Gonzalo Illesca & Rosie Buitrago
Community news, music and information.
Presented by Gonzalo Illesca (photo) Luis Hueiquipan and Luis Neira.
(Called Voice of Chile in 2007. The show celebrated its 30th birthday in 2006.)
The first years of broadcast at 3CR coincided with a wave of immigration of Chileans to Australia after the military coup conducted by Pinochet in of 1975.
3CR’s Chile Fights/Chile Lucha recently celebrated their 30th year with a special focus on their history during their Friday program on the 24th of March. Broadcasters Enrique Villalobos and Sara Villalobos invited one of the founding presenters of Chile Fights, Barry Carr (current director of Latin American Studies at Latrobe University), onto the show to interview him about the origins of Chile Fights/Chile Lucha.
Chile Fights/Chile Lucha“had its beginnings in the year of the coup itself, the first September 11,” Barry recalled, “As a result of the coup, a group of Australians formed a group in solidarity with people of Chile here in Melbourne…We were part of national chain, the Australian Committee for Solidarity with Chile. The program Chile Lucha emerged as a part of those programs in support of the Chilean People, in support of the Chilean resistance to the Pinochet dictatorship”.
The first place of broadcast was in 3CR’s then home, Cromwell Street, Fitzroy: “What I remember with a lot of affection is the collaboration of a lot of colleagues, comrades of those years, because we were a group of 3, 4 or 5 people. We did the program once a week. It was a joint effort…I remember the various Australian colleagues, because in its initial phase Chile Fights/Chile Lucha program, was produced in English, then in a mixture of English and Spanish”.
Barry was motivated to support the struggle of the Chilean people because he too was a recent immigrant and felt marginalised in Australia. Barry remembers his first experiences with the Chilean community: “they didn’t speak English well. Very few Chileans spoke English. They came in difficult circumstances. They had to leave their country involuntarily; they didn’t want to leave their country. In some cases they had lived in parts of Latin America before arriving in Australia. They came without money, without contacts: it was hard work fitting into the Australian community”.
Many Chileans had to face discriminatory policies against Spanish-speaking immigrants. I still remember the problems some Chilean friends had, who couldn’t find work in Australia similar to the work they had done in Chile. The priority for many immigrants, not only the Chileans, was to adapt to Australian life, find work, find a house, bring up the kids, learn English. Conscious Chilean militants were strongly urged to learn English, because to be able to work with the Australian community, with the trade unions, with the Australian political parties, it was necessary to be able to make yourself understood …”.
Australian trade unions played a large role in supporting the Chileans. ”Solidarity between Australia and Chile had a lot to do with the campaigns carried out by the trade union movement in Australia. Young people here aren’t going to remember well that the Australian trade union movement had a boycott policy and they boycotted trade from Chile many years. It’s a unique case..…it lasted almost 20 years. A country like Australia, far from Chile, with a small Chilean community without much trade - even in these circumstances a boycott is maintained. A delegation of Australian trade unionists visited Chile during those years to do research into the state of human rights. They investigated cases of forced disappearance of Chilean trade unionists”.
During the years of “1973 to 1978-9, a great part of the Australian people became interested in the Chilean question”. However ”new political challenges emerged in Latin America in the 1980s. The centre of attention went from Chile to the Central American countries - El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the revolutionary issue in Central America, North American intervention. The struggle of the Nicaraguan people displaced our energy to a certain extent…” Non-Chileans drifted away from Chile Lucha/Chile Fights and the program became “dedicated exclusively to the Spanish-speaking community”, Barry explained.
Enrique Villalobos recalls that, “when we (Chileans) arrived in 1975, there was a coup d’etat in Australia…..for anyone who didn’t understand English, … the 11th November happened here and we found out there had been a change of government and we never knew what had happened. We found out later”. Barry remarked that, “For the Australians who more or less knew the history of Chile it wasn’t such a surprise, we knew that it was a coup, in spite of the fact that the coup against Whitlam wasn’t a military coup, it was a ‘political’ coup”.
Because the launching of the program Chile Fights/Chile Lucha coincided with the first years of the station Barry says that, “We had two struggles: the struggle to make the program work, but also in those years 3CR Radio became the target of attacks by reactionary groups who didn’t want the radio to continue - we had to defend the radio. We should celebrate 3CR birthday”.
By Bree McKilligan
Thanks so much to Marisol Solemas who transcribed the above radio program.