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

My discovery of the man named Victor Jara seems, as I write this now, to be an almost total act of collusion on the part of the Fates. And though I am only beginning to learn of this amazing reformer and martyr, already I find myself hovering between tears and a firestorm of anger as I think of him.
In the matter of a few weeks, I discovered E2, finally bought U2's the Joshua Tree album and spent MLK-day listening to another U2 song, Pride in the Name of Love . Since that day, I noticed an article on Europeans boycotting American made goods because of our abhorrent condolence of capital punishment, and later another article mentioning how George Bush Sr. had been the head of the CIA, which we all know is just another way to spell KGB. These seemingly disparate events would all be brought together.

Last night, I noticed the above lyrics, on my new CD, in a song called One Tree Hill . Like so many other U2 songs, it is about freedom fighters, and so I decided to learn about this Jara.

As I discovered, Jara is Victor Jara, a Chilean poet, folk singer, and activist. Like so many in Chile, Jara lived in extreme poverty. Despite being oprhaned at 15, he still managed to study at a university and a seminary. Guided by his strong morals and desire to help others, he joined the Socialist Party in Chile. He spoke and sang across the country, a voice for the entire reform movement. In 1970 Chile freely and democratically elected Doctor Salvadore Allende as president of the first socialist country in Latin America.

The peace and social reforms would not last long. In 1973, with the assistance of and funding from the United State's CIA, Chilean Army General Augusto Pinochet led a brutal military coup d'etat.

Allende committed suicide, "Only dead, they will force me out of the presidency," he had said. Thousands more were imprisoned and hundreds tortured and executed in the football (soccer) stadium in Santiago. Amongst the dead, poet and reformer Victor Jara.

Survivors tell of being beaten, tortured with electricity, even dunked into vats of human waste. And they tell of the mass executions. And of Victor Jara, his hands cut off, the army officers forcing him to play guitar before executing him.

And so all those events of the past week have blended into a growing outrage. Another freedom fighter, another martyr for the poor. As Bono said in that song, his blood still cries from the ground. It cries to me, and as an American, it is on my hands. Just like the twenty innocent men executed in my own country over the past thirty years. I cry in my anger and outrage, and I will take up this blood-stained banner of reform. I will fight. I will speak my heart.

Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride
In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
One more in the name of love

See also: September 11, 1973

Estadio de Chile:
The Final Work of Victor Jara


After the CIA-sponsored fascist coup d'état of September 11, 1973, which brought Augusto Pinochet to power, Victor Jara, along with other intellectuals, university students, politicians, lawyers, educators, and anyone else that the coup régime could not abide, were imprisoned at the Estadio de Chile, where they awaited interrogation, torture, and - ultimately - execution. While he awaited his turn, beloved Chilean folksinger Victor Jara - savagely beaten, one eye swollen shut - scratched Estadio de Chile, his final poem, onto paper, a poem he would never finish.

Carlos Orellana, who worked in the department of information and culture at the Universidad Técnica (Technical College) with Jara, described in an interview how the poem made it out of the impromptu concentration camp set up in the stadium:

“Normally, in the stadium, they announced the surname of the prisoner on the PA system, ordering him to report to some location or other. But a soldier came for Jara. At that time, Victor was sitting between Boris Navia, a lawyer from the University, and me. The soldier silently approached, and, without saying a word, touched Victor's shoulder, signalling to him to follow them. I, as well as the other prisoners, had the impression that the soldiers didn't want to say out loud that Jara was being taken anywhere... When the singer stood up - he certainly didn't expect to return alive - he had enough time to take a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket, and he passed it furtively to Boris Navia. It was the poem Estadio de Chile, written by Victor.

“Later, once we had already been brought to the Estadio Nacional during the first interrogations, they found the paper with the poem amongst Boris Navia's things. He'd hidden it in a sock. The poem denounced fascism and the dictatorship. The soldiers thought that it had been written by Boris, and they beat him mercilessly with their clubs. They took the poem from him. But, with the help of the comrades, Boris was able to make several copies of the poem by hand. One of the copies ended up in the hands of Ernesto Araneda, a distinguished communist and ex-senator, who was also incarcerated. I don't know how he managed to save the poem and send it out. After the singer's death, the party clandestinely edited the poem, which was rapidly distributed and became famous...

Below is the full text of Victor Jara's final, unfinished poem:

Estadio de Chile

Somos cinco mil aquí.
En esta pequeña parte de la ciudad.
Somos cinco mil.
¿Cuántos somos en total
en las ciudades y en todo el país?
Somos 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.
Un 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 el muro,
pero todos con la mirada fija de la muerte.
¡Qué espanto causa el rostro del fascismo!
Llevan a cabo sus planes con precisión artera sin mportarles nada.
La sangre para ellos son medallas.
La matanza es acto de heroísmo.
¿Es éste el mundo que creaste, Dios mío?
¿Para esto tus siete días de asombro y trabajo?
En estas cuatro murallas sólo existe un número que no progresa.
Que lentamente querrá 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 lleno de dulzura.
¿Y México, Cuba, y el mundo?
¡Qué griten esta ignominia!
Somos diez mil manos 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, que 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 del infinito
en que el silencio y el grito son las metas de este canto.
Lo que nunca vi, lo que he sentido y lo que siento
hará brotar el momento....

Chile Stadium

There are five thousand of us here.
In this small part of the city.
Five thousand.
How many of us are there in all
In the cities and in all the country?
Here we are, ten thousand hands
Who plant the seeds and keep the factories running.
So much humanity,
hungry, cold, panicked, in pain,
Under moral duress, terrified out of their minds!
Six of ours lost themselves
In the space of the stars.
One man dead, one man beaten worse than I ever thought
It was possible to beat a human being.
The other four wanted to free themselves of all their fear.
One jumped into the void.
Another beat his head against the wall.
But all had the fixed look of death in their eyes.
What fear is provoked by the face of fascism!
They carry out their plans with the utmost precision, not giving a damn about anything.
For them, blood is a medal.
Killing is an act of heroism.
My God, is this the world You created?
Is this the product of Your seven days of wonders and labour?
In these four walls, there is nothing but a number that does not move forward.
That, gradually, will grow to want death.
But my conscience suddenly awakens me
And I see this tide without a pulse
And I see the pulse of the machines
And the soldiers, showing their matronly faces, full of tenderness.
And Mexico, Cuba, and the world?
Let them cry out of this ignominy!
We are ten thousand fewer hands that do not produce.
How many of us are there throughout our homeland?
The blood of our comrade the President pulses with more strength than bombs and machine guns.
And so, too, will our fist again beat.
Song, how hard it is sing you when I have to sing in fear!
Fear like that in which I live, and from which I am dying, fear.
Of seeing myself amidst so much, and so many endless moments
In which silence and outcry are the targets of this song.
What have never seen before, what I have felt and what I feel now
Will make the moment break out...

If Jara ever completed that thought, he never had the chance to write it down.




As with all those who are considered martyrs and heroes, some mythology has sprung up around Víctor Jara's killing. It is often said that Víctor Jara's hands were cut off by the soldiers who tormented him during the last hours of his life. His wife, Joan Turner Jara, who able to recover his body with the help of the staff of the morgue who recognised him, writes in her book Víctor Jara: un canto inconcluso (Víctor Jara: An Unfinished Song):

Era Víctor, aunque le vi delgado y demacrado. ¿Qué te han hecho para consumirte así en una semana? Tenía los ojos abiertos y parecía mirar al frente con intensidad y desafiante, a pesar de una herida en la cabeza y terribles moratones en la mejilla. Tenía la ropa hecha jirones, los pantalones alrededor de los tobillos, el jersey arrollado bajo las axilas, los calzoncillos azules, harapos alrededor de las caderas, como si hubieran sido cortados por una navaja o una bayoneta... el pecho acribillado y una herida abierta en el abdomen... las manos parecían colgarle de los brazos en extraño ángulo, como si tuviera rotas las muñecas... pero era Víctor, mi marido, mi amor.

It was Víctor, though he looked thin and emaciated. What did they do to you to consume you like this in one week? His eyes were open, and he appeared to be lookinf forward with intensity and defiance, despite a wound on his head and terrible bruises on his cheek. His clothes were torn to shreds, with his pants around his ankles, his jersey rolled below his armpits, his blue underwear in tatters around his hips, as if they had been cut by a blade or a bayonet... his chest was riddled with bullets, and he had an open wound on his abdomen... his hands appeared to be hanging from his arms at a strange angle, as if his wrists had been broken... but it was Víctor, my husband, my love.

For more information, see:
http://www.patriagrande.net/chile/victor.jara/vjmuerte.html

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