South London’s Hidden Heroes #2: Lupita

“Since I became blind," says Lupita, "community and others are absolutely vital. Being together, nothing bad can happen to us.”

Lupita is a serene, eloquent and warm person. When we asked if she’d like to be part of our Hidden Heroes series, it seemed as if she’d been ready to tell her story for years. At 70, she’s a young older person – but has packed a lot into her life, even since becoming blind.

Her home is lined with books: Spanish, French, Portuguese dictionaries, encyclopaedias, travel books covering four or five continents. And where the books end, the art begins. As she enjoys telling us in her film, Lupita’s been painting and admiring others’ painting since she was a child.

The experience of leaving her home in Chile during the coup d’état in the 1970s to seek asylum here is one shared by about two thousand other Chileans who made London their home. Lupita has encountered large obstacles and small setbacks since then. But the strength of her character has kept these things in check. She’s a person of optimism, hope and enjoyment of every day life.

Lupita left her home in Chile in the 1970s. Image: SLC
Whether it’s enjoying a fresh slice of cake, a walk around Clapham Common or listening to audiobooks, she finds beauty in it all. People are important to her. She’s been helping and teaching young people to improve their Spanish for years, and is buoyed by visits, conversation and company.

Knowing her neighbourhood and her neighbours is something she relies on: “Since I became blind,” she says, “community and others are absolutely vital. Being together, nothing bad can happen to us.”

One of South London Cares’ lovely volunteers, Charlotte, spends an evening with Lupita every week, partly speaking Spanish and enjoying whatever topic of conversation comes up. It’s a truly mutual friendship.

We hope you enjoy getting to know Lupita through her film. Please share her story and come back to Below the River next week to meet the brilliant Margaret, who, at 96, has a memories of an ever-changing world to share with you.

Words: Tess Young, programme Coordinator of South London Cares, a community network of young professionals and older neighbours hanging out and helping one another in a rapidly changing world. Find out more about them here.

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