Oral Histories

Interview of José Quiroga

Physician to Chilean president Salvador Allende. Volunteer at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles, treating torture victims. Faculty at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
Interviews not in a series, part two
Latina and Latino History
Central Americans in Southern California
Biographical Note:
Physician to Chilean president Salvador Allende. Volunteer at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles, treating torture victims. Faculty at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
Bauer, Brad
Quiroga, José
Persons Present:
Quiroga and Bauer.
Place Conducted:
Home of Dr. José Quiroga, Woodland Hills, California
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Brad Bauer, associate archivist for collection development at the Hoover Institution Archives. Bauer first visited Quiroga in September 2006, at the suggestion of oral historian Jean Maria Arrigo, who suggested the idea of interviewing him. After agreeing to perform this interview for the UCLA Center for Oral History Research in June 2007, Bauer phoned Quiroga to discuss the planned interview with him, obtaining his curriculum vita, and during the interim performed background research on Chilean history and the treatment of torture victims, for the latter using publications produced by Quiroga and information from the Program for Torture Victims
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording as transcribed by a professional transcribing agency. The interviewee was given an opportunity to review the transcript, which he did in concert with researcher Ana Maria Cobos, and made a number of corrections or additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
6.75 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Childhood in Donihue, Chile--Parents’ careers as pharmacists, and father’s political activism within the Radical Party--Socials classes and schooling in Donihue and Rancagua--Decision to study medicine, and difficulties enrolling in university--Political activism while in University of Chile in Santiago, and comparison of student activism in Chile and United States during 1950s--Involvement with the Grupo Universitario Radical (GUR)--Description of four main power-holding groups in Chile, and evolution of political parties and class consciousness--Role of GUR as organization of Radical Party, representing student interests in the university--Role of Federación de Estudiantes de Chile (FECH), and invitation to People’s Republic of China as part of this group in 1958--Impressions of China, meeting Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, as well as stops in Soviet Union and Western Europe--Return to Chile and initial work in hospitals, in training as cardiologist--Discussion of roles of public and private health care in Chile during 1960s, and roles of hospitals as training sites for medical students--Subsequent work at San Borja Hospital in Santiago--Role of Freemasonry in his own development, and of Freemasons within Chilean society--Salvador Allende and Freemasonry--Roles of economic changes and industrialization in Chile in 1950s and 1960s, and subsequent widening of inequalities of income between classes, as well as the impact on health and education systems in Chile--Time studying abroad, in England, from 1970-1972.
Return to Chile, and joining the medical staff of Salvador Allende, 1972--Nature of the work, equipping Allende’s medical facilities, and weekly meetings with staff--Impressions of Allende--Election of Allende in 1970, and the changes that took place in Chile during Quiroga’s absence--Increasing nationalization of industries, changes in health care system, constitutional crisis of 1972--Tacnazo Insurrection--Sense of foreboding prior to coup of September 11, 1973--The day of the coup, Quiroga’s arrival at the presidential palace (La Moneda)--Allende’s appearance, meeting in the Salon Toesca--Bombardment of palace by military forces--Discussion of whether to surrender or not--Allende’s suicide--Departure from the palace through the gate at Morandé 80--Detention by military and subsequent release several hours later--Returning to San Borja Hospital by foot, during curfew.
Return home on the evening of September 11, 1973--Curfew--Reprisals, and curtailment of professional activities and status as a result of his association with Allende--Suspension from practice during period of investigation, and reassignment in public health services--Providing medical care to underground leftist leaders and guerillas--Sense of danger in Chile during this period, and desire to relocate his family outside of the country--Initial connection to UCLA through family members in California--Offer of employment, and arrival in Los Angeles in 1977--Teaching courses in area of cardiovascular epidemiology in School of Public Health, UCLA.
Beginnings of work to document and treat victims of torture in Chile and elsewhere--Fundación de Ayuda Social de las Iglesias Cristianas (FASIC) in Chile in 1975, and work of subcommittee within Amnesty International in Southern California in 1979--Origins of the Program for Torture Victims within Amnesty International project, alliance with Venice Family Clinic--Withdrawal of support from Amnesty International--Financial support from government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the United Nations--Mistrust among torture victims of programs that receive U.S. governmental support--Center for Victims of Torture in Minnesota--Medical symptoms that are most often treated in victims of torture--Population and immigrant groups in the greater Los Angeles area which contain torture victims--Absence of immigrants from Southeast Asia in Program for Torture Victims, and reasons for this--Commonalities among types of torture used around Latin America and beyond--Advocacy for immigrants and torture victims from Central and South America in Los Angeles--Work with organizations such as Clínica Romero and CARECEN--Cultural differences between various immigrant groups, and how those are taken into account in treatment of torture victims--Initial steps in treatment of torture victims, including the recording of trauma history--Roles of individual versus group therapy--International Committee on Medical Neutrality, visit to El Salvador in early 1980s--Interest in Yugoslavia in 1990s, visits to the region and conferences on treatment of torture victims in the Balkans during the 1990s--Political aspects of working with Central Americans in Southern California during the 1980s, tension between medical neutrality while determining political causes of torture and suffering--Origins of work with International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)--Description of structure of IRCT, definition of tasks, sources of funding--Torture as a method of intelligence gathering under the current administration of President George W. Bush.
Precedent-setting legal cases regarding victims of torture--the Filártiga case (Paraguay) and the Jose Siderman case (Argentina)--Quiroga’s work with the training of advocacy groups for torture victims abroad, especially in Mexico and Ecuador.
Return to Chile in 1990, to witness the inauguration of Patricio Aylwin--The plebiscite in 1988 that led to Augusto Pinochet’s defeat in 1989--The role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Chile--Discussion of justice for perpetrators of torture, and especially of Gen. Pinochet and Manuel Contreras.