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VICTOR JARA 1932 -1973
The First Folk Singer Inducted to The Folk Music Hall of Fame
Inducted on September 11th 2011
Chilean folksinger Victor Jara was the voice of his country's dispossessed, an internationally admired songwriter connecting to the opressed globally. He was killed by Chilean security forces during the coup that deposed the country's elected president, Salvador Allende, in September of 1973.
The songs of Victor Jara are filled with his thoughts on the simple people of Chile. He had a great love for the hard working people of small towns and villages, and many of his songs celebrate the lives of these people. His songs attack injustices in society and political scandals. Victor Jara was an essential part of the great Latin American musical movement known as ‘Nueva Cancion’ or New Song. Victor Jara’s political ideas were an extremely important part of his songs. He believed in the general communist philosophy, like many progressive singers of Latin America, because of its promises to better the lives of poor people.
You can see the devotion of Victor Jara to his political ideals most strongly in his support of the presidency of Salvador Allende in 1973. Allende was a part of the Popular Unity party and Victor Jara, along with other Chilean singers, gave concerts in favour of Allende and his political goals. Allende was a progressive candidate who had a great love for the people of the small towns of Chile. The Popular Unity party had plans to increase education, and to supply increased housing and free socialized medical care. One of the concerts representative of this campaign for Allende was the concert given in the Stadium of Chile, where many political artists sang in favour of Allende. In the end, the Allende campaign was a success, and he was elected president of Chile. However, there was much opposition to the election of Allende and the military organized a coup to overthrow the newly placed president. In the resulting coup, Allende was killed and the military seized control of the government. On the day of this tragedy, Victor Jara was at his job in the State Technical University, which was surrounded by the military, who took Victor Jara prisoner for five horrible days. During these days, he was forced to live in cold and dirty prisons without proper food or water, but other prisoners there with him testify that during these sufferings, he was only concerned with the welfare of his fellow prisoners.
Finally, the military brought Victor Jara and other political prisoners to the Stadium of Chile, the place where the concert for Allende has previously been held. There the military men tortured and killed many people. They broke Victor Jara’s hands so that he couldn’t play his guitar, and then taunted him to try and sing and play his songs. Even under these horrible tortures, Victor Jara magnificently sang a portion of the song of the Popular Unity party. After this, he received many brutal blows, and finally was brutally killed with a machine gun and carried to a mass grave.
After his horrible death Joan Jara, the wife of Victor, was shown to his body and gave him a proper funeral and burial.
Even today, the political and intensely human songs of Victor Jara are respected all over the world, and the ideals of Nueva Cancion and political music in general remain extremely strong. The life of Victor Jara is a beautiful example of an intelligent and sincere singer who spoke strongly through his songs. As a result, the songs of Victor Jara are a testimony to his strength and positive view of life.