What Will the Holy Father Say (Qué dirá el Santo Padre)

Song by:
Violeta Parra
Testimony by:
María Cecilia Marchant Rubilar
Experience in:
Cárcel de Mujeres Buen Pastor, La Serena, September 1973 - January 1974

We sang songs that were popular at the time. We’d sing "What will the Holy Father say," especially the part that says "What will the Holy Father who lives in Rome say ... they are slitting the throat of his dove..." quite often, for example when someone was taken off to Regimiento Arica, which was a torture centre. We would also sing "La golondrina" (The swallow), which was very symbolic, because even though we were imprisoned, we could "fly", our thoughts soaring beyond the prison walls...

To me music is everything in life; it's what gets me through each day. My mum played the piano, one of my brothers played the guitar. I don’t play any instrument, nor do I sing because I have a horrible voice. When I was studying primary education pedagogy a music teacher told me, "Cecilia, please don’t sing to the children". It is hard to conceive of a day without music. For me music is to spend all day with my headphones on, listening to different kinds of music. If I have to clean the house, I turn on the computer and search for something to listen to. It might occur to me to listen to Mercedes Sosa, or Quilapayún, or classical music, or something more cheerful.

I usually listen to a lot of classical music. It is the music that calms me down. In buses with all the surrounding hubbub I plug in my earphones and I tune in to any radio station playing music. I like something that a lot of people don’t: I like reggaetón, because the kids sing it. I find it really good; there is a lot of social critique in the lyrics. I also like salsa, cumbia and folk music, except cuecas.*

Traditional cuecas make no sense. I've no idea why the heck this should be, but whenever I hear a cueca it always makes me think of Los Huasos Quincheros**, and I think they are dreadful. People always want to listen to these traditional cuecas. “Figure of eight, turn around” you necessarily have to dance the cueca like that, it's so rigid and that doesn’t work for me. The cueca chora is nice and has a different type of dance. A short while ago I went to an event at Villa Grimaldi and the group Las Pecadoras sang cueca choras: those were really good.

* Cueca : a lively dance genre in 6/8 or ¾ time, usually for voice(s) and accompaniment, and suitable for couple dancing with a predetermined choreography. Cueca chora is a sub-type, connected to the underworld.

** Los Huasos Quincheros were a folk band, among the best-known exponents of old-time Chilean traditional music. In the dictatorship years (1973-1990) they came to be associated with Pinochet's regime.


Published on: 02 January 2016


Look how they speak to us about freedom
when they actually deprive us of it
look how they preach tranquility
when the authorities so torment us.

What will the Holy Father say
who lives in Rome
that they are slitting
his dove's throat?

Look how they speak to us of paradise
when hardship rains down on us like hailstone
look at their enthusiasm with the sentence
knowing that they were slaughtering innocence.

What will the Holy Father say
who lives in Rome
that they are slitting
his dove's throat?

He who officiates death like an executioner
enjoys breakfast at his leisure
with this they placed the rope around the neck
the fifth commandment has no seal.

What will the Holy Father say
who lives in Rome
that they are slitting
his dove's throat?

The more injustice, Mr Prosecutor
the more strength in my soul to sing
how lovely the wheat will grow in the field
watered with your blood, Julián Grimao.

What will the Holy Father say
who lives in Rome
that they are slitting
his dove's throat?