All translations by Google*
El Derecho de Vivir en Paz (The Right to Live in Peace) is a song by Victor Jara from the 1971 album of the same name, which also features the songs El Alma Llena de Banderas (Alma’s Up To Here With Antonio Banderas*) and Ya Parte El Galgo Terrible (I Went to a Terrible Party in Wales*). It was Jara’s expression of solidarity with the people of Vietnam, who in their desire to “live in peace” had comprehensively defeated the French in battle and were, when he wrote the song, giving the Americans a good hiding as well.
Jara was famously murdered by the Chilean army after the 1973 coup (which occurred on September 11th, lest we forget). Following the attack on the Twin Towers on 11/09/01 (or 9/11/01, as the Americans perversely insist) a group of acclaimed film-makers got together and made a portmanteau movie, called, with striking originality, 11’09″01 September 11 because each section is 11 minutes, 9 seconds, and one frame long. Ken Loach’s contribution, which is about a Chilean exile living in the UK and writing a letter of solidarity, Victor Jara-style, to the American people, figures amongst his very best work, because Ken is always better doing documentary than drama, I think, although this is a bit of a halfway house.
There’s also the Cuban master of montage Santiago Alvarez’s homage to Chile, Allende and Jara, which bears the catchy title El Tigre Saltó y Mató… Pero Morirá… Morirá (Get Me Some Salted Tiger Nuts, Moira…. Moira?*) This has shamefully few hits on YouTube for a documentary CLASSIC! If scratchy, black and white footage of wars is as much your kind of thing as it is mine, you could do worse than follow El Tigre Saltó with 79 Primaveras (79 Springs) which is yet another hymn to loveable old Uncle Ho and his collectivization programme, although this time more of a visual poem than a singalong (it does use Iron Butterfly’s In-a-Gadda-da-Vida very effectively though).
Back in the day, when I was still writing book reviews for The Good Book Guide (thanks to the kind agency of my brother Matt – cheers, Matt!) they sent me Victor: An Unfinished Song by his widow Joan Jara to review. This is what I had to say about it:
“The late sixties/early seventies were heady years in Chile. As leading light of the New Chilean Song Movement and champion of Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government, Victor Jara bridged the gap between politics and culture. He sang not only about but for the poor and oppressed – the peasant stock from which he hailed – and as such, was a hero to them. For a while he was able to bask with his English wife Joan in their hard won if fragile victory. But all the time the military, aided by the CIA and multinational companies, were plotting their revenge. When, finally, the coup came, with unimaginable ferocity, Victor was singled out for special treatment. His hands smashed, his tongue cut out, he met his maker along with thousands of others in Santiago’s National Stadium. It’s a testament to the courage of Joan Jara that she has been able to write of their life together, their hopes and dreams, the beauty of Victor’s music and the power of love, even in the midst of terror. A truly heart-rending memoir.”
Dai the Llama’s verdict: “El Derecho de Vivir en Paz is atypical of Victor Jara’s work, because it’s quite good. It has a rocky, almost psychedelic vibe, while most of his songs are a bit dreary and earnest. It is, in other words, both A Good Place to start and Not A Good Place, because it will mislead you into thinking you want to hear the Antonio Banderas song*, or the one about the party in Wales*, and you won’t. The book’s good, though.”
*Translations by Google Translate