Priests and Soldiers (Curas y milicos)

Author:
Sergio Vesely
Testimony by:
Sergio Vesely

I don’t want to exaggerate but Camp Melinka became not only a factory that produced handicrafts and a performance hall but also a university. Every day there were classes to learn foreign languages, art, medicine or literature. Solar ovens were built. Talks were given on arachnology. Literacy programmes were offered.

For a twenty-something year-old like me, interested in learning in greater depth about Latin American history, history professors would share a round of mate tea in the cabins, and were also happy to share their knowledge for free. While listening to one of those professors, I learned about Father Bartolomé de las Casas, a priest who lived in Central America and earned the title of Defender of the Indians during the harshest period of the Spanish Conquest. His life was marked by defeat. He was unable to stop the abuses committed with the consent of the Catholic Church, which was his spiritual home.

I couldn’t stop thinking about him until someone finally lent me the camp’s only guitar and I wrote this song. Although his criticism addressed a system that existed a very long time ago, it still seemed absolutely valid to me . Father Bartolomé opposed giving absolution to slave owners. Where was the Father Las Casas of Chile to refuse to absolve my torturers?

Songs are good for releasing a singer from tempestuous doubts and allowing him to denounce injustice openly, with no qualms. In other words, the way things are painted when we see the world in black and white. Joking aside, the positive medicinal effect of music therapy is undeniable. Beyond the value a songwriter gives a song or that others may give, song-writing was a discovery that helped me, above all, to give meaning to my life as prisoner.


Published on: 23 September 2015


If the cross came to this world
in the arms of a battalion
and a war of extermination
was Christianisation,
who can save me from bearing
a grudge against the cross and cannon?

If the hired hand of my land
is absolved
and when he dies of old age
they give him the last rites
who protects a poor devil
from such a confabulation?

Don’t tell me tales,
I have seen many things in my time:
missionaries and military
disturb our nation.
The first, with purgatory,
the second, with firing squads.

Quieten down, audience,
give this singer time.
Now I’ll sing a new song
that’s better than the previous one.
In the times we are living
everything changes colour.

The little candles in the church
begin twinkling
the faithful lower their heads
a priest goes up to the altar.
And the official
licks his mouth, satisfied.

Now the priest turns around
and begins to preach.
He says the people are starving
and lack freedom.
Soldiers will come
to teach him the truth.

The candles stopped burning,
the cathedral is cloaked in mourning.
In the kingdom of the skies
A General takes charge
and the good Christian’s soul
opens the door to Satan.