Update 1: Trouble and Victor Jara

It’s been a few weeks since I started researching, and I am behind schedule (posting blogs) after a rocky start. I have been juggling this project with medical school applications and family matters. My original plan for this project was to conduct part of my research in Chile. Unfortunately, I was unable to go to Chile for my research for family reasons. In addition, I had difficulties watching the Victor Jara documentary due to the VHS tape’s quality, so I resorted to searching Youtube and watching fragments of it. However despite this, I was still able to raid my father’s enormous folk music collection in the name of research and listen to great music.

I wanted to start my research on Chilean protest music with the great musician Victor Jara. He and Violeta Parra are the two most well known musicians of the Nueva Cancion movement. Violeta Parra is credited with revitalizing Chilean music and the peñas (cultural community centers) in the 1950s, steering it away from the same traditional folk songs and toward modern compositions rooted in the traditional form and instruments. After her death in 1967, her children, also musicians, Angel and Isabela Parra carry on her legacy. As her student, Victor Jara furthered the spread of nueva canción and through his influence it grew to become associated even further with political activism. Where Violeta Parra brought music to the masses via the peñas, Jara gave them a platform as a captivating performer. Having been raised in poverty himself, he understood the struggle of the poorest in the working class.

From early on in his musical career, Jara had a talent for antagonizing conservative Chileans through his songs. By the 1960s, after visits to Cuba and the Soviet Union, Jara had joined the Communist party. In 1969, Jara’s music became more overtly confrontational and political with the release of “Preguntas por Puerto Montt,” which directly addressed the massacre of squatters in Puerto Montt by the police and called out the official who had ordered the assault. The outrage over this event and the popularity of the song led to a rapid deterioration of the political situation in Chile. In 1970, Jara backed Allende’s presidential candidacy and composed the Popular Unity coalition’s theme song “Venceremos.” It became the mantra of the people, and that year Chile welcomed a socialist president despite US interventions. Jara continued to support Allende’s socialist policies and his music increasingly paid homage to the struggles of poor Chileans (“Luchín”).

*Next post: Golpe de Estado, Dictadura, y Exilio

“Preguntas por Puerto Montt” (1969)

Very well, I will ask

for you, for you, for that one,

for you who stayed alone

and the one who died not knowing

Very well, I will ask

for you, for you, for that one,

for you who stayed alone

and the one who died not knowing

and the one who died not knowing

Died not knowing because

they blasted them in the chest

fighting for the right

to a plot of land to live,

oh, to be unhappier

the one who ordered fire

knowing how to avoid

a vile massacre

Puerto Monkey, Puerto Montt

Puerto Monkey, Puerto Montt

Puerto Monkey, Puerto Montt

Puerto Monkey, Puerto Montt

You must respond,

Mr. Pérez Zujovic:

Why did they answer the

helpless people with rifles?

Mr. Zujovic, you buried

your conscience in an coffin

and they will not clean their hands

not even all the southern rain

not even all the southern rain

Died not knowing because

they blasted them in the chest

fighting for the right

to a plot of land to live,

oh, to be unhappier

the one who ordered fire

knowing how to avoid

a vile massacre

Puerto Monkey, Puerto Montt

Puerto Monkey, Puerto Montt

Puerto Monkey, Puerto Montt

Puerto Monkey, Puerto Montt

 

“Luchín” (1972)

Fragile as a kite

on the roofs of Barrancas

the boy Luchín played

with his little hands bruised

with the ball of rags

with the cat and dog

the horse watched him.

In the water of his eyes

a clear green bathed

he crawled to his brief age

with his bottom muddy

with the ball of rags

with the cat and dog

the horse watched him.

The horse was another game

in that small space

and to the animal it seemed

he liked that job

with the ball of rags

with the cat and dog

and with little Luchín wet.

If there are children like Luchín

who eat dirt and worms

let us open all the cages

so that they fly like birds

with the ball of rags

with the cat and dog

and with the horse too.

 

Jara, V. (1969). Preguntas por Puerto Montt. On Pongo en tus manos abiertas. Santiago, Chile: Alerce.

Jara, V. (1972). Luchín. On La Población. Santiago, Chile: Alerce.

Parot, C. L. (Director). (2001). The right to live in peace [Documentary on VHS]. Chile: Warner Music Chile.

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