The Crux of the Matter (La madre del cordero)

Music piece by:
Tito Fernández
Testimony by:
Servando Becerra Poblete
Detention in:
Campamento de Prisioneros Chacabuco, 9 November 1973 - 10 November 1974

I recited this poem in the National Stadium. I continued to do so in the Chacabuco prison camp, earning the nickname of “Venancio” from my fellow prisoners.


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Published on: 18 December 2014


As boys we grew up
together in El Mirador
my father, an old labourer
your father, the overseer.
Of course when you're a kid
you don’t understand the difference.
How lovely to have been the owner, right?
of such tremendous innocence.

The farm, playing, we
roamed the whole of it
I almost always won
because I was more grown-up
She gathered flowers for me
I pulled her braids
and so time passed
and we almost didn’t notice.

I had to go out
to the fields, to peel the garlic.
Now I wasn’t such a young boy
I was a good worker.
Of course every afternoon
we went out for a walk
and we looked at each other a lot
without finding something to talk about.

I’d practice all day long
what I was going to ask her for
but when we were together
I didn’t know what to say.

I do not know what happened to me
when she was by my side
My tongue got all tied up
I was at a complete loss.

One day she told me
she was going to leave the ranch
they’d sent her off to study with
the nuns, I think to learn
to knit, to sew, to read
Don Guille had said
books are a good thing
and you need to know what they say.

A great sadness took hold of me
when she said she was going
I found inner strength
and told her I loved her so.

She said nothing
and went all red
and I stole a kiss
from her very lips.

Time passed, a couple of years
and I never forgot her
and at night I saw her
gazing at me from a star.

She also loved me
I was sure of that
It was told to me
by the sweet taste of her kiss.

A man, I told myself
if he’s a real man
has to know what’s happening
I got her address
from one of the housemaids
Francisco wrote a letter to me
and although there was no answer
I didn’t die because of it
all that is good, is always hard to get.

Sometime after that, the farm
awoke one morning unhinged
the old women of the house
ran from one end to another
two heifers were upended
so many cases of wine were brought in!
They scraped the tortillas
and the pasties crackled
tables were set
and the place for the singers
was adorned with copihue flowers
and bulrush leaves
But it didn’t bring me joy
and it all happened at once
the young lady Rosa was about to return
once more, by my side.

Then I wanted to feel afraid
I thought I deserved it not
but I sent my fear away to the devil
and I took to my hooves to see her.

And there came my girl
prettier than the sky itself
with her same red mouth
where I had planted my kiss.

She came in a dress
that dazzled the eyes
and took Don Guille’s arm
brimming with cheer
We all went to eat
the bottles were uncorked
How the wine flowed!
it was so good to see.

Then, we all went dancing
the guitars were tuned
and the air was warmed
by the sound of the cuecasMusic genre (usually for voice and accompaniment) and partner dance, found in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia..

I could not talk to my girl
she was very busy
talking to visitors
and other important people.

Days later, one afternoon
When I was in the corral
I thought to forget her
when I heard my name called
Benancio, said the voice, Beno
and I stared at her
for there was my pretty girl
in pure bliss did she cry.

We hugged each other so close
Had you forgotten me?
Never! I said and kissed her
as I’d never kissed her before.

We continue to meet up
She was mine to my bones
and I also loved her
although I would die for that.

I have two hands I told her
to make your happiness
and she became sad
when she heard me howl.
One day Don Guille arrived
to talk, he said
man to man
he spoke very nice things
in great detail
He told me to leave her
that Rosa had grown up
and that such childish things
should be forgotten.

Understand Benancio, he said
she is not of this place
She’s all a fine lady
and one day she will marry
but not a farm labourer
and it’s not because I don’t appreciate you
life is sad Benancio
but what can you do.

He tied me up well,
and then cut my knots,
Do you understand Beno what I say
if not, you’ll have to leave here.

I started drinking hard
work? so what
even if I lose it
I even fought with the cops(Chilenism) Police officer
in fist and whip oh shit.
Forty days drinking,
fearlessly dancing cuecas.
That’s why I’d saved some money
and I’m not a determined fellow.

Life is sad, Venancio
but that doesn’t bother me
as long as there are good dancing girls
life is life, my friend.

I fucked everything I could
insulted everyone
I was imprisoned for arguing
and drank even the vinegar.

And here you have me
with my pockets empty
no one wants to employ me
and my face is swollen.

And there’s a problem
because I still love her
Men I once said
think like men
and I hardly recognise myself.

Rosa is mine or nobody’s
prejudice, go to hell
and if it’s so hard for Don Guille
to have me as a son-in-law
we’ll have to find a solution
right now for this situation
In these affairs, I see no difference
between worker and boss.

If they turn against me
well then, I’ll drink too much wine
and I’ve already decided
there’s only one way.

When one wants to do good
God knows it’s no rebuff
I’m a down and out and work
I bow my head to no one.
So this same night
I take my clothes
And go and kidnap Rosa, oh shit!
That is the crux of the matter!