"...As every cell in Chile will tell
The cries of the tortured men
Remember Allende, and the days before,
Before the army came
Please remember Victor Jara,
In the Santiago Stadium,
Es verdad - those Washington Bullets again..."

~ The Clash - Washington Bullets Sandinista! 1980

They couldn't kill his songs'  (excerpts)


...Victor Jara was 38 when he died. In the 1960s he wrote songs of protest against the ruling elite of his country. He was one of the founding fathers of Chile's 'New Song' movement which in 1970 helped elect the democratic popular unity government of Salvador Allente. As a result Chile's right wing hated him.

Four days of torture

On 11 September 1973 Victor Jara had been due to sing in the Santiago University. Instead, with the coup of General Augusto Pinochet, underway, he was arrested and led to Santiago's boxing stadium. Over four days he was tortured, beaten, electrocuted, his hands and wrists broken, before finally being machine-gunned to death, at the age of 38. His widow, Joan, says his body was thrown to the street, and was later found in the morgue "among lots and lots of anonymous bodies" that she saw that day.

Next week the first Victor Jara CD will be released. The album is called 'Manifesto'. The recordings on that CD have been remastered and many of them had to be smuggled from Chile after his death. "These were songs that were rescued," says Joan Jara.

The last poem

The CD includes a reading by Andrew Mitchell of the translation of Victor Jara's last poem. The poem was written in the boxing stadium where he was being tortured and eventually murdered. The scraps of paper where it was written on were smuggled out by those who survived. The song remains unfinished. The lyrics literally stop mid-sentence as he was led away to the changing rooms of the stadium and was shot repeatedly through the chest. "Silence and screams are the end of my song" he wrote.

Joan Jara says that now Victor can rest in peace, knowing that his work has been carried on as he had asked in his last message. "They could kill him, but they couldn't kill his songs," she says.

Source: "They Couldn't Kill His Songs" Saturday, September 5, 1998. BBC News

back to Fragile