Melody by Jorge Peña Hen

Author:
Jorge Peña Hen
Testimony by:
Eliseo González
Place & date:
Cárcel de la Serena, October 1973

Jorge Peña Hen was in solitary confinement that day. I don’t know how, but someone brought him matches. With his saliva, he made ink from the phosphorus tips, which he then used to write a score of music on a scrap of paper.

That music managed to find its way to the outside before Jorge's murder.

We were very all very sad and had tearful eyes. I told my fellow prisoners, “I’m going to teach you to sing.”

That is known as resilience, and it refers to the capacity to raise yourself up from a bad situation.

At first, we had a few small clandestine radios, later a television. The radios belonged to the group and we would listen to music. We would listen to whatever was on.

Keep in mind that the prisoners included farm workers, miners and intellectuals. So if you put on classical music for an old guy from the hills, he would say “What’s that?” Or, if you played Mexican corridos for the intellectuals or pseudo-intellectuals, they might not like it much.

In corridor two (known as “the cancer ward” because that’s where all of us who had been tortured were held) we did not listen to music.

We celebrated Christmas 1973 with comrades who played the guitar and with members of a band called Toque de Queda (Curfew) who were in prison for a month.

They had been arrested while posing for photos for the cover of their new record. The place where they were arrested was adjacent to the petroleum tanks in the port district, near the ships in Guayacán or La Herradura Bay.

They performed songs from their own repertoire and also covers. They made up a song called “210” in honour of a common prisoner whose two surnames were Diez Diez (Ten Ten).

Jorge Peña Hen was a famous conductor, composer and pedagogue. He started the first children’s orchestra in Latin America.

Victims remembered in this testimony:


Published on: 26 April 2016

Unfinished melody written by Peña Hen with a burnt match shortly before his assassination. Recorded by Katia Chornik in 2018. Manuscript: Peña Camarda archive.