SLAYER bassist/vocalist Tom Araya, who was born in Viña del Mar, Chile, returned to his birthplace this past Friday (June 3) to receive the key to the city from Mayor Virginia Reginato. This was Chile’s first official recognition of the musician, who left the country when he was five years old and moved to the U.S. with his family.
Video footage of the presentation can be viewed below.
When asked about the honor during a press conference on June 2 in Santiago, Araya said. “I think it’s awesome. I’m kind of speechless; I don’t what to say. They’re probably gonna change the locks when they give me the key. [Laughs] It’s an honor. I think it’s great. I don’t have a reply. I’m more speechless than anything. It’s not something I expected. That’s never happened before. You see other people receive rewards like that, but it’s usually people of political status or someone that’s really done something for the community or done something important. I’m excited. I don’t know what to expect. . . All I can say is: thank you. That’s about it.”
Regarding his 50-year-old sister Jeanette Araya‘s plans to release a “tell-all” book about their family life and how it was affected by her brother’s role as the frontman of one of the most influential and controversial heavy metal bands of the last 25 years, Tom said, “She is writing a book about my father, who was pretty courageous to take a family of five to America and not know a word of English and try to make a better life for us. He allowed me the opportunity to create SLAYER, although he didn’t know that’s what the end result would be. But she is writing a book about my father’s story, and it will include us because we were part of that story; when we first started the band, we used to rehearse in [my parents’] garage. He was a part of that when the band together.”
Viña del Mar is located 74 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Santiago and 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of Valparaiso on the Pacific Ocean.
SLAYER played Viña del Mar for the first time on Friday.
Araya reportedly remembers very little of his birthplace which he has only visited a couple of times and for a few days. Therefore, he decided to use this opportunity to spend more time in Viña del Mar and stayed there for several days with his wife and children.
In a 2005 interview, Araya was asked about the Internet rumors that he and his family left Chile due to political unrest. “No. Actually, it was like ’66 when we came over to the States, so that was way before any of that shit started; that happened in ’71 and we were already in the Unites States by that time,” Tom said.
When asked if he has ever gone back to visit Chile, Araya said, “Yeah, yeah — we went back there around the time right after that happened, like 2 or 3 years later. We flew out to go as a family, and it wasn’t bad. It was under a kind of dictatorship, I guess, but I didn’t witness anything stupid going on. Everybody obeyed the laws, and that’s about it. They have police; they’ve got riot police just like they do here. And at shows in areas outside the U.S. sometimes the kids get crazy outside the venue, so different countries use different types of… force [laughs] to discipline people. You know, different countries do different things. I saw some of it but it’s like, ‘Okay, that’s how they do stuff here. I don’t want to get involved and be in the middle of something I know no business of. [Laughs]”