Quotable: Ciro Bustos on exile

Ciro Bustos

“Exile means leaving your native land. What you lose are not your possessions, or external trappings. You lose what is under your feet: the land, the landscape that nourishes you. That is why the drama of exile affects everybody, no matter what your social conditions. These days, forced migration driven by poverty and hunger — caused by the developed centre to the detriment of the periphery — might seem beneficial for those who manage to reach the shores of the first world. And for their children it is true, relatively speaking. But when you see an African walking along frozen Scandinavian streets, you understand that they have really lost everything.

“When you leave your country voluntarily, driven by a sense of adventure, you carry your land with you, on the soles of your shoes, and you can retrace your steps whenever you wish. The idea of exile used to mean fleeing for political reasons, not emigrating, which was a supposedly temporary measure until you could return with the means to support your family. Political asylum was always a respected institution in Latin America because continual social upheavals made it essential: today my turn, tomorrow yours. But whether imposed by political activity or driven by hunger, the streets of exile have never been paved with gold. That idea is reserved for the beneficiaries of diplomatic accords, corrupt politicians deposed from power, emptying the public coffers, the top dogs, those who can; because in reality, the poor could never go into exile.”

— Ciro Bustos, “Chile in the Time of Allende: 1970-1973”, from Che Wants to See You: The Untold Story of Che Guevara

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