Víctor Jara

First they broke his fingers, and then they shot Víctor Jara as he sang Venceremos (We will win) in front of his fellow prisoners at the Chile Stadium. It’s a stirring image, and one I happen to believe in, but no matter how it happened, Víctor Jara died a hero.

Today would have been Víctor’s 78th birthday. He was forty when they shot him, in the days after September 11th 1973. That’s my ‘9/11’, when democracy in Chile disappeared, with the coup against the country’s elected president Salvador Allende. As a teenager at the time Chile was my political event, if that doesn’t sound tasteless. I did Spanish at school, and people I knew were involved with the refugees when they started coming.

Víctor had such a beautiful voice, but with many of his recordings destroyed it’s hard to properly appreciate his songs in today’s digital world. There are a surprising number of – I assume – television appearances by Víctor on YouTube. I don’t know who had these early videos, but it’s wonderful that someone actually saved them, however poor the sound quality.

I don’t play his songs nearly often enough, seeing as I only have them on LP. Back in the 1970s I played them all the time, and I can recite surprisingly many of the lyrics, out of order, but still… Te Recuerdo Amanda was one of the very few songs the tone deaf Mother-of-witch ever recognised.

It was a chance blog-contact email a week ago that started me thinking about Víctor again. I’m not used to others remembering either him or Allende or the coup. I provided a profile of me on Normblog a couple of years ago, and for my cultural hero I put Víctor Jara. I don’t feel you can call someone a hero too lightly.

Memory is a tricky thing, but I’m fairly certain I once met Joan Jara, Víctor’s widow. There was an evening at the Friends’ Meeting House in Brighton, at the end of the 1970s. I’m sure Joan was there. There are many other venues where I heard the big groups from Chile sing. It’s a blessing so many of them escaped Víctor’s fate. And their music did a lot to support the cause, which will be why they murdered Víctor and destroyed his music, except what Joan managed to smuggle out.

Here is a clip with Inti-Illimani singing Venceremos for Víctor and all the others

and finally Quilapayún with ¡El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido!

You can hope.

5 responses to “Víctor Jara

  1. Hi Ann,

    Oh, what a beautiful piece you wrote about Victor Jara. It brings up all of the sad and angry feelings about the horrendous fascist coup against Allende and the popular movement in Chile–and the role of this government.
    I had never seen the actual description of how he was killed until now.
    And thanks for your two video clips. I knew of Venceremos, having sung it and heard it over the years. And I have heard El Pueblo Unida Jamas Sera Vencido and chanted that line with others over the years, too.
    I found myself crying and chanting with my fist in the air, while watching and listening to the second video.
    Is that video a combination of footage from the movement for Allende and more recent footage–the color?
    I can only feel grief and anger at what the Chilean people lost, a beautiful movement and people and then living with years of repression.
    I do know a Chilean whom this government is trying to deport back there; he was declared “disappeared” decades ago and left, lives in the U.S. and now the INS is trying to deport him. His life-partner was tortured and put in a detention camp after the coup, but she thrives today. Both are community organizers and wonderful human beings.
    Solidarity to you for helping Chilean refugees back then.
    I agree with you; the coup was a 9/11 against a life-affirming, popular movement.
    When the police attempted a coup last week against Ecuadoran leader Correa, there were video clips up of thousands chanting, “El Pueblo Unida Jamas Sera Vencido,” with fists in the air.
    Well, I have cried and cleared out my sinuses.
    I will share your post with similar-thinking friends.
    Gracias y solidaridad,
    Kathy D.
    P.S. Email me back if you are so inclined. And see “Blame it on Fidel,” if you haven’t. It’s about a child (whose grandparents blame all problems on Fidel) whose parents are pr0-Allende sympathizers and her growing consciousness. It’s quite beautiful and moving.

  2. Thanks, Kathy. It’s really good to know there are others who share my thoughts on this.

  3. And, I know many more people who would agree with us about Victor Jara and Salvador Allende and for the slogan, “El Pueblo Unida Jamas Sera Vencido!”
    Hope you post more good things and I will try to check in on your website as often as possible.
    I like your review of the Made in Dagenham film; it had interested me.

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