Neither Fish nor Fowl (Ni chicha ni limoná)

Music piece by:
Víctor Jara
Testimony by:
Joaquín Vallejos
Experience in:

I was arrested at home together with a childhood friend who they’d gone to pick up first. My family thought he’d stitched me up, which was not true.

My friend had nothing to do with politics, he just wanted peace and freedom. He was a hippie and very committed to helping those in need.

The two of us were held in the Silva Palma barracks, but the interrogations and torture sessions were at the Naval War Academy in Valparaíso.

There I could hear the women held in the cell in front of ours (they were almost certainly much worse off than we were), singing a song that has stuck in my mind ever since. It was the one that says 'Usted no es ná, no es chicha ni limoná' (You’re nothing, you're neither fish nor fowl). This example of fortitude and commitment helped me to get back on my feet, forget the physical pain and try to help those comrades who were worse off than me.

To me, that song sung by many female comrades from university, by housewives and female workers, epitomises Chilean women: strong, feisty, committed, rebellious, but also coquettish, feminine and affectionate.

I realised over time that it was a way to provoke the guards, who sometimes seemed to suffer the same as the prisoners, even though they did nothing about it.

Victims remembered in this testimony:


Published on: 08 March 2015

Peruvian TV, August 1973.

Make your way over here
where the sun warms us
if you’re already used
to going around doing somersaults
no harm will come to you
to be where the hot potatoes are.

You're nothing
neither fish nor fowl
you spend your time stroking
your precious dignity.

The party has begun
and things are getting hot
and you who were always left behind
now want to take over the dance
after all, to the nosy ones
no smell goes unnoticed.

If we want more parties
first, we will have to work
then we will have for everyone
shelter, bread and friendship
and if you disagree
that’s just your problem
things are moving forward
with no intention of going backwards.

About time you stopped making a fuss
come and sort out your problems
here underneath my poncho
I have no knife
and if you keep shooting your mouth off
we will expropriate you
pistols and tongue
and everything else.