Today we celebrate the 100th birthday of Violeta Parra, the Chilean composer, folk singer, social activist, author, and artist.
Born in the small, southern Chilean town of San Fabián de Alico, Parra picked up the guitar at an early age and began writing songs with her siblings. Early in her career, she performed in nightclubs and other small venues, then traveled across Chile to record a large breadth of traditional Chilean folk music. Her increasing popularity eventually earned her her own radio show and an invitation to perform at a youth festival in Poland. While in Europe, she also explored the visual arts, creating oil paintings, wire sculptures, ceramics, and burlap tapestries called arpilleras which were exhibited in the Louvre Palace in Paris in 1964.
She is perhaps best remembered as the “Mother of Latin American folk” for pioneering the Nueva canción Chilena, a renewal of Chilean folk traditions that blossomed into a movement which celebrated the fight for social justice throughout Latin America. Upon her return to Chile in 1965, she focused her energy on establishing a community center for the arts and political activism, now called Centro Cultural La Carpa de La Reina.
Though her life met with an early end, we will always remember her for the joy and beauty she created through her art and music. To borrow a verse from Violeta herself, “Gracias a la Vida.”
Gracias a la Vida que me ha dado tanto
I did dos luceros que Cuando Los bro
Perfecto distinguo lo negro del Blanco
Y en el alto Cielo Su fondo estrellado
Y en las multitudes el hombre que yo amo