Run Run Went up North (Run Run se fue pa'l norte)

Song by:
Violeta Parra
Testimony by:
Ernesto Parra Navarrete
Experience in:

Run Run ... On the big pitch, mild summer weather was in the air. But for us, aching from the torture, hungry, haggard, stinking, tattered, tired of our uncertain future, all we longed for was a breath of energy that would allow us to feel that we were still alive and that the feelings of our absent loving partners were present.

The stadium had to be emptied because of the approaching World Cup qualifying match in which Chile would play the Soviet Union. We were told that we’d all be transferred to northern Chile, to the desert.

Many of our fellow prisoners had already been transferred to the Santiago Public Prison, others to their towns and villages to be trialled trial locally, while a few were released and the women who were held in the same conditions in the pool area were transferred to a section of the Stadium stands. They waited, like the rest of us, for the loud speakers to inform us about our future situation.

We would listen attentively for our names to be called out, in order to go and receive some personal item sent by our families, something to accompany us on our new journey into the unknown. As always, and in true military style, we had to march in a column. Carrying "all our stuff", at around 4 in the afternoon, a group was formed that consisted of all of us who had made the pilgrimage together from other detention and torture centres.

Walking along the running track, our heads bowed and trying to catch the breath needed for that moment, we suddenly heard a murmur greeting and singing to us “Run Run, se fue pa’l norte, no sé cuándo vendrá….” (Run Run went up North, I don’t know when he’ll come…). The whispering voices came from the sector where the female comrades were held. Our skin tingled and tears welled up in more than one of us. We turned to greet them and raising our arms in greeting, we sent them a comradely kiss.


Published on: 12 December 2014


On a car made of oblivion,
before dawn broke,
on a transit station,
resolved to keep rolling
Run Run headed north.
I don't know when he'll come back.
He'll come back for the birthday
of our loneliness.

Three days after, a letter
with coral handwriting
tells me that his trip
keeps getting longer and longer.
He left from Antofagasta
without leaving a trace
and tells of an adventure
that now I will spell out.
Woe, woe, woe is me.

In the middle of a multitude
that he had to face,
during a layover due to
the last hurricane,
at a devastated port
near Vallenar,
with a cross upon his shoulder,
Run Run had to cross
Run Run continued his journey
and reached Tamarugal.

Sitting on a rock
His thoughts started wandering
about this and about that,
about never, about "and also..."
about life being a lie
and about death being for real.
Woe, woe, woe is me.

Thing is, that on a saddlebag
he started rummaging around.
He got out paper and ink,
perhaps, a memory as well.
Without sorrow or joy,
without glory or mercy,
without rage or bitterness,
without bile or freedom,
empty like a hole
of the earthly world,
Run Run sent his letter
just for the sake of sending it.

Run Run headed North
while I stayed in the South,
and in-between there is an abyss
with no music or light.
Woe, woe, woe is me.
The calendar tracks
on the train's wheels
the numbers of the year
on the track's edge.
More spins of the iron wheels,
more clouds in the month,
the tracks are longer.
The aftermath more bitter.
Run Run headed North,
what can we do about it.
Such is life, then,
thorns of Israel,
crucified love,
the crown of contempt,
the nails of martyrdom,
the vinegar and the bile.
Woe, woe, woe is me.