en español

September 11, 2013 marked the 40th anniversary of the bloody coup d’état that ended Chile’s experiment with democratic socialism.  The country’s elected president, Salvador Allende, died defending the presidential palace from assault by his own military.  The coup launched years of brutal dictatorship under the leadership of General Augusto Pinochet.  Tens of thousands of Chileans who had supported Allende’s Popular Unity government were imprisoned and tortured.  Several thousand were killed and hundreds of thousands of others fled into exile.   The struggle to restore democracy in Chile would go on for nearly two decades.  It was engaged in clandestinely within the country and publicly by exiles and their allies without.  The Chilean struggle became one of the emblematic campaigns for human rights and social justice in the late twentieth century, drawing support from governments and activists around the world.

In January and February of 2014, Trinity University’s Mexico, the Americas, and Spain (MAS) program will commemorate the Chilean struggles for democracy, human rights, and social justice with a series of lectures, art exhibits, and musical performances titled “Chile Canta al Mundo/Chile Sings to the World.”    This program is made possible by generous support from the Carlos and Malú Álvarez Fund for MAS and the Martha, David and Bagby Lennox Foundation.  Every year, these sponsors enable Trinity to organize a special seminar series on matters of concern to MAS students and faculty, on the one hand, and on matters of concern to arts and humanities students and faculty, on the other.  This year, for the first time, Trinity is uniting the Álvarez and Lennox seminars to make possible an especially rich program of cultural events.  In addition, MAS is collaborating with the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center to present two special week-end concerts by Chilean and Chicana/o performers for the benefit of the wider San Antonio community.   We will also be exhibiting a special portfolio of poems by Chile’s Nobel Prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda, with illustrations by the Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros, made possible by a loan from the collection of the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Chile Canta al Mundo will highlight the importance of a specific musical genre—la nueva canción (the new song)—that provided a musical soundtrack to Chile’s experiment with socialism and its struggles against the tyranny of military dictatorship. La nueva canción featured compositions utilizing Latin American folkloric instruments and rhythms and poetic, socially-conscious lyrics.  It became popular throughout Latin America as the sound and style of the political left for the next two decades. 

The Chilean dictatorship tortured, exiled, and even assassinated many of the principal exponents of la nueva canción.  The most prominent example was the military’s murder of Víctor Jara, who became a martyr for the Latin American left, comparable to the murder of Federico García Lorca, the great Spanish playwright, by fascist insurgents during that country’s civil war in the 1930s.  Along with his friend and mentor, Violeta Parra, Jara was the leading voice and creative force of la nueva canción.  The seminar will give particular prominence to the work of Violeta and Víctor, both of whom have become iconic figures and the object of considerable scholarly study in the world of Latin American arts and letters.

The Chilean exponents of la nueva canción who survived the September 1973 coup and went into exile played a major role in generating international solidarity with the victims of military repression and the movement for a return to democracy to their country.  Groups such as Quilapayún, Inti-Illimani, and Illapu, as well as individuals such as Ángel and Isabel Parra (children of Violeta), toured constantly in Europe, North America, and the remaining democratic countries of Latin America, raising funds for the resistance and raising the consciousness of audiences about the disaster that had befallen their country.  In addition, many other nueva canción groups emerged in Europe and North America in the 1970s and 1980s, featuring Chilean exiles collaborating with other Anglo and Latin musicians to bring a musical message of social justice and solidarity with Latin American causes to audiences in those countries. 

Meanwhile, in Chile under the dictatorship, the music of the nueva canción artists continued to console and inspire activists who fought for an end to Pinochet’s repression, circulating clandestinely on contraband cassettes, being sung in underground clubs and at shantytown soup kitchens.  Furthermore, a new generation of artists emerged in Chile that developed their own socially-conscious style of music known as canto nuevo, which was less overtly political in its lyrics, but no less important as a defiant form of cultural expression.  At great personal risk singers and groups such as Isabel Aldunate, Nano Acevedo, Duo Semilla, Rebeca Godoy, Grupo Abril, Eduardo Peralta, Santiago del Nuevo Extremo, Sol y Lluvia, and Francisco Villa played a vital role in the struggle against military rule.

This website serves as an online catalog of the Chile Canta al Mundo seminar series.  We encourage you to explore its contents to learn more about the significance of the Chilean experience with dictatorship and democracy, the nueva canción chilena, and the scholarship and artistry of participants in our  program.