Eugenio Mimica Barassi, a great man and a great writer and academician, the pride of Chile and Croatia, has passed away. A recipient of numerous prizes and recognitions, he served as president of the Magallanes chapter of the Chilean Writers’ Society and was a full member of the Chilean Language Academy.
Eugenio Mimica Barassi, a great man, a great writer, and an academician, the pride of Chile and Croatia, and a strong bridge between these countries, passed away in Santiago de Chile on 27 March 2021. He was born in Punta Arenas on 4 November 1949. His father was from the village of Mimice near the southern Croatian city of Split. His mother was an ethnic Italian. Mimica Barassi received numerous prizes and recognitions during his life. He served as president of the Magallanes chapter of the Chilean Writers’ Society and was a full member of the Chilean Language Academy.
His works include: Comarca fueguina, Una dama para Juan, Los cuatros dueños, ¿Quién es quién en las letras chilenas?, Travesía sobre la cordillera Darwin, El paseo de jueves, Asedio, Cinco tardes anteriores a una novela, Pasaje gratis, Un adiós al descontento, Enclave para dislocados, Agenda de Efemérides Magallánicas, and Tierra del Fuego, en días de viento ausente. He also penned Magallanes: Poesias congeladas, a collection of poetry, notes Željka Lovrenčić, a writer, translator, researcher of the Croatian diaspora, and a corresponding member of the Academia Hispanoamericana de Buenas Letras.
She met Mimica Barassi in Punta Arenas, where he lived at the time, in 1995. She met him again in Croatia in 2019 when he, Vesna Mimica and Guillermo Mimica promoted the Croatian edition of their book Tres de la tribu. She moderated the first promotional event at the National and University Library in Zagreb. As many times before, Lovrenčić acted in her role as a bridge between the descendants of Croatians that had moved to Chile in search of a higher standard of living and found their new home there, and their ancestral homeland.
“I think that these three writers, regardless of the fact that they do not speak Croatian,” she says, “felt quite at home in Croatia, having never lost an awareness of their ancestry.”
Mimica Barassi had previously visited Croatia, in particular the village of Mimice where his ancestors lived, but this particular tour was much more charged with emotion. While in Mimice the trio of Chilean writers of Croatian extraction had a plaque installed with an inscription reading: “In memory and in honour of our ancestors who left this place to live in distant lands. We, descendants of the courageous and proud people of Mimice, born in the distant Tierra del Fuego, pay homage and express our gratitude to the Croatian diaspora.”
The plots of the stories penned by Eugenio Mimica Barassi are usually set in the Tierra del Fuego. “From these stories the reader learns of the harsh conditions people who had abandoned the warmth of the island of Brač, and other Croatian places, endured with the aim of securing better prospects for themselves and their children,” Lovrenčić observes. “This truly great master of the short story writes of the fates of gold diggers, peasants and others in the Tierra del Fuego and Magallanes, describing the lives of people in this harsh environment, their arduous labours, solitude, the great distances and the cruel climate,” Lovrenčić continues, adding that, “He was interested in the fate of people in the modern world.”
“Especially noteworthy,” Lovrenčić notes, “are the stories in which he leverages fantastical elements that establish tension and dynamism in narration.” One such story, Gracias, Salazar, tells of the challenges faced by people in the deep south of Chile when they fall ill or are hit by storms, being cut off from the rest of the country. Many of Barassi’s characters are from the land of his predecessors. In the short story Berislav, also from Tres de la tribu, the author tells of a Croatian that ‘did not come to the island like most others, to be a gold digger on some mountain, or a shepherd in the yellowed and barren lowlands.'”
The last communication from Eugenio Mimica Barassi received by Lovrenčić and other friends from Croatia came a few days before his death and notified its recipients that the Universidad de Magallanes would re-publish his book Un adiós al descontento.
Guillermo Mimica, who knew Eugenio most of his life, penned the obituary to this refined and quiet man in the 31 March issue of La Prensa Austral. He notes that the particular circumstances arising from the imposed pandemic measures saw only his wife, children, grandchildren and six close friends and himself attend the funeral to say their final farewell on behalf of all who knew him.
Eugenio died as he lived: modestly, pensively, calmly and quietly. May our dear friend from the icy south of Chile, warmed by the spirit of its inhabitants, enjoy his eternal rest with the sound of the winds that blow in the Tierra del Fuego he loved so dearly.