'El Derecho De Vivir En Paz' Gives Voice To Protesters In Chile

Nov 2, 2019

Massive anti-government protests in Chile over the past few weeks have united demonstrators in song. Last week, up to a million people protesting in Santiago were joined by a cavalry of guitarists. They played a song called "El Derecho de Vivir en Paz," which once stood as an anthem for resistance against the brutal regime of Augusto Pinochet that began in 1973.

Written by Chilean composer and singer-songwriter Víctor Jara, "El Derecho de Vivir en Paz" — translated as "The Right to Live in Peace" — was originally a tribute to Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Jara, an outspoken political activist, was imprisoned by the Chilean military during Pinochet's dictatorship, and his song quickly became a protest anthem after Jara was assassinated on Pinochet's orders. Pop star Francisca Valenzuela says Jara is an icon who put his voice to the service of his fellow Chileans, calling him "a beacon of hope and resistance."

Valenzuela is among 30 Chilean artists — including singers Mon Laferte, Gepe, Camila Moreno, rapper Pedropiedra, and rocker Fernando Milagros — who collaborated on a new recording of "El Derecho de Vivir en Paz" that was released earlier this week.

YouTube

Part of this new rendition references "el Nuevo Pacto Social," or the new social agreement, adding lyrics that correspond to the specific requests of protesters: "Dignidad y educación / Que no haya desigualdad." ("Dignity and education / So that there is no inequality.")

"I really feel very proud of my cultural community," Valenzuela says. "Everyone's been very active and really putting their voice and their music at the service of this movement." One might call it a Chilean tradition.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The enormous anti-government protests in Chile over the past few weeks have brought thousands together in song.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing in foreign language).

SIMON: Last week, thousands in Santiago were led by dozens of guitarists playing a resistance anthem against the brutal regime of Augusto Pinochet back in 1973.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL DERECHO DE VIVIR EN PAZ")

VICTOR JARA: (Singing in Spanish).

SIMON: Victor Jara's song "El Derecho De Vivir En Paz," the right to live in peace, was originally a tribute to Vietnam's communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Singer Francisca Valenzuela says Jara is an icon in today's Chile. He gave his life for his country.

FRANCISCA VALENZUELA: Victor Jara is a tremendously talented composer and songwriter who was taken by the military during the dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet and was killed. He was first imprisoned. And he had his hands cut off while being detained. He even sang and wrote with the other prisoners and was a beacon of hope and resistance.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL DERECHO DE VIVIR EN PAZ")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing in Spanish).

SIMON: This past weekend, 30 Chilean artists, including Valenzuela, released a new recording of "The Right to Live in Peace."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL DERECHO DE VIVIR EN PAZ")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing in Spanish).

VALENZUELA: So this part speaks to what is called the Nuevo Pacto Social, the new social agreement. And this is basically what the movement currently in Tunis fighting for - basic human rights and dignity in terms of education and health, pensions. The movement has specific requests. And it's actually adapted into the lyrics in this verse.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL DERECHO DE VIVIR EN PAZ")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: Sentimiento.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #3: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #4: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #5: (Speaking Spanish).

VALENZUELA: I think what's really incredible is that right now in Chile, the artistic and cultural community is very active. We're really connected. There's things happening every single day, whether it's shows, manifestations, marches. There's been assemblies every single day, which have also, you know, live music. I really feel very proud of my cultural community that we're a part of because everyone's been very active and really putting their voice and their music at the service of this movement.

SIMON: Francisca Valenzuela talking about a new version of the song "El Derecho De Vivir En Paz."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL DERECHO DE VIVIR EN PAZ")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.