Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Thirty five years later, they've finally gotten a conviction for Victor Jara's murder.

Songwriter Victor Jara

When dictator Augusto Pinochet staged a coup in 1973, with the help of the CIA and the Nixon administration, many Chileans that were considered a threat by the new regime -- students, teachers, playwrights, activists, union organizers, so-called "subversivos," and many who weren't political at all, but rounded up by mistake -- were arrested and detained at the country's largest football stadium. The locker rooms became torture chambers, and many were killed and "disappeared" by the military police and the army.

Dictator Augusto Pinochet

Victor Jara was arrested at the university where he worked, and dragged to the stadium. He was kept in a group of "special interest" prisoners. Jara was a popular singer, the Bob Dylan of Chile, it has been said, and he sang openly of justice and freedom. He knew he would never survive, given his special status.

The military tortured Victor Jara for three days. They broke both his hands, mocking him to play guitar now. He did an amazing thing. Even with broken fingers and hands, he defied his captors and sang. Witnesses have said his voice could be heard from deep in the locker rooms that were now torture chambers. They heard him in the crowded stadium, and they joined the singer. Jara was machine-gunned shortly afterward, and dropped into a mass grave, but he remains a hero to Chileans, and people around the world who believe in peace and justice.

Victor Jara sings "Te Recuerdo Amanda" (I Remember You, Amanda)

A rough translation of the lyrics shows you the power of his words:

I remember you, Amanda
the wet street
running to the factory
where Manuel worked.
Your wide smile,
the rain in your hair
nothing else mattered,
you were going to meet him.

Only five minutes
life is eternal
in five minutes
the siren sounds
to go back to work
and as you walk
you light up everything
those five minutes
have made you flower.

he took to the mountains to fight
he who had never hurt anyone
he took to the mountains to fight
and in five minutes
it was all destroyed
the siren sounds
time to go back to work
many will not return
neither Manuel.

I remember you Amanda
the wet street
running to the factory
where Manuel worked.

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