“…y el canto de todos, que es mi propio canto”, (and the song of everyone is my song) was writted by Violeta Parra (1917-1967) in her song “Gracias a la Vida” (Thanks to life). The topic has resounded throughout the world in different languages. Violeta is the older sister and artist to popular musicians and poets.
Through her research of folklore, she created rich poetic, musical, and artistic work. “Todo lo haces a las mil maravillas” (The marvelous things you do), was written by her brother and poet, Nicanor. She was born in San Carlos, Ñuble, and, at 7 years old, began learning guitar from her father. She was later quoted as saying that the guitar was too big for her and had to be supported by the floor as she began to slowly imitate popular songs of the time.
She arrived in Santiago in her late teens and worked for her brothers in restaurants. They sang whatever the audience requested. Popular songs included boleros, Mexican songs, ballads, cuecas, and tangos. She recorded her first album with her sister Hilda and, in 1953, decided to focus on solo performances. Her work popularized both poetry and new styles of music, as well as the soul of both the city and the country. In 1957, she became the founding director of the Museum of Popular Art at the University of Concepción. She created her own work without distancing herself from her roots, as can be seen in Gracias a la vida (Thanks to Life).
She traveled to Europe in the 1950’s and lived for two years in Paris where she made recordings for the Chante du Monde, the Museum of the Man, and for BBC in London. In 1964, her tapestries were exhibited in the Decorative Arts Museum at the Louvre, which, a that time, was unprecedented for a Chilean artist.
Upon her return to Chile, she was reincorporated into a scene that already included her children, Ángel and Isabel, and the artists of the New Chilean Song, notably Víctor Jara. She promoted groups, research, and new interpretation. However, public recognition was not enough for her.
Her personal life suffered from failed relationships. Her suffering, like everything in her life was authentic. As a result, she committed suicide on February 5, 1967.
This post is also available in Spanish