Music was very important for us (my mother Sylvia Ovando, my sister Alejandra Ruiz and myself) while my dad, Daniel Ruiz Oyarzo, 'el Negro Ruiz', was imprisoned during the dictatorship, when Alejandra was seven and I was four.
When visits were allowed to the detention centres, we would jump into the car and begin to sing 'El Pueblo Unido' (The people united), 'Venceremos' (We shall be victorious), 'El Tomate' (The tomato), 'The Internationale' and many other songs. We would sing right up until reaching the entrance of the place where the prisoners were held. The place I most remember is the Cochrane Navy barracks located by the Los Ciervos river.
Later on, when my father was released from prison and sent to internal exile in Castro, Chiloé, we travelled with him. It was then that he told us that there were songs that had also been important for prisoners, and he taught us several of them.
One song became the most special, as it had been written by one of the prisoners (at that time we didn’t know who). My dad told us that as they could not sing songs like the ones we sang in the car, a comrade had created 'Let’s Break the Morning' and that they would sing it as they went out to do various jobs in the forest. I remember that I imagined them singing with a tree trunk on their shoulders.
Although it was real, the whole situation was very strange and unpredictable; for the innocent minds of young children, as we were at the time, it was also a moment of great joy because finally we could be with our father in 'freedom' once again, and pamper ourselves in the house of a supportive family (Ines) where we stayed until we could find another place.
Early one day just after waking up, and in the midst of all the pampering, our father taught us this song that he’d learnt while in prison. The three of us sang it a number of times. So that’s how we, very young girls, learned to sing 'Let's Break the Morning', a song that soon joined the repertoire we had been taught by my mother.
Many, many years passed by, but this song always remained in our memory. Now adults, and in an event that honoured and recognised Daniel for his contribution to radio and his performances of Pablo Neruda’s poetry, I sat down with my sister to ponder what present we could give him. We thought ... thought … and thought, and suddenly it came to us. Neither Ale nor I could sing, but we thought it would be a lovely gift to sing 'Let's Break the Morning' for him. That’s how we decided that we’d teach the song to my son, who at the time was twelve or thirteen years old, and also a family friend (Ximenota). So it was on that night, as a surprise, that the four of us climbed onto the stage and sang the song.
Predictably there was much emotion: my dad couldn’t believe that we still remembered the lyrics. He said to us, "but where did you get them from?", "How can you remember them?" Even more exciting was to learn that among those present at the tribute was the writer of the song. It was an uncle, comrade, very dear friend, Uncle Popeye Cárdenas.
The experience was very beautiful not only because it involved such a meaningful song, but also because of what we were expressing by keeping it in our memories for so many years, and moreover, that we had taught the song to Wladislaw Pavel, Daniel’s grandson.
Daniel died in 2006 and the same year, five months later, his granddaughter Ayelén was born. She, needless to say, also knows and sings the song. She was four when we visited Uncle Popeye at home and she sang the song to him.
This year (2015) it’s been Ayelén’s turn to teach 'Let's Break the Morning' to her niece Siomara, daughter of her brother Wladislaw Pavel. Thus, the granddaughter and the great-granddaughter of ‘El Negro Ruiz’ sing together 'Let's break the morning with our heart...', and little by little they become acquainted with a story that they will undoubtedly teach to the future members of the family.
Published on: 30 July 2015
with our hearts
raise our hands
and sing with a single voice.
The island is song
it invites us to dream
the sea with the tall grasses
will give us its fruit.
Our cheerful singing
will cross the forest
the hardened tool
the emergent sweat.
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