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"I am moved more and more by what I see around me ... the poverty of my own country, of Latin America and other countries of the world ... But I have also seen what love can do, what the strength of a person who is happy can achieve. Because of all this, and because above all I desire peace, I need the wood and strings of my guitar to give vent to sadness or happiness, some verse which opens up the heart like a wound, some line which helps us all to turn from inside ourselves to look out and see the world with new eyes."

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Victor and Joan Jara

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Victor Jara

Victor Jara is an important influence on the music and culture of Chile. His life was a reflection of his country, of the tumultuous times in which he lived, and of his personal philosophies. Victor Jara began his life in a small town of Chile and with his music talent and great love for the people of Chile, became one of the best known and most influential musical figures of Latin America.

He was one of the founding fathers of Chile's 'New Song' movement which in 1970 helped elect the democratic popular unity government of Salvador Allente. As a result Chile's right wing hated him. Allende was a part of the Popular Unity party and Victor Jara, along with other Chilean singers, gave concerts supporting Allende. The Popular Unity party had plans to increase education and to supply increased housing and free socialized medical care. One of the concerts representative of this campaign for Allende was the concert given in the Stadium of Chile, where many political artists sang in favor of Allende. In the end, the Allende campaign was a success, and he was elected president of Chile.

On September 11, 1973 Victor Jara had been due to sing in the Santiago University. Instead, with the coup of General Augusto Pinochet underway, he was arrested and brought to Santiago's boxing stadium by the military. There the military tortured and killed many Allende supporters. They broke Victor Jara's hands so that he couldn't play his guitar, and then taunted him to try and sing and play his songs.

Even under these horrible tortures, Victor Jara magnificently sang a portion of the song of the Popular Unity party. After four days of being tortured, beaten, and electrocuted, he was repeatedly shot through the chest with a machine-gun, murdered at the age of 38. His widow, Joan, says his body was thrown in the street, and was later found in the morgue "among lots and lots of anonymous bodies" that she saw that day.

"They could kill him, but they couldn't kill his songs," she says.

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