Neruda had returned to Chile in 1937 and had been isolated in the beautiful southern country, where he continued writing his poems.
However, the tragic news of the Spanish emigration, overcrowded camps in France, came to Neruda, who abandons his literary determined to do something that would assist the Spanish refugees.
Moreover, in those years was already clear the imminent outbreak of the Second World War, given the behavior of Nazi Germany threatened Europe whose power directly. From falling into Nazi hands, the fate of the Spanish refugees prisoners in French concentration camps had been sinister.
In 1939, Neruda, supported by his friends, raises the Chilean President Pedro Aguirre Cerda, the idea of bringing Chile as many Spanish refugees and their families.
No easy task which raised Neruda, as even he himself was almost helpless, with a leg cast.
However, Neruda manages to convince the President of Chile who decided to send him to France to organize the emigration to Chile of Spanish refugees. Neruda was awarded the title of Special Counsel diplomat for Immigration Paris-based Spanish.
Neruda is organized quickly and part immediately for France, semi invalid, even with the cast on his injured leg. Faced with the threat posed to the Spanish refugees had no time to waste.
Note that this effort was to host Chile Spanish refugees who had their lives in danger was doubly meritorious because in January 1939, a major earthquake struck central Chile, the most populous, causing great destruction homes and killing tens of thousands of Chileans. And in the midst of tragedy, Chile offers generous asylum to several thousand Spanish.
Neruda worked in a hurry in the selection of Spanish immigrants requesting travel to Chile. Personally reviewed the voluminous correspondence with applications, increasingly, began to reach his office at the Embassy of Chile in Paris. Neruda was working with in this, his wife, Delia del Carril.
Neruda also acts against the Republican government in exile in order to help select potential Spanish immigrants. SERE is created, Evacuation Service of Spanish refugees.
They hired a ship, the "Winnipeg", the Company France - Navigation for transfer to Chile of over 2,000 refugees, men women and children.
The ship was an old French freighter that made the journey between Marseille and the coast of Africa, usually no more than 20 people had.
Their warehouses were transformed to accommodate over 2,000 berths in six floors.
The work was carried out quickly in the French port of Trompeloup - Pauillac in the Gironde estuary, near Bordeaux.
In Paris, Picasso also collaborates in the work of Pablo Neruda, gives an interview in which he highlights the effort made Neruda to Latin American countries benefiting from Spanish immigrants and also appreciates the asylum offered by Chile.
The task of selecting immigrants made by Neruda supported by the SERE nothing was extraordinarily effective and easy.
In most cases the families of immigrants were scattered about in various concentration camps and worked in a hurry, as Spain pressed to France on the subject of Spanish refugees.
Moreover, hovered over France the growing threat of Germany.
Under these conditions, with the aid Neruda SERE undertook the enormous task of reunifying families and ship them in the old boat, the "Winnipeg" to Chile.
This miracle is achieved for most families just hours before boarding. The refugees arrived at the port on trains from different camps and villages in France.
Neruda describes in his book "To Be Born I Born" the highlight of the shipment:
"Trains continually came to the pier. Women recognized their husbands through the windows of the cars. They had been separated since the end of civil war. And there he saw for the first time in front of the boat that was waiting. I witnessed never hugs, tears, kisses, handshakes, laughter, of drama as delusional. "
Were made in the spring for the immigration paperwork, identification, documentation, etc., involving employees of Neruda, diplomats, secretaries, friends.
The organization in the selection of refugees was very effective and very fast given the circumstances refugees living in France. The S.E.R.E. - Service Evacuation of Spanish Refugees - an organization created by the Spanish Republican government finally recognized by the French authorities sent to the Chilean Embassy in Paris, the chips of potential immigrants. From these records, the Embassy of Chile selected applicants who considered most suitable, and the SERE came to convene the families of those approved in collaboration with the French authorities to gather at the port of Trompeloup-Pauillac, which was already the old ship "Winnipeg" preparing your trip to the Far Chile.
In the port of shipment is carried out a medical examination and vaccinate refugees. They were given documentation and conducted a personal examination refugees by the Neruda led by Chilean officials.
The boarding process began in the early hours of Friday August 4, 1939. He ended the evening. The Consul General of Chile in France, General Marín attended the departure of the "Winnipeg" accompanied by Neruda and other officials of the Embassy of Chile in Paris. Also present at the time of departure, representatives of SERE, the last Spanish Republican government, and French authorities chaired by the prefect of the Gironde.
On land was Pablo Neruda. Dressed all in white stood in the dark of night. Refugees were waving goodbye to his hat, the same color, in the spring of the village of Pauillac, near Bordeaux, on the estuary of the Gironde.
The "Winnipeg" set sail with his fare and walked away slowly, between the songs of some refugees. The boat was leaving with whistles. Most remained silent, with great emotion. Many wept.
That night Pablo Neruda wrote these lines, reminiscent in his memoirs:
"That critique delete all my poetry, if you like."
"But this poem, now remember, you can not delete one."