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Please Remember Victor Jara

Victor_JaraDespite a lifelong obsession with politics and music, I only really learned about Victor Jara because of Professor Joe Strummer. “Please remember Victor Jara, in the Santiago stadium,” the late, lamented Clash bard quietly intoned in “Washington Bullets,” and I had to find out what he meant. Jara, the Chilean singer-songwriter and pioneer of the nueva cancion movement, was tortured and murdered with many others following Pinochet’s CIA-supported 1973 military coup on September 11, 1973.

Earlier this month, 36 years after his death, thousands convened in Santiago to give Jara a proper funeral, following a new autopsy that confirmed his torture and murder. Attendees included Jara’s widow, Joan Turner, and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, whose own father was among the junta’s victims. It’s belated poetic justice that Pinochet died in infamy as one of the world’s most disgraced public figures, while the boxing stadium where Jara lost his life is now known as Victor Jara Stadium. The next time you’re looking for a profile in courage, consider the poem fragment Victor Jara penned in the boxing stadium moments before his execution, and after his hands had been broken:

To see myself among so much
and so many moments of infinity
in which silence and screams
are the end of my song.
What I see, I have never seen
What I have felt and what I feel
Will give birth to the moment…

Because Victor Jara’s recordings aren’t widely heard in this country, his role in progressive iconography has long eclipsed his earlier fame as a singer-songwriter. But as his discography and a handful of video clips confirm, he had a wonderful voice. A couple of his better-known songs are in the clips below. After the click-through are just a few of the songs he’s inspired, featuring Calexico, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Claudia Acuna, Inti-illimani (and, please remember, the Clash).

Victor Jara, “El Derecho de Vivir en Paz”

Victor Jara, “Te Recuerdo Amanda”

Calexico, “Victor Jara’s Hands”

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, “Matador”

The Clash, “Washington Bullets”

Claudia Acuna, “El Cigarrito”

Inti-illimani, “El Arado”

From → Diatribes

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