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Víctor Jara

Víctor Jara
Background information
Birth name Víctor Lidio Jara Martínez
Born September 28, 1932(1932-09-28)
Origin Chillán Viejo, Chile
Died September 15, 1973 (aged 40)
Genres Folk, Andean music, Latin music, Chilean music
Occupations Singer/Songwriter, Poet, Theatre director, University academic, Social activist
Instruments Vocals, Spanish Guitar
Years active 1959–1973
Labels EMI-Odeon
Warner Music
Associated acts Violeta Parra, Patricio Castillo, Quilapayún,
Inti-illimani, Patricio Manns, Ángel Parra, Isabel Parra, Sergio Ortega, Pablo Neruda, Daniel Viglietti, Atahualpa Yupanqui, Joan Baez, Dean Reed, Silvio Rodriguez, Holly Near, Cornelis Vreeswijk
Website Official website

Víctor Lidio Jara Martínez (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈbiktor ˈliðjo ˈxaɾa marˈtines]) (September 28, 1932 – September 15, 1973[1]) was a Chilean teacher, theatre director, poet, singer-songwriter, political activist and member of the Communist Party of Chile. 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 September 11, 1973 Chilean coup , he was arrested, tortured and ultimately shot to death by machine gun fire. His body was later thrown out into the street of a shanty town in Santiago.[2] 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
never die."

Pete Seeger


Early life

Víctor Jara was born in the locality of Lonquén, near the city of Santiago, to poor peasants Manuel Jara and Amanda Martínez. Jara's 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. 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.[3]

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.

Artistic life

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 ("Prayer to a Worker") 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.

Political activism

Allende's campaign was successful and, in 1970, he was elected president of Chile. However, the Chilean military, who opposed Allende's socialist politics, staged a coup on September 11, 1973, in the course of which Allende was killed (See Death of Salvador Allende). 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.

Víctor Jara's grave in the General Cemetery of Santiago. The note left reads: “‘Till Victory!”


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. [4]. Fellow political prisoners have testified that his captors mockingly suggested that he play guitar for them as he lay on the ground with broken hands. Defiantly, he sang part of "Venceremos" (We Will Win), a song supporting the Popular Unity coalition[4]. After further beatings, he was machine-gunned on September 16, 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 Víctor Jara Foundation. The Chile Stadium, also known as the Víctor Jara Stadium, is often confused with the Estadio Nacional (National Stadium).

Before his death, 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 Jara's death. Judge Fuentes said he would examine 40 new pieces of evidence provided by the singer's family.[5] On May 28, 2009, José Adolfo Paredes Márquez, a 54-year-old former Army conscript arrested the previous week in San Sebastián, was formally charged with Jara's murder. Following Paredes' arrest, on June 1, 2009, the police investigation identified the name of the officer who first shot Victor Jara in the head. The officer played Russian roulette with Jara, by placing a single round in his revolver, spinning the cylinder, placing the muzzle against Jara's head and pulling the trigger. The officer repeated this a couple of times, until a shot fired and Victor fell to the ground. The officer then ordered two conscripts (one of them Paredes) to finish the job, by firing into Jara's body.[6][7][8] A judge ordered Jara's body to be exhumed in an effort to determine more information regarding his death.[9]

On December 3 2009, a massive funeral took place in the "Galpon de Victor Jara" across from "Plaza Brazil". Jara's remains were honoured by thousands. His remains were re-buried in the same place he was buried in 1973.[10]

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.

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.

Dutch-Swedish singer-songwriter Cornelis Vreeswijk recorded "Blues för Victor Jara" on his album Bananer - bland annat in 1980.

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 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.[11] 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.[12] The project has not yet been made into a film.

The Soviet musician Alexander Gradsky created the rock opera Stadium (Стадион, Stadion) in 1985 based on the events surrounding Jara's death.[13]

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.

Songs mentioning Victor Jara

  • The Chilean group Inti-Illimani dedicated the song "Canto de las estrellas" to Victor Jara.
  • In 1975, Norwegian folksinger Lillebjørn Nilsen included a tribute song entitled "Victor Jara" on his album Byen Med Det Store Hjertet. The same year the Swedish band Hoola Bandoola Band included their song "Victor Jara" on their album Fri information.
  • Belgian singer Julos Beaucarne relates the death of Victor Jara in his song "Lettre à Kissinger".
  • French singer Pierre Chêne also wrote a song about Jara's death entitled "Qui Donc Est Un Homme?"
  • In 1976, Arlo Guthrie included a biographical song entitled "Victor Jara" on his album Amigo.[14]. The words were written by Adrian Mitchell and Arlo Guthrie wrote the music.[15]
  • The Clash sing about Jara in the song "Washington Bullets" on their 1980 album Sandinista!. Joe Strummer sings "As every cell in Chile will tell, the cries of the tortured men, Remember Allende in the days before, before the army came, Please remember Victor Jara, in the Santiago Stadium, Es Verdad, those Washington Bullets again."
  • In 1987, U2 released The Joshua Tree, which included the track "One Tree Hill" where Bono sings "And in the world a heart of darkness, a fire zone where poets speak their heart then bleed for it. Jara sang his song, a weapon in the hands of love, though his blood still cries from the ground."
  • Jackson Browne recorded "My Personal Revenge" on his CD "World in Motion" in 1989 as a tribute to Victor Jara. The lyrics include "My personal revenge will be to give you... these hands that once you so mistreated."
  • Holly Near's "Sing to me the Dream" is a tribute to Victor Jara.
  • Chuck Brodsky wrote and recorded "The Hands of Victor Jara." [16] This 1996 tribute includes these words:

The blood of Victor Jara
Will never wash away
It just keeps on turning
A little redder every day
As anger turns to hatred
And hatred turns to guns
Children lose their fathers
And mothers lose their sons

  • The Argentine rock group, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, remember Victor Jara in their hit song, "Matador", with the lyrics "Que suenan, son balas me alcanzan, me atrapan, resiste, 'Victor Jara' no calla... Matador!! Matador!!"
  • Heaven Shall Burn made a song about him and his legacy called "The Weapon They Fear".
  • Spanish ska group Ska-P dedicated a song called "Juan Sin Tierra" to Jara (the song was originally written by Jorge Saldaña, and previously recorded by Jara), with the chorus going:

"No olvidamos el valor de Víctor Jara/
dando la cara siempre a la represión/
le cortaron sus dedos y su lengua/
y hasta la muerte gritó revolución."

"We won't forget Victor Jara's courage/
always fighting oppression/
They cut off his fingers and his tongue/
And right up to his death he shouted 'Revolution'."

  • Cuban rap group Eskuadron Patriota mentions Jara in their song "Decadencia". The song goes: "Como Víctor Jara diciendole a su pueblo: La libertad esta cerca"
  • The Peruvian ska band Psicosis mentions Jara in their song "Esto es Ska". The chorus goes "Lo dijo Victor Jara no nos puedes callar".
  • The Glasgow/Irish folk group The Wakes included a song about Victor Jara on their album These Hands in 2008.

Theatre work

Works directed by Victor Jara


Studio albums

Year of Release Title
1966 Víctor Jara (Geografía)
1967 Canciones folklóricas de América (with Quilapayún)
1967 Víctor Jara
1969 Pongo en tus manos abiertas
1970 Canto libre
1971 El derecho de vivir en paz
1972 La Población
1973 Canto por travesura
1974 Manifiesto

Live albums

  • 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)
  • 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)

Tribute albums

  • An Evening with Salvador Allende, VA - U.S. (1974) [20]
  • 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) – UK (1974)
  • Il Pleut sur Santiago. Director: Helvio Soto – France/Bulgaria (1976)
  • Ein April hat 30 Tage. Director: Gunther Scholz - East Germany (1978)
  • El Cantor. Director: Dean Reed – East Germany (1978)
  • El Derecho de Vivir en Paz. Director: Carmen Luz Parot - Chile (1999)
  • Freedom Highway: Songs That Shaped a Century. Director: Philip King – Ireland (2001)
  • La Tierra de las 1000 Músicas [Episode 6: La Protesta]. Directors: Luis Miguel González Cruz/Joaquín Luqui – Spain (2005)


  1. ^ "Report of the Chilean Commission on Truth and Reconciliation Part III Chapter 1 (A.2)". 2002-04-10. Retrieved 2007-01-06. 
  2. ^ Jara, Joan. Victor: An Unfinished Song, 249-250
  3. ^ Jara, Joan. Victor: An Unfinished Song, 24-27
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ BBC NEWS | Americas | New probe into Victor Jara murder
  6. ^
  7. ^ Ex-Pinochet army conscript charged with folk singer Victor Jara's murder The Guardian, 2009-05-29
  8. ^ Ex-conscript confesses to Víctor Jara shooting 35 years on The Valparaíso Times, 2009-05-28
  9. ^ "Chilean singer Jara is exhumed". BBC. 2009-06-04. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  10. ^ "Chile: A Proper Funeral for Víctor Jara". Global Voices Online. 2009-12-05. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  11. ^ Stasio, Marilyn (Fall 1998). "Emma Thompson: The World's Her Stage". 
  12. ^ Beatrice Sartori (1999-01-07). "Antonio Bandera se mete en la piel del poeta torturado". Retrieved 2006-02-03. 
  13. ^ A website dedicated to the Alexander Gradsky's rock opera Stadium (Stadion) (Russian)
  14. ^ Allmusic link
  15. ^ Lyrics and attribution on The Official Arlo Guthrie Website
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Instituto de Teatro de la Universidad de Chile (Theatre Institute belonging to the University of Chile)
  19. ^ Oliver, William (2002-10-13). ""Marat/Sade in Santiago. Educational Theatre Journal 1967)"". Retrieved 2007-01-06. 
  20. ^ An Evening with Salvador Allende was a recording of the Friends of Chile benefit concert held in New York City (1974) to honor Allende, Neruda and Víctor Jara. The double album appeared as a limited edition several years after the concert event; it was never reissued after its limited release. It featured Melanie, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, Phil Ochs and it was where Pete Seeger for the first time performed an English translation of Víctor Jara's last poem: Estadio Chile.


  • 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
  • The first song on the 2008 Calexico Album "Carried to Dust" is a tribute to Victor Jara.

External links

Resources in English

Resources in Spanish


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Once more they want to stain
my country with the blood
of working people.
Those who talk of liberty
but whose hands are marked with guilt;
who want to separate
mothers from their children
and want to reconstruct
the cross that Christ bore.
- Vientos del Pueblo (1973)

Víctor Jara Martínez (September 28, 1932September 16, 1973) was a Chilean singer-songwriter, theatre director, pedagogue and political activist. He played a pivotal role in the folkloric renaissance that led to the Nueva Cancion Chilena [NCC] (New Chilean Song) movement - which created a revolution in the popular music of his country.


  • 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’.
    • In 1969 Jara commented about the distinction between the commercialised ‘protest song phenomenon’ imported into Chile and the nature of the New Chilean Song Movement (NCC).
    • Jara, Joan (1983). Victor: An Unfinished Song. Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-02954-1. p.121
  • 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.
    • When asked, four days before the military coup of September 11, 1973, what the word ‘Love’ meant to him.
    • Section: Biography/Victor y el amor of 10/04/2007

About Víctor Jara

  • The junta broke the fingers on Victor Jara’s hands
    They said to the gentle poet “play your guitar now if you can”
    Victor started singing but they brought his body down
    You can kill that man but not his song
    When it’s sung the whole world round
    If you can sing for freedom I can too
  • Victor Jara of Chile
    Lived like a shooting star
    He fought for the people of Chile
    With his songs and his guitar
    His hands were gentle, his hands were strong
  • As long as we sing his songs,
    As long as his courage can inspire us
    to greater courage
    Victor Jara will never die.
  • Victor Jara, assassinated by the Chilean dictatorship, Benjo Cruz fallen during his participation in the guerilla war of Teoponte, Jorge Salerno, executed during the Pando takeover, are living symbols of the impossibility our imperialist enemy has at silencing the collective voice of our Latin American people. “There are musicians who are only musicians” Haydée Santamaria once said, and she added that what was true about Victor, Jorge y Benjo was that “they were musicians that loved the people”. To these group of voices belongs Victor Jara, whom I personally knew, with whom I sang; we would dialogued and discussed each others’ songs, united in the objective of finding a new humanity.
  • Please remember Victor Jara,
    In the Santiago Stadium,
    Es verdad – those Washington Bullets again.
  • When a rural Ecuadorian, in the heart of the mountains, listens on his transistor radio to the Chilean Victor Jara singing his “Plegaria a un Labrador” (A farmers prayer) he is, although he may not realize it, listening to a piece of folklore. Such songs belong to a group of sometimes ephemeral phenomena which might be called “subjective folklore”, and which have not yet been given a place among the categories made by folklore specialists.
    • Daniel Viglietti “Nueva Canción: Latin America’s song without frontiers” UNESCO Courier, April 1986, p.10
  • And in the world, a heart of darkness, a fire zone
    Where poets speak their heart, then bleed for it
    Jara sang, his song a weapon in the hands of love
    You know his blood still cries from the ground
    It runs like a river, runs to the sea
    It runs like a river to the sea
    • U2 in “One Tree Hill” 1987

External links

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