Víctor Jara was a Chilean theatre director, poet, singer, songwriter, and political activist whose work flourished in the early 1970s. Deeply connected to the traditional folklore and melodies of Chile, Víctor Jara’s music was an inspiration to Chile’s peasants and working classes. His music focused on themes of social and economic inequality and the plight of the indigenous poor. Víctor Jara was a strong supporter of socialism and the administration of Chilean President Salvador Allende, and a key figure in the Nueva Canción Chilena (New Chilean Song Movement), which garnered popularity and support for the Popular Unity government of President Allende through socially committed folk music. Up until his death in 1973, he served as a theater director and professor at the State Technical University (UTE). In 1965, Víctor Jara married Joan Turner, a British citizen teaching at a university in Chile. Prior to Víctor Jara’s death, the couple lived in Santiago, Chile with their two daughters, Manuela and Amanda.
In the aftermath of the 1973 coup that overthrew the Allende government and installed General Augusto Pinochet as President, Víctor Jara was detained along with thousands of other suspected leftists at Chile Stadium. During his detention, he wrote a poem entitled “Estadio Chile,” detailing the brutality in Chile Stadium, saying: “How hard it is to sing; when I must sing of horror.” Despite heroic resistance, he was brutally killed by members of the Chilean Army on September 15, 1973 and his body was unceremoniously dumped on a road outside the Stadium.
In 2009, Jara’s body was exhumed in Chile as part of an investigation into the circumstances of his death. Nearly 6000 mourners attended his funeral procession to the cemetery in Santiago, Chile, where Jara was buried a second time. Almost 40 years after his death, Víctor Jara’s memory lives on in the hearts of millions of Chileans who still enjoy his music. Chile Stadium, the site of his death, has since been renamed “Estadio Víctor Jara.”