The Wall (La muralla)

Author:
Nicolás Guillén (lyrics) / Quilapayún (music)
Testimony by:
Domingo Lizama

In prison there was a guy who played the guitar. He cheered up the afternoons in the cell. We all sang with him.

Among the prisoners there was a craftsman who built guitars. We played his guitars.

For Christmas, we got permission for our wives and children to come visit us. We sang “Noche de Paz”, “Señora Doña María” and “Arrorró mi niño”. When our visitors brought food, we would share it with the gendarmes. They were starving. They were conscripted youngsters.

One day we were singing “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido” (“The people united will never be defeated”), when the cops turned up. We had to change the lyrics to “El pueblo unido, toma Leche Nido” (“The people united, drink Nido Milk”*). We would laugh about our jokes.

We also changed the lyrics to “The Wall”: instead of “the colonel’s sabre” we said “Pinochet’s sabre”.

We sang a lot of songs from the Spanish Civil War, for example “Dime dónde vas morena”, the Mexican song “Carabina 3030” and the Argentinian song “Balderrama”. We sang them when we already knew that they would not kill us, after a visit from a delegation of the United Nations.

I separated from my wife a year after being imprisoned. One time when we were reunited we remembered the songs from the prison, especially “Tres blancos lirios” and “Arrorró”. These were terrible times.

When I listen to “The Wall” I remember an old Spaniard who was a prisoner with us. He was 70-something years old. Because there were no showers, he would wash with cold water in the sink, and he would say “I want to die in prison so the stigma of my death falls upon these dogs”. That was the beginning of a campaign that the prisoners did to have a shower cabin installed.

* Leche Nido: a brand of milk powder.


Published on: 22 November 2017


To build this wall
Bring me all the hands
Black people, your black hands
White people, your white hands.

A wall that shall reach
From the beach to the mountain
From the mountain to the beach
there, over the horizon...

- Knock, knock!
- Who is it?
- A rose and a carnation...
- Open the gates!

- Knock, knock!
- Who is it?
- The colonel's sabre...
- Close the gates!

- Knock, knock!
- Who is it?
- A dove and sprig of laurel...
- Open the gates!

- Knock, knock!
- Who is it?
- The caterpillar and the centipede...
- Close the gates!
- Knock, knock!
- Who is it?

To a friend's heart
Open the gates
To poison and a dagger
Close the gates
To myrtle and mint
Open the gates
To the snake's fang
Close the gates
To a friend's heart
Open the gates
To the nightingale on a blossom

Let's raise this wall
Joining all the hands together
Black people, your black hands
White people, your white hands.

A wall that shall reach
From the beach to the mountain
From the mountain to the beach
There, over the horizon.