Víctor Lidio Jara Martínez (September 28, 1932 – September 15, 1973 ) was a Chilean teacher, theatre director, poet, singer-songwriter, and political activist. A distinguished theatre director, he devoted himself to the development of Chilean theatre, directing a broad array of works from locally produced Chilean plays, to the classics of the world stage, to the experimental work of Ann Jellicoe. Simultaneously he developed in the field of music and played a pivotal role among neo-folkloric artists who established the Nueva Canción Chilena (New Chilean Song) movement which led to a revolution in the popular music of his country under the Salvador Allende government. Shortly after the U.S.-backed September 11, 1973 Chilean coup he was arrested, tortured and ultimately machine gunned to death—his body was later thrown out into the street of a shanty town in Santiago. The contrast between the themes of his songs, on love, peace and social justice and the brutal way in which he was murdered transformed Jara into a symbol of struggle for human rights and justice across Latin America.
| "As long as we|
sing his songs,
as long as his
courage can inspire
us to greater courage,
Victor Jara will
Víctor Jara was born on September 28
in the locality of Lonquen, near the City of Santiago, to poor peasants
Manuel Jara and Amanda Martínez. His father, Manuel, was illiterate and wanted his children to work as soon as they could rather than get an education, so by the age of 6 Jara was already working on the land. Manuel Jara was unable to extract a livelihood from the earnings as a peasant in the Ruiz-Tagle estate nor was he able to find stable work to support his large family, so he took to drinking and became violent. His relationship with his wife deteriorated, and Manuel left the family when Víctor was still a child to look for work elsewhere. Amanda persevered in raising Víctor and his siblings by herself, insisting that all of them should receive a good education. Amanda, a mestiza
with deep Araucanian
roots in the south of Chile, was not illiterate
, she was autodidactic
; played the guitar, the piano and was a singer in her town, singing traditional folk songs at local functions like wedding and funerals for the locals.
Jara's mother died when he was 15, leaving him to make his own way thereafter. He began to study to be an accountant, but soon moved into a seminary instead, studying to become a priest. After a couple of years, however, he became disillusioned with the Church and left the seminary. Subsequently he spent several years in the army before returning to his home town to pursue interests in folk music and theater.
Jara was deeply influenced by the folklore of Chile and other Latin American countries; he was particularly influenced by artists like Violeta Parra
, Atahualpa Yupanqui
, and the poet Pablo Neruda
. Jara began his foray into folklore in the mid-1950s when he began singing with the group Cuncumen
. He moved more decisively into music in the 1960s getting the opportunity to sing at Santiago's La Peña de Los Parra
, owned by Ángel Parra
. Through them Jara became greatly involved in the Nueva Canción
movement of Latin American folk music. He published his first recording in 1966 and, by 1970, had left his theater work in favor of a career in music. His songs were drawn from a combination of traditional folk music and left-wing political activism. From this period, some of his most renowned songs are Plegaria a un Labrador
("A Worker's Prayer") and Te Recuerdo Amanda
("I Remember You Amanda"). He supported the Unidad Popular
("Popular Unity") coalition candidate Salvador Allende
for the presidency of Chile, taking part in campaigning, volunteer political work, and playing free concerts.
Allende's campaign was successful and, in 1970, he was elected president of Chile. However, the US-supported Chilean military, who opposed Allende's politics, staged a coup
on September 11
, in the course of which Allende died (See Allende's death
). At the moment of the coup, Jara was on the way to the Technical University (today Universidad de Santiago
), where he was a teacher. That night he slept at the university along with other teachers and students, and sang to raise morale.
On the morning of September 12
, Jara was taken, along with thousands of others, as a prisoner to the Chile Stadium (renamed the Estadio Víctor Jara
in September 2003). In the hours and days that followed, many of those detained in the stadium were tortured and killed there by the military forces. Jara was repeatedly beaten and tortured; the bones in his hands were broken as were his ribs. Reports that one of Jara's hands, or both of his hands, had been cut off, are, however, erroneous. Fellow political prisoners have testified that his captors mockingly suggested that he play guitar for them as he lay on the ground. Defiantly, he sang part of a song supporting the Popular Unity coalition. After further beatings, he was machine-gunned on September 15
and his body dumped on a road on the outskirts of Santiago, and then taken to a city morgue.
Jara's wife, Joan, was allowed to come and retrieve his body from the site and was able to confirm the physical damage he had endured.
After holding a funeral for her husband, Joan Jara fled the country in secret.
Joan Turner Jara currently lives in Chile and runs the Victor Jara Foundation. The Chile Stadium, also known as the Victor Jara Stadium, is often confused with the Estadio Nacional (National Stadium).
Before his death, Victor Jara wrote a poem about the conditions of the prisoners in the stadium, the poem was written on a paper that was hidden inside a shoe of a friend. The poem was never named, but is commonly known as Estadio Chile
In June 2008 Chilean judge Juan Eduardo Fuentes re-opened the investigation into Victor Jara's death. Judge Fuentes said he would examine 40 new pieces of evidence provided by the singer's family.
Víctor Jara's legacy
Although the military regime managed to burn the vast majority of master recordings of Jara's music, Joan Jara managed to sneak recordings out of Chile, which were later copied and distributed worldwide.
Joan Jara later wrote an account of Víctor Jara's life and music, titled Víctor: An Unfinished Song.
On September 22, 1973, the Soviet/Russian astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh named a newly found asteroid 2644 Victor Jara, in honor of Victor Jara's life and artistic work.
American folksinger Phil Ochs, who met and performed with Jara during a tour of South America, organized a benefit concert in his memory in New York in 1974. Titled "An Evening With Salvador Allende", the concert featured Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie and Ochs.
In 1976, Arlo Guthrie included a biographical song entitled "Victor Jara" on his album Amigo.
An East German biographical movie called El Cantor (the Singer) was made in 1978. It was directed by Jara's friend Dean Reed, who also played the part of Jara.
In the late 1990s British actress Emma Thompson started to work on a screenplay, which she planned to use as the basis for a movie about Victor Jara. Thompson, a human rights activist, and a fan of Jara, considered the political murder of the Chilean artist as a symbol of human rights violation in Chile. She believed a movie about Jara's life and death would make more people aware of the Chilean tragedy. The movie would feature Antonio Banderas – another fan of Victor Jara – as Jara himself where he would sing some of his songs and Emma Thompson as Victor Jara's British wife Joan Jara. The project has not yet been made into a film.
Irish folk singer Christy Moore has a song titled "Victor Jara" which tells the story of his life and his brutal death. He is also mentioned in another song called "Allende" which tells the story of the US-backed coup and the death of Salvador Allende.
The Soviet musician Alexander Gradsky created the rock opera Stadium (Стадион, Stadion) in 1985 based on the events surrounding Jara's death.
The Southwestern American band Calexico open their 2008 album Carried to Dust with the song Victor Jara's Hands.
Portuguese folk band Brigada Victor Jara is named after him.
Víctor Jara Quotes
Love of my home, my wife and my children.
Love for the Earth that helps me live.
Love for education and of work.
Love of others who work for the common good.
Love of justice as the instrument that provides equilibrium for human dignity.
Love of peace in order to enjoy one's life.
Love of freedom, but not the freedom acquired at the expense of others’ freedom, but rather the freedom of all.
Love of freedom to live and exist, for the existence of my children, in my home, in my town, my city, among neighbouring people.
Love for freedom in the environment in which we are required to forge our destiny.
Love of freedom without yokes: nor ours nor foreign.
In 1969 Víctor commented about the distinction between the commercialised ‘protest song phenomenon’ imported into Chile and the nature of the New Chilean Song Movement.
The cultural invasion is like a leafy tree which prevents us from seeing our own sun, sky and stars. Therefore in order to be able to see the sky above our heads, our task is to cut this tree off at the roots. US imperialism understands very well the magic of communication through music and persists in filling our young people with all sorts of commercial tripe. With professional expertise they have taken certain measures: first, the commercialization of the so-called ‘protest music’; second, the creation of ‘idols’ of protest music who obey the same rules and suffer from the same constraints as the other idols of the consumer music industry – they last a little while and then disappear. Meanwhile they are useful in neutralizing the innate spirit of rebellion of young people. The term ‘protest song’ is no longer valid because it is ambiguous and has been misused. I prefer the term ‘revolutionary song’.
Works directed by Victor Jara
- 1959. Parecido a la Felicidad (Some kind of happiness), Alejandro Sieveking
- 1960. La Viuda de Apablaza (The Widow of Apablaza), Germán Luco Cruchaga (assistant director to Pedro de la Barra, founder of ITUCH.)
- 1960. La Mandragola, Niccolò Machiavelli
- 1961. La Madre de los Conejos (Mother rabbit), Alejandro Sieveking (assistant director to Agustín Siré)
- 1962. Ánimas de Día Claro (Daylight Spirits), Alejandro Sieveking
- 1963. Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bertold Brecht (assistant director to Atahualpa del Cioppo)
- 1963. Los Invasores (The Intruders), Egon Wolff
- 1963. Dúo (Duet), Raúl Ruiz
- 1963. Parecido a la Felicidad (Some kind of happiness), Alejandro Sieveking (version for Chilean television)
- 1965. La Remolienda, Alejandro Sieveking
- 1965. The Knack, Ann Jellicoe
- 1966. Marat/Sade, Peter Ulrich Weiss (assistant director to William Oliver.)
- 1966. La Casa Vieja (The old house), Abelardo Estorino
- 1967. La Remolienda, Alejandro Sieveking (redirects)
- 1967. La Viuda de Apablaza (The Widow of Apablaza), Germán Luco Cruchaga (as director)
- 1968. Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Joe Orton
- 1969. Viet Rock, Megan Ferry
- 1969. Antigone, Sophocles
- 1972. Directed the ballet and musical homage to Pablo Neruda which coincided with the poets return to Chile after being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
- Víctor Jara en Vivo (1974)
- El Recital (1983)
- Víctor Jara en México, WEA International (1996)
- Habla y Canta en la Habana Cuba, WEA International (2001)
- En Vivo en el Aula Magna de la Universidad de Valparaíso, WEA International (2003)
- Te recuerdo Amanda, Fonomusic (1974)
- Vientos del Pueblo, Monitor – U.S. (1976)
- "Vientos del pueblo"
- "Aquí me quedo"
- "A desalambrar"
- "Duerme negrito"
- "Juan sin tierra"
- "Cuando voy al trabajo"
- "Te recuerdo Amanda"
- "Lamento borincano"
- "La Plegaria a un labrador"
- "El Pimiento"
- "El Arado"
- "A la molina no voy mas"
- "A Cochabamba me voy"
- "A Luis Emilio Recabarren"
- "El Derecho de vivir en paz"
- "Camilo Torres"
- "Ni chicha ni limona"
- "Preguntas por Puerto Montt"
- "Abre tu ventana"
- "La Partida"
- "El Niño yuntero"
- "Vamos por ancho camino"
- Canto Libre, Monitor (1977)
- An Unfinished Song, Redwood Records (1984)
- Todo Víctor Jara, EMI (1992)
- 20 Años Después, Fonomusic (1992)
- Víctor Jara presente, colección “Haciendo Historia”, Odeon (1997)
- Te Recuerdo, Víctor, Fonomusic (2000)
- Antología Musical, Warner Bros. Records (2001) 2CDs
- 1959-1969 – Víctor Jara, EMI Odeon (2001) 2CDs
- Latin Essential: Victor Jara, (WEA) 2CDs (2003)
- Collección Victor Jara – Warner Bros. Records (2004) (8CD Box)
- Víctor Jara. Serie de Oro. Grandes Exitos, EMI (2005)
- An Evening with Salvador Allende, VA - U.S. (1974)
- A Víctor Jara, Raímon - Spain (1974)
- Het Recht om in Vrede te Leven, Cornelis Vreeswijk - Nederlands (1977)
- Cornelis sjunger Victor Jara, Rätten till ett eget liv, Cornelis Vreeswijk - Sweden (1979)
- Omaggio a Victor Jara, Ricardo Pecoraro - Italy (1980)
- Quilapayún Canta a Violeta Parra, Víctor Jara y Grandes Maestros Populares, Quilapayún - Chile (1985)
- Konzert für Víctor Jara VA - Germany (1998)
- Inti-illimani performs Victor Jara, Inti-illimani - Chile (1999)
- Conosci Victor Jara?, Daniele Sepe - Italy (2001)
- Tributo a Víctor Jara, VA - Latin America/Spain (2004)
- Tributo Rock a Víctor Jara, VA - Argentina (2005)
- Lonquen: Tributo a Víctor Jara, Francesca Ancarola - Chile (2007)
Documentaries and films
The following are films or documentaries about and/or featuring Víctor Jara:
- El Tigre Saltó y Mató, Pero Morirá…Morirá…. Director: Santiago Álvarez – Cuba (1973)
- Compañero: Víctor Jara of Chile. Directors: Stanley Foreman/Martin Smith (Documentary) – Britain (1974)
- Il Pleut sur Santiago, starring André Dussollier; Dirctor: Helvio Soto – France (1976)
- April Hat 30 Tage. Director: Gunther Scholz - DFR (1978)
- El Cantor. Director: Dean Reed; Writer: Wolfgang Ebeling – DDR (1978)
- Freedom Highway: Songs That Shaped a Century. Director: Philip King – USA (2001)
- El Derecho de Vivir en Paz. - Documentary DVD - Spain (2003)
- La Tierra de las 1000 Músicas [Episode 6: La Protesta]. Directors: Luis Miguel/González Cruz – Spain (2005)
References and other sources
- Jara, Joan (1983). Victor: An Unfinished Song. Jonathan Cape, London. ISBN 0-224-01880-9
- Kósichev, Leonard. (1990). La guitarra y el poncho de Víctor Jara. Progress Publishers, Moscow
- 'Washington Bullets' from the album Sandinista! (1980) by The Clash features the lyrics "please remember Victor Jara, in the Santiago stadium"
- El matador from the album 'Vasos vacios' (1994) by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. "mira hermano en que terminaste por pelear por un mundo mejor Que suenan, son balas, me alcanzan, me atrapan, resiste, Victor Jara, no calla" (Look my brother how you ended up because of fighting for a better world, that's the sound of bullets, they get me, they hit me, resist Victor Jara, don't shut your voice)
- The song "One Tree Hill" from the album The Joshua Tree (1987) by U2 includes the lyric "Jara sang his song a weapon / In the hands of love / You know his blood still cries from the ground"
- The character Pedro Tercero Garcia in Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits (1982) is based on Jara.
- In credits page of album "street fighting years" from Simple Minds is the leyend: ""street fighting years" song written in memory of victor jara"
- German metalcore band Heaven Shall Burn's song "The Weapon They Fear" is about the life of Victor Jara
Resources in English
Resources in Spanish