Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Víctor Jara was born in the small town of Chillán Viejo, south of Santiago, Chile, to poor farmers Manuel Jara and Amanda Martínez. The marriage was not a happy one, and Manuel left the family when Víctor was still a child to look for work elsewhere. Amanda perservered in raising Víctor and his siblings by herself, insisting that all of them should receive a good education.
Amanda died when Víctor Jara was only 15, leaving him to make his own way thereafter. He began to study to be an accountant, but soon moved into a seminary instead, studying to become a priest. After a couple of years, however, he became disillusioned with the church and left the seminary. Subsequently he spent several years in the army before returning to his home town to pursue interests in folk music and theater.
Jara began singing in a Santiago café owned by Violeta Parra, and through her became involved in the Nueva canción school of Latin American folk music. He published his first recording in 1966 and, by 1970, had left his theater work in favor of a career in music. His songs were drawn from a combination of traditional folk music and left-wing political activism. From this period, some of his most renowned songs are La Plegaria de un Labrador (A Farmer's Prayer) and Te Recuerdo Amanda (I Remember You Amanda.) He supported progressive Popular Unity candidate Salvador Allende for the presidency of Chile, taking part in several concerts.
Allende's campaign was successful and, in 1970, he was elected President of Chile. However, the military, who opposed Allende's politics, staged a coup on September 11, 1973, in the course of which Allende was killed. That same day, Jara was arrested by the military, and was kept in prison for five subsequent days under, reportedly, inhumane conditions.
On or about September 16, 1973, many prisoners were taken to the Chile Stadium. According to reports from survivors, a number of them were tortured and killed there by the military. Víctor Jara's hands were broken; afterward, he was given a guitar by his captors, who then suggested that he play for them. Defiantly, he sang part of a song supporting the Popular Unity party. Afterward, he was severely beaten before being machine-gunned and carried with other executed prisoners to a mass grave.
Jara's wife, Joan Jara, was allowed to come and retrieve his body from the site (and was able to confirm that his hands had been broken). After holding a funeral for her husband, Joan Jara fled Chile in secret. She carried with her recordings of Víctor Jara's music, which were later copied and distributed worldwide. Joan Jara later wrote an account of Víctor Jara's life and music, titled Víctor: An Unfinished Song.
In September 2003, the Chile Stadium was renamed Víctor Jara Stadium.
- Víctor: An Unfinished Song by Joan Jara (1998, Bloomsbury Press, London)
- The Chile Stadium many times is confused with National Stadium of Chile (also called National Stadium.)
- Víctor's death date was confirmed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (The Rettig Report.)
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