This cuecaTraditional dance and musical genre in 3/4 or 6/8 time with variations, found in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. was composed at Chacabuco sometime between November 1973 and February 1974 and was sung by Los de Chacabuco, of which Víctor Canto and I were members.
This song was written very quickly and was ready in less than a day. I don’t remember exactly where we were when we composed it, but it may have been the house I shared with other comrades or the house where the group rehearsed - located in what we called 'the civic district' - or seated at the group tables where we ate.
The group Los de Chacabuco was created and conducted by Ángel Parra. Its members (in alphabetical order) were: Víctor Canto, Manuel Castro, Ángel Cereceda Parra (Ángel Parra), Luis Cifuentes, Marcelo Concha, Luis Corvalán Márquez, Antonio González, Manuel Ipinza, Ernesto Parra, Julio Vega and Ricardo Yocelewski.
The first time we played the cueca at the weekly show, the audience roared in laughter because the situations described were so familiar to everyone.
This cueca was secretly recorded at Chacabuco by Alberto Corvalán Castillo, son of the Communist Party secretary-general Luis Corvalán, with assistance from Guillermo Orrego and Domingo Chávez. Alberto was to die in Bulgaria as a consequence of the torture to which he had been subjected at the National Stadium’s velodrome that caused him irreparable heart damage.
It was recorded from underneath the wood plank stage the prisoners themselves had built. An official stationed at the concentration camp supplied the cassette recorder. Ángel Parra took the cassette out of the camp and it was first produced as a vinyl LP in Italy between 1974 and 1975. This cueca also appears on Ángel Parra’s record Pisagua + Chacabuco, produced in 2003 in Chile.
The words might be difficult to understand as they refer to concentration camp culture, making fun of the military with such subtlety that they never understood them.
Victims remembered in this testimony:
Published on: 17 December 2014
Clandestine recording made by political prisoners in Chacabuco in 1974.
flying and without delay
a band greeted us
damn, and a good beatingOften, groups of prisoners arriving at the camp from the Chile Stadium and other detention centres throughout the country were met with insults and blows.
from the Stadium we arrived.
Freezing at night,
hot during the day
would go on at Chacabuco.
My sorrows, oh yes
I don’t see one
I nearly passed out
from the vaccinationShortly after arriving at the camp, prisoners were vaccinated..
From the vaccination, oh yes
lily of the valley tree
every time I bathe
the water cuts off.
The water cuts off, oh yes
put on your cap
because eating just beans
I will rocket away.
I will rocket away, oh yes
over the fence
it ain't got no electricity
the penny droppedThe military spoke of the ‘electrified fence’ that surrounded the camp, but since the fence was earthing in its entire length, it was not possible to electrify it effectively..
The penny dropped, oh yes
there on the corner
I was about to take off
a mine explodedThe Chacabuco camp was mined in most of its surroundings in order to prevent prisoner escapes. Mines often exploded, possibly detonated by stray dogs..
A mine exploded, oh yes
said a canary
but I best stay here
at the spring resort.
Gosh, I sure am a lucky devil
said a plucky fellow.
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