Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Victor Jara - A Desalambrar

It's hard to write about Victor Jara because there is too much to say, and words cannot convey who he was. He always reminds me of Bobby Kennedy -- murdered by a corrupt militaristic government, seen by the poor as one of "theirs," remembered throughout the country, his picture placed on small alters inside many homes.

Victora Jara was a Chilean poet, singer, songwriter, social justice activist. Community organizer. Theater director. He was committed to an embrace of the original Andean influence and instruments in Chilean music, but with political lyrics that spoke of the desperate needs of the poor and greed and brutality of the rich. He was instrumental in the movement known as Nueva Cancion -- "new song" that became so popular among young musicians in Chile.

Victor Jara was hated by the rich and powerful, of course, because he stood up for the rights of the poor. The U.S. set up a coup in Chile on 9/11 (1973) which led to the murder of the democratically-elected Salvador Allende and the installation of the brutal military dictatorship of Pinochet, under the direction of Henry the Hatchet Kissinger, and with the eager cooperation of Milton Friedman, creator of misery throughout the world and God of the neocons. Thousands of people were kidnapped, tortured, murdered, to spread terror across the country. Thousands more simply disappeared -- picked up by the police on the street, murdered, their bodies thrown in ditches.

On the first day of the coup, 9/11, Victor Jara was one of thousands taken to the stadium in Santiago. The story was that first the military cut out his tongue and said "You'll never sing again." Then they broke his hands and said "You'll never play the guitar again." Then they tortured him more and eventually killed him.

He was an amazing songwriter, poet, performer. He is a well-known and beloved man who is remembered and honored throughout much of the world for his struggles for human rights.

The reason I thought of Victor Jara today is that I keep hearing the insiders, the connected, the upper-class Democrats saying that there is no easy cure, no quick fix, and I keep thinking that if Victor Jara was here he would disagree. It's really simple. A relatively small section of our country (maybe 15%) has stolen most of the wealth and resources of this country and of the world. We need to take it back. Have a wealth tax. Just take it from them. This is our country, we make the laws.

Think of it this way. Let's say the second grade teacher brings 25 chocolate valentine candies to school, puts them in a bowl on her desk for the 25 students in her class. But she goes on a break and when she comes back she finds 15 of the students did not get a candy, 9 got one each. And there is fat selfish Albert who is basically a sociopath who gets along with no one, never learned to share or to play well with others, and his pockets are bulging because he took way more than his fair share. What would the teacher do? What should she do? Take all but 1 away from Albert. Then make him spend the day in Time Out. And distribute the rest evenly among the other students.

It's our country. We're in charge and we are responsible. A few people in this country have stolen money from us and from others. Poor Iceland is broke, their money stolen by some whore-loving coked-up hedge fund scum living in a penthouse and laughing at all of us. We need to go take away his money and his penthouse and his whore. Send him to time out (prison) and redistribute that money.

The song "A Desalambrar" was written by Victor Jara. "Desalambrar" is interpreted differently in different places. Some say it means to "deconstruct." Others interpret it as cutting the wire (as in cut the wires of the fences that keep the people off of the land). I could not find an English translation online, so here's a very rough one: I ask everyone here, has it ever occurred to you that this land belongs to us, not just to the people who have the most wealth. I ask whether, in this land, there are not those who have thought this: if they are our hands [that do the work], then the things that our hands make should belong to us. Then the chorus: A Desalambrar (let's take it apart, or tear down the fences), because this land is ours, yours and mine, it belongs to Pedro, Maria, Juan and Jose. Last verse: If somebody does not like my song, or does not want to hear it, you can be sure that person is either a gringo (white folks) or a dueno (rich man/landowner) of Chile.

A Desalambrar
by Víctor Jara
Yo pregunto a los presentes
si no se han puesto a pensar
que esta tierra es de nosotros
y no del que tenga más.

Yo pregunto si en la tierra
nunca habrá pensado usted
que si las manos son nuestras
es nuestro lo que nos den.

A desalambrar, a desalambrar!
que la tierra es nuestra, tuya y de aquel,
de Pedro, María, de Juan y José.

Si molesto con mi canto
a alguien que no quiera oír
le aseguro que es un gringo
o un dueño de este país.


  1. I just read the news about the exhumation of Victor Jara's body and found your blog.

    The song is beautiful - he had a great voice. The monsters who killed him and those who ordered the killing will never rest in peace for what they did. They have stolen, not only from Chile, but from all humanity.

  2. I love Victor Jara. You can get CDs of his music online. There is so much amazing and beautiful music. You also might like Quillapayun or Inti-Illimani. Lots of terrific music.

    Victor Jara will never be forgotten. Nor should he. He represents the pointless murder of a man who was just trying to help the poor people in his own country, not with a gun, but with song. This was ultimately a great threat, and the dictatorship with its U.S. sponsorship wanted to wipe out not just any possible leadership among the poor, but also eliminate the culture and heritage of Chile so it could be Mcdonald-ized and corporatized and exploited and looted.

    Unfortunately the people inside the U.S. who directed and funded the murder, the coup, the plundering of that nation, have never been brought to account.

    Naomi Klein argues, in her book The Shock Doctrine, that Chile was just the beginning of a decades-long program to destroy countries and cultures, in South and Central America, Eastern Europe, Asia, install corporate-sponsored military dictatorships, steal the resources, leave the country and the people bankrupt and powerless. This is certainly what has been done in Iraq and maybe is in the beginning stages of the U.S.

    1. A Desalambrar was orioginally writed by Daniel Viglietti. Victor Jara just made a cover of Daniel's Song.

  3. Apologies for taking so long to check back. Thanks for your reply. I have a couple of Inti-Illimani albums but had never heard of Quillapayun so I will check them out, thanks.

    I'm familiar with Naomi Klein's work from the Guardian newspaper but haven't read The Shock Doctrine yet. Another must-do.

    The history of America's foreign policy since WW2 is shameful and the worst is that ordinary Americans, by and large, have no idea of what has been done in their name. So many grassroots democratic movements in South and Central America have been snuffed out.

    One unintended consequence of the US's invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan is that it overstretched itself; and as a result South America has had a chance to vote for progressive and popular governments. Let's hope that the South American peoples continue to choose their own governments without outside interference.

  4. Tom: I just did a little post on Quilapayun which you might like. I agree completely that the timing of the Crusades has been, oddly, a wonderful thing for South America. It is the most exciting area in the world, with people working together to take control of their country and government and improve the lives of the working people. I am so opposed to these middle east wars, but then a tiny voice inside me wonders whether Evo Morales or Hugo Chavez would have succeeded if the U.S. wasn't so bogged down in the big Iraq muddy.

    As an aside, I just saw a terrific documentary on Sundance called something like "Cocalera" about Evo Morales and about Bolivia. A terrific film.

  5. Victor Jara will never be forgotten.. a True Hero Of Mankind

  6. the word desalambrar is probably a poetic invention. In Chile alambre means cord and wire, some might use it for 'rope' but mostly it brings to mind what in English we call "barbed wire" or "alambre de puas" so desalambrar is definitely about removing fences, which is land reform with an almost gaucho sensibility that land should belong to everyone. I don't know about the huaso sensibility, sorry.

    As for Victor Jara, he is not just a hero to leftists in Chile, but to all human rights activists. As regards Klein's work, I wonder how she explained the pre-golpe de estado Chilean government's counter-democratic relations with Cuba and its training of even civil servants for armed revolt against their own government. And the rationing of food to card-carrying Communists before all the rest. And the fact that resistance to Pinochet took much longer to coalesce in Chile than in any other South American country under dictatorship. It is because many people there loved him for saving them from Communism. If such a program as a Shock Doctrine ever existed as a conscious policy there were certainly reasons other than the simplistic ones presented here for having it, probably ones that could be explained with a human rights rationale.

    There is another version of 'a desalambrar' by a Uruguayan singer Daniel Viglietti, it can be found somewhere deep in this website: which is full of gems by Victor Jara and other great musicians and activists like him.

    1. "If such a program as a Shock Doctrine ever existed as a conscious policy there were certainly reasons other than the simplistic ones presented here for having it, probably ones that could be explained with a human rights rationale". Can human rights explain away the interference and culpability of the USA in contributing to Pinochet's right wing extremists who committed a holocaust second only to Hitlers Nazis? Next you will inform us that the School of the Americas is a myth or that rendition never was a product of the Bush Adminstration.Pray for your soul and those of the monsters who murdered Victor and tens of thousands more/ No right winger believes in human rights or even freedom.

  7. Good stuff been said about Victor Jara. The composer of "a desalambrar" however, I believe is Daniel Viglieti from Uruguay, not VJ. He wrote lots of other good stuff though.

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  9. Congratulations for the article. However, the author of the song "A desalambrar" is not Victor Jara but the uruguayan Daniel Viglietti.

  10. I have a vinyl record of Victor Jara, all scratchy and dinged up by now, perhaps a little bit like the struggle he epitomized . . . . but it is still THERE. I recently thought of VJ and wrote a small paragraph about him with a link on my FB page to A Desalambrar. I would like to think it caught the spirit of what has been conveyed here. Your article brought a slight tear to my eye, like often happens to me when I listen to Victor's songs. Thank you. And one can find the song on the internet being done by Daniel Viglietti - - - just look at the crowd that attended!

    1. I have great admiration for Victor Jara, love his music, love the music of those he inspired, his politics, his commitment. His reputation grows with time. It's so rare when we see someone as basically decent as he was. I hope people will always remember and respect him and his music, and his contribution to the quest for freedom.