Del otro lado de la montaña


On the other side of the mountain


My grandmother left us eight years ago, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. The stories I’ve always heard of her excitement about my birth have always been a source of great pride for me, and I still enjoy every time someone retells them as if it were for the first time. The years we lived together, I always admired her strength, even without knowing of the hardships she had endured throughout her life. There was something about her and the story her eyes told that, without having any kind of information, sparked an absolute admiration in me. I don’t remember exactly the moment I asked about my grandfather or someone mentioned my uncle for the first time, but I do know that throughout my life, the presence of both became increasingly prominent, almost to the extent of taking physical shape, which helped me understand and learn about the fascinating characters they both were.

My aunt, Claudia Pérez del Castillo, had kept a notebook with the title of this book for years. Time slowly allowed her to release her bottled-up emotions, and one day, as a result of the inexplicable coincidences that keep happening in my family, I became the writer of the book about one of the most difficult moments of her life and that of the entire Pérez del Castillo Ferreira family. Once fully involved in the project of this book, it was no surprise for me to wake up one day to the revelation that, deep down, I still knew nothing about the origins of the story told by the eyes of my beloved grandmother. At times, researching the years we did not share on earth felt like digging in her pain, and at the same time, a strange impulse told me this was her wish, because even though she is no longer here, I feel her presence every single day. As soon as I set out to study those years in depth, I immediately realised that it was essential to have the view and testimony of the others who also suffered during those fateful months at the end of 1972.

Their recollections proved to be both a treasure and a responsibility. A treasure, because only their testimonies were able to reveal the mysteries of a unique story. A responsibility, because the book became a project that, for the first time in 45 years, sheds light on the feelings of entire families who lost a piece of their hearts in October of 1972 and, above all, the need to safeguard their feelings and to honour the memory of those who will never be able to tell their side of the story. Listening to them granted me a private tour through the corridors of their houses drowning in suffering and helplessness, and all of their stories together make up the backbone of On the Other Side of the Mountain.

Throughout these pages, I hope to recreate that journey so as to bring to light the deepest feelings that remain from a story that changed the meaning of the word survival forever, and, owing to a group of brave mothers, personified the two words strength and faith.

A few months after the tragedy, Selva Maquirriain—the mother of Felipe, who met his end in the Andes—reached out to all the relatives of the passengers who had not returned from the mountains to invite them to be part of the project in memory of all of them. During the research stage and the preparation of the book, we also contacted relatives and friends of each of the passengers who didn’t return from the crash to offer them a space to share their stories. From the very start, it was our wish for this project to belong to all of them, and we wanted them to feel free to tell their stories and remember their loved ones. If some of them are not mentioned here, it is simply because they decided not to do so, and we want to respect their wishes above all.

Today, my admiration for my grandmother, as well as for all the mothers, families, and friends who are also protagonists of this book, is justified once more. As Claudio says in La borra de café [Coffee dregs] by Mario Benedetti, owing to this experience, ‘I understood it better and retroactively loved it more.’ I understood her constant effort to stay afloat and live her life to the fullest. Looking back at our moments together, I recognise glimpses of unresolved anguish in her eyes, as well as the joy of having fought and seeing me, my brothers, and cousins grow with an unbreakable bond, upholding the values held both by my grandfather and by my uncle in his 25 years of life. Most importantly, on this emotional roller coaster that On the Other Side of the Mountain is, I understood the meaning of having a genuine thirst for life.

María del Carmen Perrier Pérez del Castillo

On the other side of the mountain

This book is devoted to the founding mothers of the Nuestros Hijos [Our Sons] library, who, in spite of the immense pain, built this great work in silence, quietly, ensuring that the memory of those who did not return from the Andes Mountains will endure. They are so worthy of our admiration!

Claudia Pérez del Castillo

On the other side of the mountain

To Bita,

who taught me how to win battles against pain.

On the other side of the mountain



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