Chilean Exiles in Scotland
Giovanna, Carlos, Margarita and Gabriel, exiled from Pinochet’s Chile in 1974, came to us in Edinburgh. With no English, they sang their broken hearts out: Violeta and Víctor. Gabriel had been so badly tortured he had given up the names of some friends. He never knew what happened to them.

Middle-class, woolly liberals, with no Spanish, his story and their passion taught us ‘charity’ is for the birds. ‘Justice’ is the key. That what happened in Chile was ultimately to prevent the Chilean people reclaiming the resources of their country from the greed of our transnational corporations, to be used above all for the most marginalized. And, more broadly, that all of us in the ravenous White North were complicit in the ransacking of the Global South – a ransacking ‘unfortunately necessary’ to sustain the otherwise unsustainable: our entire way of life, exceeding the carrying capacity of our common Earth roughly fourfold even today.

Café Víctor Jara.
Based on the Isabel and Angel Parra peña at Carmen 340 in Santiago, we established Café
Víctor once a month in the basement of St. John’s Church, at the West End of Princes Street,
Edinburgh’s main thoroughfare. CVJ ran for a decade or more, involving many local musicians
and poets. Carlos Arredondo, one of the exiles above, had been a singer in Chile; he became a
central figure.

Concerts in Chile to Reclaim Stadia Used as Torture/Death Camps
1990 Amnesty International Concert in el Estadio Nacional, Santiago.
Inti Illimani, Sting, Sinead O’Connor, Jackson Browne, New Kids on the Block(!). El Estadio
Nacional was the national football stadium. The movie, ‘Missing’ – typically about a single US
person while thousands of Chileans suffered – featured this large stadium.

Festival of Cleansing, Estadio Chile.
‘Chile stadium’, now Estadio Victor Jara, is much smaller, a basketball-cum-concert space, holding about 5,000 people. Prisoners were kept in the bleachers and court area; changing rooms below ground became torture chambers. Inti-illimani, Isabel & Angel Parra, Quilapayun, etc. Central to the event was Isabel singing her setting of Víctor’s last poem, written on scraps of paper, unfinished because they came for him
that last dreadful time while he was still composing it. Companions in that appalling place
smuggled it out

The climax of the festival was the whole place singing ‘Plegaria a un Labrador’, together
with Víctor. Years before, ‘Plegaria’ had won joint first place in that very stadium, during the
very first concurso of Chilean New Song. My part was to help fundraise for the event, mostly
in Hollywood (was living with Salvadoran exiles in LA at the time). People like Susan
Sarandon and Martin Sheen helped out.

Playing Víctor’s Own Guitar.
During the events themselves I lived with Joan in the house she and Víctor had shared. She lent
me Víctor’s guitar! One evening, in their garden, a single line, words and music, came stealing
out of the stillness: ‘I Thought I Heard Sweet Victor…..Singing’. Just that.

Bilingual Versions of Víctor’s Songs.
On return to LA, the whole song was born. In English first, then later in Spanish. Here the
Spanish is recorded in Fundación Víctor in Santiago in 2013 at the height of the ‘Justice for
Víctor’ campaign. With torture victims and their loved ones, plus Tony Corden, founder of the bi-annual El Sueño Existe Festival in Machynlleth, Wales. The festival is firmly founded on Víctor, his ideals, his inspiration and his courage >>

From that moment in Joan and Víctor’s garden, many of his best-loved songs, e.g.,
‘Luchín’, ‘Ni Chicha ni limonad’, ‘Te Recuerdo Amanda’, have somehow flowered into poetic
singing English within me. Here’s ‘Manifiesto’, Víctor’s last song, published posthumously:

‘Víctor Jara Siempre Canta’ Festivals, Nicaragua.
Gabriel and the others said, ‘Don’t go to Chile. They’ll kill you. Go to Nicaragua – that’s where
our one revolution is today.’ That was 1985. Still here, still singing Víctor, still working with that single Latin American Revolution in Nicaragua, currently – and constantly – under US/Contra/Guardian attack. Our
White Man’s society, still using the same destabilization/disinformation warfare they launched
against Allende, seems ever more determined to hang onto its criminal unsustainability. No
matter that it’s costing the lives and livelihoods of millions of innocent people across the globe,
and bids fair to destroy all life on Earth. When the New York Twin Towers, etc. were attacked
– astonishingly on September 11th, the very date that Kissinger and Nixon had launched the
traitor Pinochet to bombard the seat of his own elected government – with typical myopic
hypocrisy, the US and its allies clutched that terrible date to themselves, ignoring Chile almost
completely. No matter that the scale of the Chilean disaster was far greater, no matter that many
Chileans are still searching for the remains – at least – of their ‘disappeared’ loved ones. Duly
enraged, here in Nicaragua we founded the Víctor Jara Siempre Canta festivals, held every year
since 2002 on the weekend closest to September 11th. Here’s a video of the 10th such event,
held in the Centro Para la Promoción, la Investigación y Desarrollo Rural Social (CIPRES),

We’ve now established ‘Peña Víctor Jara’, a Nicaraguan version of our Edinburgh ‘Café Victor
Jara’, base for a working group preparing for this historic September 11th Tours. Countless singing/speaking tours in US and UK, always with Víctor’s music, since his songs speak to everything from love to beauty, from workers’ rights to environmental justice.

Joan’s Foreword to ‘Song in High Summer’.
‘Song in High Summer’, a diary of accompanying Salvadoran exiles in LA, celebrating their,
Joan’s, Víctor’s courage. Joan’s foreword is much the best part. It concludes, “I wish history
had allowed Víctor and Paul to meet. They would have been friends.” Amen to that.

Paul Peulevé Baker Hernández.
Managua, Nicaragua. March 2023.

Categories: Our Stories


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