Maeve: Hi Huey Acuna aka Ru Bella came to Australia from Chile in 1975 as a refugee with his family of 6. Huey has been performing as a Drag Queen for the past 15 years, and has been performing more broadly since 1988 including stage, TV and events, as well as teaching singing and dancing.
Huey: Where Did I Come From…
Has anyone ever read the book back in primary school Where Did I Come From? I found that book quite interesting as to see changes in the human body and as we grow. In high school during the 80’s my life was a bundle of questions and wandering Where Did I Come From. My recollective memories of my early years as a young boy were somewhat different to other kids around me. My family and I came out to Australia in 1975 from Chile. Now it’s Chile not Chilay or Chilayen, Chilean. I’m not laying anyone. We arrived in the long weekend of the Queen’s birthday. We were refugee. My Dad was tortured back in Chile during the Pinochet era, for political reasons. Before we left there, we were under house arrest. I still remember one awful day when a military vehicle swooned into our street. My mum told me to lay down on the ground and hopefully they wouldn’t see us. However, the neighbour’s eldest son was dragged out into the street and was bashed and beaten with fists and batons. As a four year old boy, I didn’t know what “fainted” or “passed out” meant. To me it was death. Death of my mother on the floor from seeing such a cruel act and not waking up from being shaken by me. On the day we left Chile, I remember a few of the neighbours coming to the front of our house and even my Aunty Maria. They were all crying. Crying painful tears of goodbyes. I still remember my Aunty Maria holding me close to her and sobbing with tears of sadness. “Why is everyone gathered around us crying so much? I asked inside my head. My family and I are just going on a holiday…. A long holiday away from home. We all hopped in a station wagon thanks to the United Nation, to go to the airport. Again, why was everyone crying?
So we flew and landed in Papetee and started to walk down the gangway out of the airport. All 6 of us, heading out of the plane when suddenly I was greeted by my first Black Air stewardess! Oh my God.. we’re being arrested and gonna be jailed!!! My Mum tried to calm me down and reassure me that it was ok.
We finally arrived at Sydney Airport at night. We were taken to the Villawood units next to the detention centre. For a few months, that was our home. We later moved to Homebush then to Concord West. Primary school near our house was where things started to happen, but I never knew the answers. I suppose that was when I started to really look at other boys and not girls. But there were also times when during school hours and class, for some strange reason, I’d begin to cry. The school was really worried about the reasons why I was suddenly falling into fits of crying. My Mum was asked to come into the school and have a session with the school councillor. I was questioned about my home living situations and if everything was ok at home. I was also asked about cars and dolls. Which one I’d prefer. Things were said at school but never discussed with me. So that was that.
Then high school came along. An all boys school. My eldest brother went there, so therefore I had to attend the same school. In year 7, doing different subjects, especially science was a subject that fell into the topic of that book Where Did I Come From. We studied different areas of chromosomes, genetics and the other blah, blah themes. I remember my teacher teaching us about how you can have relatives from another side of your family and have somewhat related genes and heredities and physical features. Well at the end of that year in 1982, my mum told us that she was going back to Chile to find my cousin, lets call him Joey.
Mum had returned from Chile with no news of finding Joey. Apparently, she searched high and low. Putting ads in the newspapers, radio pleas, birth registry…but nothing. Another few months went by and Mum announces again, she’s going back to Chile. Think there might be some news on cousin, Joey. So off she went again and this time she brought some rather interesting news. “I wonder what Mum’s news is? We all wandered.
So this time with a big smile on her face, she said she had found Joey! “What???” We were ecstatic and happy with immense joy to hear that Mum found Joey!! And further exciting news…. He was going to come and live with us! Well, after the immigration papers were sorted out and that could take some time. But he was coming to live with us! So, as we waited for news from immigrations, we received a passport shot of Joey and I was the last in line, to be shown. WOW!!! We look alike, to my amazement!! Well it was only last year that I learnt that 2 families, from the same family tree, can have off springs, cousins looking alike! I paid attention in Science class, thank you!!!!
Then it was a count down to Joey’s arrival into Sydney, Australia… his new home. Home with us and new family!
Late November 1983, All 6 of us, waiting with anticipation of Joey’s arrival…….”THERE HE COMES… with an air stewardess escorting him out. I ran towards him and gave him a huge, massive welcoming hug and kiss! Some of my family were also in tears of joy to see Joey again, but as a young teenager, not the snotty little cousin who bashed up Huey when they first met, down in Grandma’s house in the country!! Right, new sleeping arrangements at home now. Huey and Joey get the bunk beds out in the back room! About six months went by and Joey had settled in well. A few people were beginning to start asking question about how a strong resemblance both Joey and I had. That was a somewhat “Truman Story” era. At times Joey to get under my skin and boil my blood he’d say things like “we’re brothers’ “we’re twins”. “we were born on the same day’. Bullshit we’re twins I’d reply. Mum asked me one day, “what would I do if I found out I had a twin? And I’d reply “I’ll kill myself!! Then one un- forgetful day, which I’ll always remember. My best girl friend at the time came to our house twice, in one day.
“Listen, I’m your best friend and I think you should know something really important. And it should be told by your best friend….about you. And with a long pause she said “and Joey” I was starting to feel worried and trembling with this news I needed to hear. “you and Joey are brothers. You’re twins!! My ears and head could not comprehend what my friend just said to me. “You and Joey are twins. You were separated at 3 days old” I still couldn’t fathom what my friend was saying to me. My mind, thoughts and body went numb! “Your Mum told me everything, cause I asked her today, ‘how can 2 cousins look so much alike? But whatever you do, don’t tell your Mum that I told you, cause she made me promise not to tell you until she was ready to”
Still in shock and numbness, I asked her to go and not come back for a while. In other words, when I was ready to talk to her. Well for the entire week, I decided to wag school. Yep, the whole week! And at the end of that week, things came to a rather smashing, fireworks of an explosive confrontation at home. Mum asked why I wasn’t at school all week and why I lied about going to school. Then I turned around and shouted “So why is it ok to lie to me, about Joey and me, Huh??? How to bring a house into utter silence with only one question. Mum sat me down and told me the whole story of Joey and I. Yes, we were twins but my biological parents weren’t prepared for twins. My mum said, “one was chubby and healthy. And the other needed medical attention. So, your mum took Joey and we brought you home. In those days, family called on each other for help in those situations. “The real reason why we took you in was to love you and raise you as our family member!” was what my Mum said as she told the entire story. So after a few weeks, I had the courage to ask Joey about his life and how he was brought up. Puzzle pieces had started automatically falling into place. I asked him “what happened to Uncle Joe?” He replied ‘at 9 years old, he left us. Mum adopted me and Robbie out but kept Celia, the eldest girl. For a whole week I went to school crying. Crying during the day and night” Hold on, my memory is coming back to when I was in primary school and I was crying too. Oh my gosh, my first sign of ESP!!! Then also found out everyone around me knew, from the school, church and close friends. That’s the Truman Story I lived too. Everyone knew except me.
Do you know where you come from?