Author Tags: Civil Rights, Poetry
Born in Santiago, Chile on August 8, 1947, Alejandro Raul Mujica-Olea came to Canada as a Chilean political refugee in 1975 in the aftermath of the coup by Augusto Pinochet Ugarte that caused the deaths of approximately 30,000 Chileans, including the assassination of President Salvador Allende Gossens in 1973. “Without any reason,” he writes, “I was apprehended, tortured, put in confinement, and condemned to eight years in jail.” He was released two years later due to interventions by the government of Canada, Amnesty International, the International Red Cross, the people of Montreal, the Council of Christian Churches of Canada and the Archbishop of Santiago.
Having worked for the socialist government of Allende, Mujica-Olea was one of the first 100 political prisoners exchanged for wheat. He became a Canadian citizen in Alberta in 1980 but his troubles weren’t over. “Edmonton was a prison of snow, in relation to the culture, the language, work, food, and the terrible stress of not being respected by the new society.” As a sewage system worker in Alberta, he worked with heavy equipment such as concrete drills and jackhammers, and developed a lymphatic tumour in his stomach eight years later. His physician told him he had three months to live in June of 1983. Five more cancers were found in his body in 1984. Three more cancers were discovered in 1985.
From his readings of books recommended by Dr. Abram Hoffer and Dr. Deanne M. Roberts, Mujica-Olea became convinced that John Robbins’ book Diet for a New America was correct in stating, “beef, pork and poultry industries help to cause cancer” due to chemicals and preservatives. He stopped eating animal products, but continued eating mussels and clams (for their high iodine content), vegetables, high-fibre cereals and whole grain bread, supplemented by vitamins (as directed by Dr. Linus Pauling). “Cancer,” he wrote, “I do not hate you / because you united me with my son / and you rescued me / from the prairie culverts / full of filth and dirt, / of exploitation and discrimination. / Today, we walk together / along the path of solitude, / my cancer, my poetry and me.”
Now living in New Westminster, Mujica-Olea founded The World Poetry Reading Show on Co-op Radio, 102.7 FM in 2001, a weekly show featuring multilingual multicultural poets in the Vancouver area that provides a forum for immigrant poets to be heard in honour and respect. He and Ariadne Sawyer also founded and manage the World Poetry Reading Series at Vancouver Public Library that has hosted more than 250 poets of differing ethnic backgrounds from more than 50 countries. His bilingual collection Mil Mujueres, Ninguna Como Tú (A Thousand Women, None Like You) is dedicated to her "from the deepest fibres of my being."
Mostly self-published, Mujica-Olea has written about his experiences of torture in a Pinochet prison in two books, From the Shadow of Death in Chile (2003) and Pearls From the Soul of a Political Prisoner (2003), both published to mark the 30th anniversary of Allende's overthrow with CIA complicity. The former is a diary derived from scraps of writing filled with tiny writing that were smuggled out of prison by family members. His experiences as a cancer survivor are recalled in Your Love Killed My Cancer/Tu Amor Mato Mi Cancer (2005) a bilingual collection that includes his detailed dietary advice. The cover illustration by the author represents the hands of a woman and a man using the heart like a knife, “such as those used by the Aztecs and Inuit, and they are killing my cancer. The hands are united by many hearts, symbolizing the chain of love that maintains my life.”
CITY/TOWN: New Westmister, B.C.
DATE OF BIRTH: August 8, 1947
PLACE OF BIRTH: Santiago, Chile
ARRIVAL IN CANADA: 1975
ARRIVAL IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: 1982
ANCESTRAL BACKGROUND: Chilean Political Prisoner
EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Mental Health Worker
AWARDS: Poet of the Year 2003 by Projecto Cultural Sur. Silver Medal Gonzalo Canton
Poetry in Three Acts (Bilingual Spanish-English) 301 pages, 1999, Bravo Publishing, Chilliwack, B.C. Canada. ISBN: 0-9683444-5-3
The Beginning and the End of Many Loves (Bilingual, Spanish-English) 2002, 187 pages, World Poetry Publishing. New Westminster, B.C. Canada, ISBN: 0-9731479-0-3
Pearls from the Soul of a Political Prisoner (Bilingual, Spanish-English) 2003, 152 pages, World Poetry Publishing. New Westminster, B.C. Canada. ISBN: 0-9689144-1-1
Shadow of Death in Chile, Diary of a Political Prisoner, 2003, 338 pages (In Spanish at present) World Poetry Publishing. New Westminster, B.C. Canada. ISBN: 0-9731479-2-
Your Love Killed My Cancer/Tu Amor Mato Mi Cancer, 2005, 181 pages (In English and Spanish) World Poetry Publishing, New Westminster, B.C. Canada.. ISBN: 0-9731479-3-8
Mil Mujueres, Ninguna Como Tú (A Thousand Women, None Like You). World Poetry Publishing, 2006 ISBN 0-9731479-5-4
Mujico-Olea is the creator and director of the World Poetry Anthology 2001, 2001, 494 pages (20 countries, 40 poets in 11 languages) Published by The World Poetry Directive, Vancouver, B.C. Canada. ISBN: 0-9689144-0-3
CD: Tu y Yo, You and I, 2003, Vancouver B.C. (Bilingual poetry of Alejandro Mujica-Olea with the music of Renee Hugo Sanchez)
[ADDRESS: World Poetry Publishing, #702 - 31 Elliot Street, New Westminster, B.C. Canada, V3L 5C9. Tel: 604-524-1819]
[BCBW 2007] "Chilean"