World War II, thousands of Spanish Republicans who fought for the French Army and the guerrillas against the Nazis, being taken prisoner were not recognized as prisoners of war by Germany and were sent to concentration camps and forced labor with the results already mentioned. 


The fear of the Spanish Republican refugees from Winnipeg was, therefore, very real, in September 1939. 

It was expected that the "Winnipeg" came to Valparaiso in the first days of September 1939. In Chile, meanwhile, was preparing the reception of refugees with great enthusiasm. It asks entrepreneurs of different productive activities that define the number of workers who were willing to hire, was part Spanish and Chilean families who would receive at home to refugees, housing records were opened in pensions and hotels, was opened a box for donations to help the refugees, along with charitable events and festivals. 


In the early hours of Wednesday August 30, 1939, the "Winnipeg" giving whistles anchored in the Chilean port of Arica, on the border with Peru, two thousand kilometers north of Santiago de Chile. Spanish Choir, formed by refugees on the ship, sang their traditional songs, happy to have reached the security offered Chilean territory. Until then, they had always thought that the "Winnipeg" could receive an order to return to France. 

In Arica, boarded the boat, Chilean doctors and nurses, who underwent a medical examination detected refugees there were no serious cases on board and that, in general, all were in good health. 

In that port, twenty Spanish refugees disembarked and were, as there were jobs for them. Most were fishermen who joined fishing activities in the North of Chile, joined to other mine workings and construction tasks Arica Railroad to the city of La Paz, capital of Bolivia. 


The same day in the evening, the "Winnipeg" continued his journey to the Chilean port of Valparaiso, and traveling through Chilean waters, which brought a high degree of tranquility, the Spanish refugees. The ship traveled 2,000 km. Valparaiso Arica separating, in a couple of days, so that, on the night of Saturday September 2, 1939, the "Winnipeg" anchored in the Bay of Valparaiso in central Chile. 


Chilean authorities, given the normal situation existing in the ship, determined to postpone the landing early on Sunday September 3. The refugees did not sleep that night. They looked ecstatic, full of wonder, the huge amphitheater lit forming the hills surrounding Valparaiso and whose countless lights mingled with the stars of heaven. That night, in the "Winnipeg" was distributed to refugees champagne to celebrate the successful conclusion of the trip. 


In the early hours of dawn "Winnipeg" entered the port and docking maneuvers performed guided by the Chilean navy. On its side the vessel had a giant portrait of Chilean President Pedro Aguirre Cerda, who had been painted while traveling by an immigrant. 


That same day the news broke of the outbreak of World War II. 


In Valparaiso, welcome refugees "Winnipeg" was tremendous. A human mass showered impressive docks, customs buildings, cranes and machinery Port. Bands played tunes and Chilean cuecas. Flags and banners fluttered everywhere. People were screaming, laughing and applauding. 


At nine o'clock starts the landing of all refugees, which is done in a very orderly, following instructions previously adopted by the Chilean authorities. 


Immediately laying the bridge and after final checks of documents, began the landing, which was in charge of special government officials of Chile and the reception on the ground by the Reception Committee. When lowering, the refugees were placed in rows in order to comply with the latest sanitary disposal: typhus vaccine, which is made by a special brigade attended inside one of the sheds. It was determined that two immigrants required hospitalization and were taken to hospital. 


As each was vaccinated, and gave their data out immediately to be placed in the various groups that had formed. Those whose clothes were scanty and poor, were attended by a committee of Spanish and Chilean ladies, which gave each refugee a box containing complete changes of linen. It also gave them full suits, shoes, jackets, etc. 


The work was carried out calmly landing, no fuss whatsoever. Doctors and nurses came to vaccinate Chilean immigrants with typhus vaccine to prevent further problems to refugees. 

He approached the boat a special train of twelve wagons, ready to take to Santiago to 1,600 refugees were to be distributed among the Chilean capital and the cities of southern Chile. 


Large crowd of locals had arrived to witness the landing port, the Municipal Band played national anthems of Chile and Spain. The reception given to refugees was warm. Valparaiso Mayor and aldermen were present for the landing. Also present was Don Rodrigo Soriano, last ambassador of the Republican Government in Chile. 


Relatives waiting at seventy Valparaiso Republican refugees whose reunion led to touching and emotional scenes. 


After lunch, boarded the special train to Santiago de Chile, on the order of 1,600 immigrants, leaving about 600 in Valparaiso. 


Another thirty refugees traveled by sea to the port of Antofagasta, in northern Chile, to work in fishing operations. The train departed at 15.00 from the port of Valparaiso. 


The distance between Valparaiso and Santiago de Chile was only 150 km, but the train ride was delayed by demonstrations of appreciation of Chileans who were in all the towns through which the railroad passed. 

The special train arrived refugees Mapocho Station of the Chilean capital around 2030 hours, they were greeted by a welcoming crowd in a very affectionate. 


Among the refugees came Leopoldo Castedo, son of Sabastian Castedo, Minister of Economy of Alfonso XIII. Later, in Chile, was a famous historian. In Spain worked with Federico García Lorca in "the Hut". He was also a friend of Rafael Alberti, through which he met with Neruda in Paris, and then embarked with his family in Winnipeg to Chile. 


In his "Counter-a Transterrado" Leopoldo Castedo describes the arrival of the train with refugees to Santiago de Chile: 


"If the reception was exciting Valparaíso, Santiago reached unimaginable limits. Mapocho Station graceful metal architecture, was full of enthusiastic men, women, old and young. These had climbed lampposts and outstanding structures of building. Screams, hugs, had no limits or break. A the Spanish exile, substantive job temporarily, because they block use in Chile, we had transmuted abject outcast heroes of a war that had followed excitingly Chile, like it was his. " 

Some lucky found work at the station full of people, then all refugees and their families were invited to a dinner at the Centers Republicans, Catalan and Basque Santiago, Finalized which were taken to the various accommodations prepared for them. 


Some were expected, in Valparaiso and Santiago, immediate jobs and accommodation of people from different cities and towns in Chile, so that all had arrived in Winnipeg from the outset was to eat and without adequate dormir.Nadie from day care through the generous hospitality offered the Chilean and Spanish community resident, rooted from earlier in the southern country. 


Spanish centers were at the beginning, a lot of support for refugees. They held meetings immigrants, in which, while they reminisced the sad last days of the Civil War and the passage by France with its concentration camps and past experiences, exchanged news, information on careers, new accommodation, medical care and other aspects.


Initially, the refugees had hoped that there is a change in the political situation in Spain that would allow them to return without problems, to the homeland, but years passed and this did not happen. Thus, refugees were increasingly integrated into the southern country that had welcomed them so warmly. Refugees from Winnipeg grew apart from each other, almost to not interact among themselves, except those who kept an old friendship. Besides which, as we have said, were spread over four thousand miles across Chile.