Víctor Jara: 40 years

It’s forty years since the events that led to the murder of the Chilean singer, songwriter, theatre director and activist Víctor Jara (1932-1073). Here is a PDF of an article I wrote about Jara (and the Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez) while researching my doctoral thesis. I was, and remain, as interested in Jara’s posthumous career as in the wonderful work he did during his life. In the years following Jara’s murder at the hands of the Chilean military – years which also witnessed the death and disappearance of thousands of civilians in Latin America’s southern cone – he became a powerful symbol of resistance against the continent’s military dictatorships. In my thesis I wrote about Jara’s ‘posthumous Che Guevara-like career as an icon on posters, T-shirts and murals’ and also discussed cover versions and other references to his work by other popular musicians within and beyond Latin America. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Jara remained a constant point of reference for Latin American musicians attempting to respond to the brutality of military regimes; examples include nueva canción (‘new song’) acts Quilapayún and Inti-Illimani, progressive rock band Los Jaivas and DJ Ricardo Villalobos, while other Latin American music cultures are represented by Silvio Rodríguez and the Argentinian singer Mercedes Sosa. Fuirthermore, artists from outside of Latin America – including Joan Baez, The Clash, Robert Wyatt and U2 – helped to constitute an international network or resistance and remembrance for Chile’s recent history via references to Jara and his work.

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