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Víctor Jara
Víctor Jara.jpg
Background information
Birth name Víctor Lidio Jara Martínez
Born (1932-09-28)28 September 1932
San Ignacio, Chile
Origin Chillán Viejo, Chile
Died 16 September 1973(1973-09-16) (aged 40)
Santiago, Chile
  • Folk
  • Nueva canción
  • Andean music
Years active 1959–1973
  • EMI-Odeon
  • DICAP/Alerce
  • Warner
Associated acts

Víctor Lidio Jara Martínez (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈβiktoɾ ˈliðjo ˈxaɾa maɾˈtines]; 28 September 1932 – 16 September 1973) was a Chilean teacher, theater director, poet, singer-songwriter and Communist political activist. He developed Chilean theater by directing a broad array of works, ranging from locally produced plays to world classics, as well as the experimental work of playwrights such as Ann Jellicoe. He also played a pivotal role among neo-folkloric musicians who established the Nueva canción chilena (New Chilean Song) movement. This led to an uprising of new sounds in popular music during the administration of President Salvador Allende.

Jara was arrested by the Chilean military shortly after the 11 September 1973 coup led by Augusto Pinochet, which overthrew Allende. He was interrogated and killed. The contrast between the themes of his songs—which focused on love, peace, and social justice—and his murder transformed Jara into a "potent symbol of struggle for human rights and justice" for those killed during the Pinochet regime. His prominent role as an admirer and propagandist for Che Guevara and Allende's government, in which he served as a cultural ambassador through the late 1960s and until the 1973, made him a target.

In June 2016, a Florida jury found former Chilean Army officer Pedro Barrientos liable for Jara's murder. In July 2018, eight retired Chilean military officers were sentenced to 15 years and a day in prison for Jara's murder.

Early life

Víctor Lidio Jara Martinez was born on 28 September 1932. His parents were tenant farmers who lived near the town of La Quiriquina, located twelve kilometers from Chillán Viejo; he had five brothers. His exact place of birth is uncertain, but he was born in the Ñuble Region. At the age of five, his family moved to Lonquén, a town near Santiago de Chile, where his father, Manuel Jara, had rented a small parcel of land. His father was illiterate and did not want his children going to school, so that they could help him in the fields instead. His mother, on the other hand, knew how to read a little and from the beginning she insisted that they at least learn the alphabet.

Jara's mother was a mestiza with Araucanian ancestry from southern Chile, who had taught herself to play the guitar and piano. She also performed as a singer, with a repertory of traditional folk songs that she used for local events like weddings and funerals. The relationship between her parents became more tense with each passing day, her father began to drink and disappeared from the house several days in a row, leaving all the work in the hands of Amanda. Later, her mother moved to Santiago and took a job as a cook in a restaurant in Vega Poniente. Because she was so skilled she did well there and so she was able to educate three of her children, including Victor.

She died when Jara was 15. Jara began to study accounting, but soon moved into a seminary, where he studied for the priesthood. After a couple of years, however, he became disillusioned with the Catholic Church and left. Subsequently, he spent several years in the Chilean Army before returning to his hometown to pursue interests in folk music and theatre.

Musical career

After joining the choir at the University of Chile in Santiago, Jara was convinced by a fellow chorus member to pursue a career in theater. He subsequently joined the university's theater program and, through his talent, earned a scholarship. He appeared in several of the university's plays, gravitating toward those with social themes, such as Russian playwright Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths.

In 1957, he met Violeta Parra, a singer who had steered folk music in Chile toward modern song composition rooted in traditional forms, and who had established musical community centers called peñas to incorporate folk music into everyday life. Jara absorbed these lessons and began singing with a group called Cuncumén, with whom he continued his explorations of Chile's traditional music. (working as a guitarist and vocalist from 1957 to 1963) He was deeply influenced by the folk music of Chile and other Latin American countries, and by artists such as Parra, Atahualpa Yupanqui, and the poet Pablo Neruda. In the 1960s, Jara started specializing in folk music and sang at Santiago's La Peña de Los Parra, owned by Ángel Parra. Through these activities, he became involved in the Nueva canción movement of Latin American folk music.

In 1966, Víctor released his self-titled first album; it was the only album released by the Demon label and was Víctor Jara's first solo work. The album would later be re-released under the titles Canto a lo humano and Sus mejores canciones, and in 2001 an reissue on CD by Warner Music Chile was released with the original title. This version on CD also included five bonus tracks, four of which are songs by Víctor Jara along with Cuncumén.

The album includes Jara's versions of some Latin American folk songs, such as "La flor que anda de mano en mano", and "Ojitos verdes"; as well as two Chilean folk songs, "La cocinerita"; an Argentinian folk song, or "Ja jai", a Bolivian traditional. The authorship of this album, as well as its singles, was in the hands of Camilo Fernández, owner of the Demon label from its launch in 1966 until 2001, when he transferred the rights to the widow of Víctor Jara.

In 1967 released their second album homonymous, this album apart from the controversial song "The appeared" includes Jara's covers of folk songs from Latin America and Spain. The album was later released under the name of Desde Lonquén hasta siempre. In 1968, Jara released his first collaborative album entitled, "Canciones folklóricas de América" (Folkloric Songs of America), with Quilapayun. In 1970, Jara left theater to devote himself to music.

Political activism

Early in his recording career, Jara showed a knack for antagonizing conservative Chileans, releasing a traditional comic song called "La beata" that depicted a religious woman with a crush on the priest to whom she goes for confession. The song was banned on radio stations and removed from record shops, but the controversy only added to Jara's reputation among young and progressive Chileans. More serious in the eyes of the Chilean right wing was Jara's growing identification with the socialist movement led by Salvador Allende. After visits to Cuba and the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, Jara joined the Communist Party. The personal met the political in his songs about the poverty he had experienced firsthand.

In 1969, Jara appeared in Helsinki protests against the Vietnam War.

Jara's songs spread outside Chile and were performed by American folk artists. His popularity was due not only to his songwriting skills but also to his exceptional power as a performer. He took a turn toward political confrontation with his 1969 song "Preguntas por Puerto Montt" ("Questions About Puerto Montt"), whose subject was Edmundo Pérez Zujovic, a government official who had ordered police to attack squatters in the town of Puerto Montt. The Chilean political situation deteriorated after the official was assassinated, and right-wing thugs beat up Jara on one occasion.

In 1970, Jara supported Allende, the Popular Unity coalition candidate for president, volunteering for political work and playing free concerts. He composed "Venceremos" ("We Will Triumph"), the theme song of Allende's Popular Unity movement, and welcomed Allende's election to the Chilean presidency in 1970. After the election, Jara continued to speak in support of Allende and played an important role in the new administration's efforts to reorient Chilean culture.

He and his wife, Joan Jara, were key participants in organizing cultural events that supported the Chile's new socialist government. He set poems by Pablo Neruda to music and performed at a ceremony honoring him after Neruda received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1972. During this time, Jara continued to teach at Chile's Technical University. His popular success during this time, as both a musician and a Communist, earned him a concert in Moscow. He was so successful that the Soviet Union claimed in their media that his vocal prowess was the result of surgery he had undergone while in Moscow.

On 11 September 1973, the Chilean military, with the support of the United States, overthrew the Allende government, resulting in Allende's death and the installation of Augusto Pinochet as dictator. On the day of the coup, Jara was on his way to work at the Technical University. He slept that night at the university along with other teachers and students, and sang to raise their morale.

Legal actions

On 16 May 2008, retired colonel Mario Manríquez Bravo, who was the chief of security at Chile Stadium as the coup was carried out, was the first to be convicted in Jara's death. Judge Juan Eduardo Fuentes, who oversaw Bravo's conviction, then decided to close the case, a decision Jara's family soon appealed. In June 2008, Judge Fuentes re-opened the investigation and said he would examine 40 new pieces of evidence provided by Jara's family.

On 28 May 2009, José Adolfo Paredes Márquez, a 54-year-old former Army conscript arrested the previous week in San Sebastián, Chile, was formally charged with Jara's murder. Following his arrest, on 1 June 2009, the police investigation identified the officer who had shot Jara. A judge ordered Jara's body to be exhumed in an effort to gather more information about his death.

On 3 December 2009, Jara was reburied after a massive funeral in the Galpón Víctor Jara, across from Santiago's Plaza Brasil.

On 28 December 2012, a judge in Chile ordered the arrest of eight former army officers for alleged involvement in Jara's murder. He issued an international arrest warrant for one of them, Pedro Barrientos Núñez, the man accused of shooting Jara.

On 4 September 2013, Chadbourne & Parke attorneys Mark D. Beckett and Christian Urrutia, with the assistance of the Center for Justice and Accountability, filed suit in a United States court against Barrientos, who lives in Florida, on behalf of Jara's widow and children. The suit accused Barrientos of arbitrary detention; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; extrajudicial killing; and crimes against humanity under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), and of torture and extrajudicial killing under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). It alleged that Barrientos was liable for Jara's death as a direct perpetrator and as a commander.

The specific claims were that:

  • On 11 September 1973, troops from the Arica Regiment of the Chilean Army, specifically from La Serena, attacked the university where Jara taught. The troops prohibited civilians from entering or leaving the university premises. During the afternoon of 12 September 1973, military personnel entered the university and illegally detained hundreds of professors, students, and administrators. Víctor Jara was among those arbitrarily detained on the campus and was subsequently transferred to Chile Stadium, where he was tortured and killed.
  • In the course of transporting and processing the civilian prisoners, Captain Fernando Polanco Gallardo, a commanding officer in military intelligence, recognized Jara as the well-known folk singer whose songs addressed social inequality, and who had supported President Allende's government. Captain Polanco separated Jara from the group and beat him. He then transferred Jara, along with some of the other civilians, to the stadium.
  • Throughout his detention in the locker room of the stadium, Jara was in the physical custody of Lieutenant Barrientos, soldiers under his command, or other members of the Chilean Army who acted in accordance with the army's plan to commit human rights abuses against civilians.
  • The arbitrary detention, torture, and extrajudicial killing of Jara and other detainees were part of a widespread, systematic attack on civilians by the Chilean Army from 11 to 15 September 1973. Barrientos knew, or should have known, about these attacks, if for no other reason than that he was present for and participated in them.

On 15 April 2015, a US judge ordered Barrientos to stand trial in Florida. On 27 June 2016, he was found liable for Jara's killing, and the jury awarded Jara's family $28 million.

On 3 July 2018, eight retired Chilean military officers were sentenced to 15 years in prison for Jara's murder and the murder of his Communist associate and former Chilean prison director Littre Quiroga Carvajal. They received three extra years for kidnapping both men. A ninth suspect was sentenced to five years in prison for covering up the murders.

In November 2018, it was reported that a Chilean court ordered the extradition of Barrientos.

Theater work

  • 1959. Parecido à 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. The Mandrake, 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. The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bertolt Brecht (assistant director to Atahualpa del Cioppo)
  • 1963. Los Invasores (The Intruders), Egon Wolff
  • 1963. Dúo (Duet), Raúl Ruiz
  • 1963. Parecido à la Felicidad, Alejandro Sieveking (version for Chilean television)
  • 1965. La Remolienda, Alejandro Sieveking
  • 1965. The Knack, Ann Jellicoe
  • 1966. Marat/Sade, Peter Weiss (assistant director to William Oliver)
  • 1966. La Casa Vieja (The Old House), Abelardo Estorino
  • 1967. La Remolienda, Alejandro Sieveking
  • 1967. La Viuda de Apablaza, Germán Luco Cruchaga (director)
  • 1968. Entertaining Mr Sloane, Joe Orton
  • 1969. Viet Rock, Megan Terry
  • 1969. Antigone, Sophocles
  • 1972. Directed a ballet and musical homage to Pablo Neruda, which coincided with Neruda's return to Chile after being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Studio albums

  • Víctor Jara (Geografía) (1966)
  • Víctor Jara (1967)
  • Canciones folklóricas de América (with Quilapayún) (1967)
  • Pongo en tus manos abiertas (1969)
  • Canto libre (1970)
  • El derecho de vivir en paz (1971)
  • La Población (1972)
  • Canto por travesura (1973)
  • Tiempos que cambian (unfinished) (Estimated release: 1974)
  • Manifiesto (1974; reissued in 2001)

Live albums

  • Víctor Jara en Vivo (1974)
  • El Recital (1983)
  • Víctor Jara en México (1996)
  • Habla y canta (1996; reissued in 2001)
  • En Vivo en el Aula Magna de la Universidad de Valparaíso (2003)


  • Te recuerdo, Amanda (1974)
  • Presente (1975)
  • Vientos Del Pueblo (1976)
  • Canto Libre (1977)
  • An unfinished song (1984)
  • Todo Víctor Jara (1992)
  • 20 Años Después (1992)
  • The Rough Guide to the Music of the Andes (1996)
  • Víctor Jara presente, colección "Haciendo Historia" (1997)
  • Te Recuerdo, Víctor (2000)
  • Antología Musical (2001)
  • 1959–1969 – Víctor Jara (2001)
  • Latin Essential: Victor Jara (2003)
  • Colección Víctor Jara (2004)
  • Víctor Jara. Serie de Oro. Grandes Exitos (2005)

Tribute albums

  • A Víctor Jara by Raímon (1974)
  • Het Recht om in Vrede te Leven by Cornelis Vreeswijk (1978)
  • Cornelis sjunger Victor Jara: Rätten till ett eget liv by Cornelis Vreeswijk (1979)
  • Konzert für Víctor Jara by various artists (1998)
  • Inti-illimani interpeta a Víctor Jara by Inti-Illimani (1999)
  • Quilapayún Canta a Violeta Parra, Víctor Jara y Grandes Maestros Populares by Quilapayún (2000)
  • Conosci Victor Jara? by Daniele Sepe (2000)
  • Tributo Rock a Víctor Jara by various artists (2001)
  • Tributo a Víctor Jara by various artists (2004)
  • Lonquen: Tributo a Víctor Jara by Francesca Ancarola (2005)
  • Even in Exile by James Dean Bradfield (2020)

Documentaries and films

The following are films or documentaries about and/or featuring Víctor Jara:

  • 1973: El Tigre Saltó y Mató, Pero Morirá…Morirá…. Director: Santiago Álvarez – Cuba
  • 1974: Compañero: Víctor Jara of Chile. Directors: Stanley Foreman/Martin Smith (Documentary) – UK
  • 1976: Il Pleut sur Santiago. Director: Helvio Soto – France/Bulgaria
  • 1978: Ein April hat 30 Tage. Director: Gunther Scholz – East Germany
  • 1978: El Cantor. Director: Dean Reed – East Germany
  • 1999: El Derecho de Vivir en Paz. Director: Carmen Luz Parot – Chile
  • 2001: Freedom Highway: Songs That Shaped a Century. Director: Philip King – Ireland
  • 2005: La Tierra de las 1000 Músicas [Episode 6: La Protesta]. Directors: Luis Miguel González Cruz, Joaquín Luqui [es] – Spain
  • 2010: Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune Director: Kenneth Bowser
  • 2019:Masacre en el estadio. Netflix

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Víctor Jara para niños

  • Nueva Canción Chilena
  • Estadio Victor Jara
  • 2644 Victor Jara
  • Brigada Victor Jara
  • Galpón Víctor Jara
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