We Shall Overcome

Attributed to Charles Albert Tindley
Testimony by:
Alfonso Padilla Silva

When the concentration camp that operated for nearly five months at the Regional Stadium of Concepción was closed in early February 1974, hundreds of political prisoners were transferred to the Concepción Prison, a wing of which was turned into a concentration camp. On February 19 of that year, a trial process began before a military tribunal and seven or eight comrades including myself were transferred to the prison.

There we joined 130 political prisoners, who soon reached the more or less stable figure of 160. There were those already convicted and others still awaiting trial. As to the common prisoners, there were about 500 of them, and, needless to say, they were held in other parts of the complex.

Among the political prisoners there were three or four who played guitar very well. That wasn’t my case, but I knew enough to start giving  guitar lessons. Over several months I had about 60 guitar 'students'. The most enthusiastic, of course, were the younger ones, who practised intensively. With those who became more advanced I formed a nine-piece group, and between 1974 and 1975 we gave four 'concerts'.

These performances were divided in two parts, each lasting around 40 minutes. In one we presented the Cantata of Santa María de Iquique, but that's another story. With a smaller group, which we called The Hard-boiled Eggs (I still have no idea where that name came from or how we chose it), we presented a show every other Sunday at noon. There we’d accompany anyone who wanted to sing a song of their choice. But that, too, is another story.

With the group we formed towards the end of 1974, we decided to perform that Christmas in one of the two visitors’ courtyards at Concepción Prison. We built a stage, we set up a PA system and the Caracol Theatre Group came to perform a short play.

On that occasion, our newly formed band (without a name) performed the following programme: 'Soy del pueblo' (I am of the People) by Carlos Puebla; 'El aparecido' (The Apparition) by Víctor Jara; 'Los pueblos americanos' (The American Peoples) by Violeta Parra; 'Vamos a Serchil' (Let's go to Serchil) by Guatemalan Leopoldo Ramírez; 'Del Norte vengo, Maruca' (I Come from the North, Maruca) by Ángel Parra (although some people say it was written by his mother); 'Villancico nortino' (Northern Christmas Carol) a traditional song; and finally 'We Shall Overcome', created between 1950 and 1960 in the United States within the context of the Afro-American civil rights movement. In the prison we were acquainted with Joan Baez's version. We sang it in English and, of course, we explained its contents and meaning.

Victims remembered in this testimony:

Published on: 12 December 2014

We shall overcome someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, (I know that) I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.

We'll walk hand in hand, we'll walk hand in hand,
We'll walk hand in hand someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.

We are not afraid, we are not afraid,
We are not afraid today;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.

We shall live in peace, we shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.