The Road To Justice For Chilean Singer Victor Jara

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Chilean folk singer Victor Jara.

Victor Jara is one of the most beloved Latin American musicians of all time, but his death is still shrouded in controversy. Jara was a vocal supporter of the socialist regime that was brought down by a violent (U.S.-backed) coup in 1973. And just this month, three suspects were charged in the brutal 1973 torture and killing of Jara.

In the world of protest singers, few have been as controversial and inspirational as Jara, and his music lives on through the many activists and musicians he inspired -- including Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan. 

On her new album, Recordar: Latin American Songs of Love and ProtestAni Cordero -- a singer-songwriter and one of the founding members of the Latin rock band Pistolera -- includes a cover of Victor Jara's song "Deja La Vida Volar." In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Cordero reflects on the secret to Jara's lasting musical influence, the Chilean politics that inspired him, and the latest in the 40-year-long search for his killers.

Legend has it that Victor Jara penned his final poem while being held captive inside Estadio Chile -- now Estadio Victor Jara. Someone smuggled the poem out inside their shoe, and it made its way to Jara's widow, Joan. Below is an English translation of the poem, followed by the original Spanish. 

We are five thousand
Confined in this little part of town
We are five thousand
How many of us are there throughout the country?

Such a large portion of humanity
With hunger, cold, horror and pain
Six among us have already been lost
And have joined the stars in the sky.

One killed, another beaten
As I never imagined a human being
could be beaten
The other four just wanted to put an end
To their fears 

One by jumping down to his death
The other smashing his head against a wall
But all of them
Looking straight into the eyes of death.

We are ten thousand hands 
That can no longer work
How many of us are there 
Throughout the country?

The blood shed by our comrade President
Has more power than bombs and machine guns
With that same strength our collective fist
Will strike again some day.

Song, How imperfect you are!
When I most need to sing, I cannot
I cannot because I am still alive
I cannot because I am dying

It terrifies me to find myself
Lost in infinite moments
On which silence and shouts
Are the objectives of my song

What I now see, I have never seen
What I feel and what I have felt
Will make the moment spring again.

Canto, Que Mal Me Sales!
Somos cinco mil
En esta pequeña parte de la ciudad.
Somos cinco mil
¨Cuántos seremos en total?

*Cuánta humanidad
Con hambre, frío, pánico, dolor
Seis de los nuestros se perdieron
En el espacio de las estrellas.

Un muerto, un golpeado como jamás creí
Se podría golpear a un ser humano.
Los otros cuatro quisieron
Quitarse todos los temores.

Uno saltando al vacío
Otro golpeándose la cabeza
La cabeza contra el muro
Pero todos con la mirada fija de la muerte.

Somos diez mil manos menos
Que no producen
Quién sabe cuantos seremos
En toda la patria.

La sangre del compañero Presidente
Golpea más fuerte que bombas y metrallas
Así golpeará nuestro puño nuevamente
Asi golpeará nuestro puño nuevamente.

*Ay, canto qué mal me sales
Cuando tengo que cantar espanto!
Espanto como el que vivo
Como el que muero espanto.

De verme entre tanto y tantos
Momentos del infinito
En que el silencio y el grito
Son las metas de este canto.

Lo que veo nunca vi,
Lo que he sentido y lo que siento
Hará brotar el momento
Hará brotar el momento.

Ay, canto qué mal me sales
Cuando tento que cantar espanto.
Ay, canto qué mal me sales
Ay, canto qué mal me sales.