The Little Cigarette (El cigarrito)

Music piece by:
Víctor Jara
Testimony by:
Alfonso Padilla Silva
Experience in:

During Christmas 1973, I was one of some 600 men and 100 women prisoners in Concepción Regional Stadium.

The concentration camp officials allowed us to celebrate Christmas in the sports arena. To be precise, we were in one corner of the playing field and we used the pole vault pit as a stage.

Two professional radio broadcasters were excellent masters of ceremony, mixing covert messages with other more overt ones, all with a good dose of humour and good taste. They also recited poems.

For this event, Father Camilo Vial, later appointed bishop, provided us with a very good Spanish guitar. The priest played a very important role in defending the rights of political prisoners in the horrible conditions we were held.

Accompanying ourselves on that guitar, many political prisoners, men and women, sang either as soloists, in duos or in groups. I played Victor Jara’s song 'El cigarrito'.

Although strictly speaking, the song did not have a social or political message as such, to sing a song by Jara was tantamount to a tribute to him and to his example, and also to all the fallen comrades.

Another prisoner sang "El soldado", a poem by Rafael Alberti set to music by Ángel Parra.

The experience of prisoners in many concentration camps and jails throughout the country shows that engaging in cultural and artistic activity - whether it be creating and performing theatre, writing poems and stories, as well as essays, and producing crafts or music - was of vital importance in strengthening our personal and collective moral, an attitude of resistance and the sense of unity among political prisoners.

Each time we engaged in artistic activity – with all the difficulties and limitations imposed by our difficult circumstance – it was an affirmation of humanity and life. Each accomplishment represented a small victory over the dictatorship.

Victims remembered in this testimony:


Published on: 15 December 2014

I’m going to roll myself a cigarette
if I’ve got tobacco
if I don’t, where can I get some?
more likely I can’t smoke.
ay ay ay you love me
ay ay ay you love me
ay ay ay.

I’m going to roll myself a cigarette
from my tobacco pouch
I smoke and toss the stub
and anyone who wants can pick it up.
ay ay ay you love me
ay ay ay you love me
ay ay ay.

When I wake up in the cold
I light a yard-long cigarette
and I warm my face
with the lit cigarette.
ay ay ay you love me
ay ay ay you love me
ay ay ay.