Why do I feel so much pain, Violeta Parra?

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Originally published at Chileno.co.uk, England, on January 3, 2013.

Or on how to assess the Chilean film “Violeta went to heaven” on opening night in Washington DC

Patricio Zamorano

Translation by chileno and the author. Para la versíon original en castellano ver abajo.

So much pain I have felt tonight, Violeta, so much pain…

It hurts because Chile hurts… That’s it, isn’t it singer? Painter? Creator of forms and illusions? Chile hurt you with every second of recognition given in the few countries that through the miracle of your poverty chose to give shelter to your singing, your paintings, your intense tapestries like the brilliance of your sad eyes. Everything was empty upon returning to the homeland, down in the lost South of painful childhood and wandering life, where the people let you down in your dreams to universalize (in the half moon of the audience) each drop of creation exuded from your hands. The people let you down when the indifference of the public you longed for and loved so much hit you like a Santiago winter. How many artists have succumbed to the loneliness of the stage, beloved singer? So much despair, isn’t it? When silence is deaf to applause…

Oh singer of my soul! Chile killed you. Chile killed Víctor Jara. Chile killed Allende. Chile also killed Neruda (without a doubt, the soldiers spread the cancer with the demonic stench that grew amongst the flames from La Moneda1). Chile killed De Rokha, another genius buried under the cold murmur spread by the mainstream. In a short time, Chile physically lost its most profound figures. It lost its land. The earth moaned.

Years before, Chile had also killed her first Nobel Laureate, the barefoot girl from Valle del Elqui, Gabriela2 of profound “Mistralian” pain, always looking out of the corner of her eye towards the southern country that denied her so much, despite a sacred litany of verse and prose.

Chile killed democracy, Chile killed the communists and the socialists. Chile killed the joy of life for two, even three decades, if we add up the frustration of the Concertación3in the nineties… Dearest Violeta, with your trigger and shot you began the dark age that was upon us, that fatal 1967, under the tent only visited during those last weeks by the wind accompanied by cold rain, as it only rains in the Mapocho Valley.

Don’t worry, my dear Violeta.

With your gunshot, Chile received an urgent affront, the fruit of our own miseries: The soldiers preyed on the people, supported at the same time by many twisted in their cannibalistic frenzies. The people killed the people. That 11th of September in 1973, dearest Violeta, your heart would have tightened in a grimace of horror to see the slaughter led by the jingoistic soldier. The Chile that ignored you in life, dear Violeta, was the same that squeezed your trigger, and the trigger of Allende, and the trigger of the soldier who took no mercy on Víctor, and the trigger of the thousands of those executed in the streets of Santiago… (the eternal trigger, as long as the rifle that the real contours of Chile represents in a map of its own geography. Santiago, where death circled the majority trapped for the massacre, is situated –oh sweet irony!– near the firing pin…).

Oh Violeta, but your songs remain! Oh Violeta, you left us your “Volver a los diecisiete”! Violeta, you left us your hawk, the sorrows of your Arauco, your “Run-run” that made you suffer so much from unrequited love! Your guitar transpositions, peasant girl from Lautaro, universalized you. Your “Thanks to life” (“Gracias a la vida”), that profound song full of laughter and tears, is enjoyed by both rich snobs and blue-collar workers. Diplomatic bodies take advantage of you to sell the “Chile” brand, and your soul writhes… A little bit ironic, isn’t? A bit of pissing yourself laughing, that Chilean way of laughing, at the same time bitter, sarcastic and full of the joy of life, the life of islands adrift, the life of the Chilean isle, where your glory came to die in a body, a female Christ crucified on guitar timbers, to free you and liberate us from your soul that flies, now full of your desires, before the wide sky of our misery…


1La Moneda is the Palace in Santiago that serves as the seat of the President of the Republic of Chile.

2Gabriela Mistral was a Chilean poet, educator, diplomat and feminist. She was the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1945).

3Center-left political party coalition. Candidates from these parties won every election in Chile from the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship (1990) until the election victory of Sebastián Piñera in 2010.

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