Thinking About How Victor Jara Died September 11, 1973

Thinking About How Victor Jara Died September 11, 1973

Although, Just As Importantly, About How He Sang His Very Last Song 9/11/73

Victor Jara, actually wrote his last song at the Chilean Stadium, in the midst of torture and mass slaughter. The very popular and beloved singer, songwriter, was arrested shortly after the Chilean coup of 11 September 1973. He was tortured during interrogations and ultimately shot dead. Prior to his death, Victor Jara wrote, “The term protest song is no longer valid, since it is indeed ambiguous and often being misused. I rather use the term, revolutionary song.” Victor Jara.

Tomorrow, September morning, on September 11, 2020, as we sadly memorialize in poetry, prayers, parades, Zoom and live, musical presentations, the 18 anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and America, I’d like for us to also think and pray for Chile and South America. Since they also have a very sad and gloomy anniversary in remembrance.

Imagine yourselves back to that morning on September 11, 2001, just as that morning of September 11, 1973, as the residents of Santiago, Chile awoke to chaos.

Fighter jets were bombing the presidential palace, tanks had taken to the streets and ordinary Chileans were being rounded up and tortured in the city’s sports stadiums, where they’d been just two days prior, as spectators to fun-filled soccer games! Sadly, perhaps coincidentally, just as 9/11/201, 9/11/73, also fell on a Tuesday.

One of those detained was world famed folk singer Victor Jara, whose incarceration, mutilation, and public brutal murder, would grow to symbolize the unlimited tragic cruelty of the Pinochet regime.

Back in 1973, Victor Jara was one of Chile, and Latin America’s biggest music stars. He was more of a mixture of most all of America’s folk singers, such as, Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman, Joan Baez Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, John Prine, Loudon Wainwright, Lucinda Williams, He was openly and unashamedly a left-wing oriented song writer, whom wrote popular, protest songs (cancion nueva) about the current social inequality and the plight of the working poor. The horrendous situation in which the poor lived, provided the blank canvas and grimed gray colors, he painted their cries as an artists. He grew creatively and achieve tremendous popularity among the people, although not the wealthy, right wing, rich, whom greatly enjoyed and benefited tremendously such status quo… and were resistant to change. So it was obvious that as the right-wing, Pinochet regime, seized power in that bloody coup, they made damn sure that Jara would’ve been one of the first to be detained, and used as an example.

I remember being in elementary school, reading the papers, listening to the news, being continuously focused, travelling up to San Pedro Sula that day. Was going to support my brother… since I’d gotten permission from mother to go up and see my oldest brother, Overton, (RIP) and his new radio program, unaware that he prepared professionally to share this terrible news of such untimely death to the Honduran and Belizean people, from his newly established, bilingual midday, news program, Noti Q, Informa, via HRQ, La Carinosa. He was very proud, somewhat joyful, yet saddened. Everyone at the news broadcast had a strange look on their faces. It was a huge accomplishment for my brother, since this program, was actually the first national, bilingual news broadcast program in the nation. Yet, it would be tarnished by such tragedy. I sat outside, across the broadcast both and watched him deliver his report, then proceded to talk to the nation in English for an entire hour. Later out for lunch to celebrate.

Years later, I sailed with several Chilean shipmates, whom confirmed and related this tragic and awful untimely monstrosity act that caused his death. Many other witnesses and reports, all just as awful, and each time i hear or read the story, to this day, it becomes even more incredible and sick.

To realize how could one little man’s words, strumed over a guitar, could shake a big ‘strongman’s powerful army?

According to witnesses, Victor Jara, was immediately transported to the Chilean Stadium following his arrest, where he’d find himself in a vision between Hell and fire. The Estadio Chileno, was just one of more than fifty other torture centers that sprang up around Santiago in the days following the coup. Back in 1999, I had the honor and pleasure of being invited to perform poetry and music, at the Unitarian Universalist Center in West Harford, Connecticut, for the Ocotal Sister City Project.

There I met Paul Baker, a singer, song writer, musician, poet, activist, and former monk, whom now lives in Nicaragua. He assured me that he was in Chile at the time, he was also arrested and taken to that same torture of Hell, called el ‘estadio,’ where he “witnessed Victor Jar’s assassination.”

The Chilean Stadium became notorious for its cruelty. The unlawful detainees were forced to sit in the bleachers for days at a time, without food or sleep. Forced to sit there and watched as other fellow detainees, were randomly pulled out amidst the crowds and executed at the kick off center of the field. That out of nowhere, guards randomly turned their machine guns on the crowd and unleash a spray of bullets, sending bodies tumbling down onto the field that once grew green grass, for international soccer matches, thus such playing field, now turned red in blood.

A lifelong activist and rebel, Jara rebelled during his unlawful incarceration by composing new songs and singing them to his fellow detainees, he thought it’d keep them strong , focused and therefore their spirits up. Of course, due to all of the attention given, he’d swiftly become an unwelcome guest to the camp commander. Unsurprisingly, this commander wanted to get his point across toward intimidation, and chose to make a brutal and diabolic gesture.

According to witness report, the commander, placed a guitar on a table in the middle of the stadium, and challenged Jara, in a morbid and daring invitation to come down and play his songs to the crowd. According to whom one might talked to, Some might say that Jara naively agreed, others might point out and perhaps argue.that, Victor Jara clearly felt, he was about to face his last minutes of life on earth.

The gruesome, barbaric acts that followed, would forever be etched upon the heart and minds of those whom saw and witnessed the reincarnated devil in live action. As Victor sat at the table, he was immediately pinned down, before he could even touch the guitar. He was strongly held in place by several nearby, guards, whom appear to stand guard, meanwhile the commander proceeded to cut off his fingers and mutilated his hands to a mush, with a gun butt. Witnesses are still to this day very confused at what they’d been forced to witnessed, some believed he used an axe, while others swore that it was the butt of his rifle. Either way, years later, both outcomes, when related are as just as awful.

With both of Jara’s hands, drippling a bloody pulp, the devilish, craze commander began screaming, and cursing at him. “Now sing… I want you to sing! Sing you hijo de puta…Canta!!!

Victor Jara, being a true born rebel and activist for the poor and those most defenseless, in response, he pushed himself to his feet. Stumbling around, though still with the outmost, infinite calm, he reportedly stumbled across the field, propelling himself up to the nearest set of bleachers and called out to the crowd of thousands of unlawful fellow detainees… “Bueno mi camarada, agamos le este favor al sr. comandante.” (All right, comrades, let’s do the senor commandante the favor), and he began to sing.

He sung unsteadily, with a wavering voice, the anthem of the Unidad Popular’s political party, many of whose dead members, then laid in piles at the bottom of the bleachers. And just as his voice began to steadily sing, something incredible happened, throughout the stadium. Fellow prisoners who’d not eaten, nor slept in days, prisoners who’d previously been tortured and threatened with death, they all rose to their feet and began to sing with him. At that memorable moment, the guards began to lose their minds, and all they could do, was to remain stun, and only watch, and felt the stadium rumbled throughout in song, as their prisoners rose up in faith and courage to joined in with Victor Jara in his final song.

The reality came back to them through that fatal gunshot, which ended his life. Followed by the continuous rifle, peppered firing of the machine guns. Victor Jara fell lifeless to the floor. And before anyone in the crowd could react, these guns were turned on the bleachers, where dozens, and dozens of other singers accompanied him in death. Their bodies, also tumbling down onto the pitch below. To all surviving detainees in the stadium on that awful day, it was more than just the death of a popular singer, thus rather the death of hope, of a country, of their spirit of democracy, and of everything that in this civilized world, they previously held with dare belief.

Took years before, Victor Jara’s killers would eventually and ultimately be brought to justice, it would be over a quarter of a century, before the Unidad Popular anthem, would ever be sung publicly in Chile again.

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