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

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Chilean singer-songwriter Víctor Jara is depicted on the guitar of a protester in Santiago. Jara's song, "El Derecho de Vivir en Paz" was sung by a crowd of demonstrators on October 25, 2019. (Pablo Vera/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

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.

Copyright 2019 NPR.