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Clare band stuck in Santiago

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*Members of Los Paddys performing in Lahinch. Photograph: Olga Tamášová

A Clare band have been accused of bringing coronavirus to Santiago as they find themselves in desperate need of a return trip home.

Traditional music group Los Paddy’s de las Pampas embarked on a month-long celebratory tour of Chile and Argentina in March, which was organised by Fernando Birth, a Chilean refugee of forty-four years, in an effort to celebrate the generosity shown by County Clare in providing refuge for Chilean asylum seekers looking to escape the dictatorship of US-backed General Augusto Pinochet, in the early 1970’s.

Now due to the delayed onset of the coronavirus in South America, Los Paddy’s find themselves confined to their small apartment, amid racial tensions and accusations of bringing the virus to the amicable city of Santiago. Currently there are ten band members and two babies trying to get out of Chile.

The tour was an incremental part of the first Irish fest in the capital city of Santiago, honouring the Irish-Chilean connection. Now that the tour has been cancelled due to the coronavirus, seven of the ten members of Los Paddy’s are desperately seeking a way home, with fear of an imminent lockdown sweeping across the city. With return flights cancelled, the remaining band members have managed to procure flights to Toronto and back home, having liaised with the Irish Embassy in Chile, who strongly advised avoiding the unsafe bottleneck of Sao Paolo. The proposed flights are set to leave Santiago on Saturday (March 21st).

Staying positive is the only endeavour of the Los Paddy’s in the lead up to their return home, remarks touring member John Hanrahan from Ennis. Despite the borders of Chile being permanently closed, there are currently no restrictions on internal transport within the city itself.

“People are only starting to take note of the virus now and we are getting a lot of attention here as white Europeans. There was one couple with us with a baby, they were thrown out of their house here in Santiago due to the fact that one of them was Spanish. The landlady was blaming them for the coronavirus, even though they had been living there for a number of weeks. We’ve decided to self-isolate here in our apartment. We can head down to the shop for bread or milk, but we don’t want to draw any more attention to ourselves as things are pretty tense. We’ve even completely stopped playing music amongst ourselves because of the suspicions of the neighbours. The majority of the band here are lifelong touring musicians. This is their only source of income and now for the next few months everything has been cancelled.”

Adding to their distress, the floor has a large, wide terrace which is shared by each apartment where occupants can smoke, take a call from a loved one or simply enjoy an amazing view of the city. The terrace featured in Los Paddy’s promotional video for their South American tour. The building owner has since locked the terrace from their apartment, for fear that the Irish band are carriers of the coronavirus. The terrace remains accessible from all other apartments on the floor.

Los Paddy’s set up a GoFundMe account to finance the expense of their renewed flights to Toronto, whereby John Hanrahan commends the benevolence shown by family, friends and fans of the group in reaching their target goal of 6,000 euro in a matter of hours.

On a final note, Mr. Hanrahan says that Los Paddy’s just want to get home to Ireland safe and sound, having been in Chile since the first week of March.

An avid reader from a young age, Cian’s love of the archives has been shared by Clare Echo readers who enjoy his Reeling in The Years section. Charles Dickens, Terry Pratchett and Michael Crichton were his favourites writers in his younger years while he was always a fan of studying the opinion columns in The Irish Independent. A past pupil of Lissycasey National School and St Flannan’s College, he is currently completing his final year studies at the University of Limerick in New Media and English. From September, he will be commencing a Masters Degree in Journalism at UL.

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