Víctor Jara (September 28, 1932 – September 16, 1973) was a Chilean teacher, theatre director, poet, singer-songwriter, political activist and member of the Communist Party of Chile. He played a pivotal role among artists who established the Nueva Canción Chilena (New Chilean Song) movement which led to a revolution in the popular music of his country under the Salvador Allende government.
Allende’s campaign was successful and, in 1970, he was elected president of Chile. However, the Chilean right-wing, backed by the United States, and featuring one General Pinochet, who opposed Allende’s socialist politics, staged a coup with the help of the U.S. through the Chilean military on September 11, 1973, in the course of which Allende died. At the moment of the coup, Jara was on the way to the Technical University (today Universidad de Santiago), where he was a teacher. That night he slept at the university along with other teachers and students, and sang to raise morale.
On the morning of September 12, Jara was taken, along with thousands of others, as a prisoner to the Chile Stadium (renamed the Estadio Víctor Jara in September 2003). In the hours and days that followed, many of those detained in the stadium were tortured and killed there by the military forces. Jara was repeatedly beaten and tortured; the bones in his hands were broken as were his ribs. Fellow political prisoners have testified that his captors mockingly suggested that he play guitar for them as he lay on the ground with broken hands. Defiantly, he sang part of “Venceremos” (We Will Win), a song supporting the Popular Unity coalition. After further beatings, he was machine-gunned on September 16, his body dumped on a road on the outskirts of Santiago and then taken to a city morgue where 44 bullets were found in his body.
The contrast between the themes of his songs, on love, peace and social justice and the brutal way in which he was murdered transformed Jara into a symbol of struggle for human rights and justice worldwide.