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Remembering Chile, forty years ago today

Submitted by on September 11, 2013 – 4:43 pmNo Comment

Salvador Allende’s democratically elected Popular Unity government in Chile was overthrown in a military coup 40 years ago today.

Victor Jara, singer and activist, was arrested the next day and taken, along with thousands of others, as a prisoner to the Estadio Chile in Santiago.  There he was repeatedly beaten and tortured; the bones in his hands were broken with his captors mockingly then suggesting he try and play guitar. And there he died on 16 September.  When his wife Joan identified his body it had 44 bullets in it.

It was also in the stadium that he wrote and sang his final song, his ‘manifiesto’.  It survives because his fellow prisoners memorised it:

santiago_flagSomos cinco mil aquí
en esta pequeña parte la ciudad.
Somos cinco mil.
¿Cuántos somos en total
en las ciudades y en todo el país?
Sólo aquí,
diez mil manos que siembran
y hacen andar las fábricas.
Cuánta humanidad
con hambre, frío, pánico, dolor,
presión moral, terror y locura.

Seis de los nuestros se perdieron
en el espacio de las estrellas.
Uno muerto, un golpeado como jamás creí
se podría golpear a un ser humano.
Los otros cuatro quisieron quitarse
todos los temores,
uno saltando al vacío,
otro golpeándose la cabeza contra un muro
pero todos con la mirada fija en la muerte.
¡Qué espanto produce el rostro del fascismo!
Llevan a cabo sus planes con precisión artera
sin importarles nada.
La sangre para ellos son medallas.
La matanza es un acto de heroísmo.
¿Es este el mundo que creaste, Dios mío?
¿Para esto tus siete días de asombro y de trabajo?
En estas cuatro murallas sólo existe un número
que no progresa.
Que lentamente querrá más la muerte.

Pero de pronto me golpea la consciencia
y veo esta marea sin latido
y veo el pulso de las máquinas
y los militares mostrando su rostro de matrona
llena de dulzura.
¿Y México, Cuba y el mundo?
¡Qué griten esta ignominia!
Somos diez mil manos
menos que no producen.
¿Cuántos somos en toda la patria?
La sangre del compañero Presidente
golpea más fuerte que bombas y metrallas.
Así golpeará nuestro puño nuevamente.

Canto, qué mal me sales
cuando tengo que cantar espanto.
Espanto como el que vivo
como el que muero, espanto.
De verme entre tantos y tantos
momentos de infinito
en que el silencio y el grito
son las metas de este canto.
Lo que veo nunca vi.
Lo que he sentido y lo que siento
harán brotar el momento…

—–

There are five thousand of us here
in this small part of the city.
We are five thousand.
I wonder how many we are in all
in the cities and in the whole country?
Here alone
are ten thousand hands which plant seeds
and make the factories run.
How much humanity
exposed to hunger, cold, panic, pain,
moral pressure, terror and insanity?

Six of us were lost
as if into starry space.
One dead, another beaten as I could never have believed
a human being could be beaten.
The other four wanted to end their terror
one jumping into nothingness,
another beating his head against a wall,
but all with the fixed stare of death.
What horror the face of fascism creates!
They carry out their plans with knife-like precision.
Nothing matters to them.
To them, blood equals medals,
slaughter is an act of heroism.
Oh God, is this the world that you created,
for this your seven days of wonder and work?
Within these four walls only a number exists
which does not progress,
which slowly will wish more and more for death.

But suddenly my conscience awakes
and I see that this tide has no heartbeat,
only the pulse of machines
and the military showing their midwives’ faces
full of sweetness.
Let Mexico, Cuba and the world
cry out against this atrocity!
We are ten thousand hands
which can produce nothing.
How many of us in the whole country?
The blood of our President, our compañero,
will strike with more strength than bombs and machine guns!
So will our fist strike again!

How hard it is to sing
when I must sing of horror.
Horror which I am living,
horror which I am dying.
To see myself among so much
and so many moments of infinity
in which silence and screams
are the end of my song.
What I see, I have never seen
What I have felt and what I feel
Will give birth to the moment…

Estadio Chile, September 1973

[Translated by Joan Jara]

chile_elegy

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