To Be Seventeen Again (Volver a los diecisiete)

Author:
Violeta Parra
Testimony by:
David Quintana García
Place & date:

I spent 45 days in the torture centre of Intendencia de Rancagua. Previously, I was detained with my brothers in the headquarters of the Cuartel de Investigaciones de Rancagua.

At the Intendencia, after experiencing torture, we concentrated on drinking mate, singing, telling jokes, and improvising songs.

I also played chess and was lucky to be with a fellow who was the national champion. We made a chessboard in the concrete and painted it with coffee. We made the figures with breadcrumbs.

I always remember a prisoner who was a teacher and sang ‘Volver a los diecisiete’ by Violeta Parra.

Violeta was one of my favourites; several times I went to the Peña de los Parra. I bought CDs there to sell in Caletones. It was something that I did to cooperate with Violeta and spread the music that they played there, more than to make money.

I remember that another prisoner used to sing ‘En qué nos parecemos’, popularised by Quilapayún.

Those songs were linked to our actions during the Unidad Popular. With the university groups, we did lots of voluntary work, in the settlements and in the countryside. We also performed plays. I always acted in them.

When we were detained, listening to the music of the Unidad Popular took us back to the times during which we were together with the people. Those memories lifted our spirits.


Published on: 06 April 2019


To be seventeen again after a century of living
Is like deciphering signs without wisdom or competence,
to be all of a sudden as fragile as a second,
to once again feel so deeply like a child facing God,
that is what I feel in this fecund instant.

There it goes tangling, tangling like the ivy on the wall,
and so it sprouts up, and keeps sprouting,
like tiny moss on the stone, oh yes oh yes.

My steps going backwards while yours go forward,
the arch of alliances has got inside my nest,
with all of its wide palette it has ambled through my veins
and even the hard chains with which destiny binds us
are like a blessed day that brightens my calmed soul.

There it goes tangling, tangling like the ivy on the wall,
and so it sprouts up, and keeps sprouting,
like tiny moss on the stone., oh yes oh yes.

What feelings can grasp knowledge cannot understand,
not even the clearest behaviour not even the broadest thought,
the brimming, condescending moment changes everything
sweetly removes us away from rancour and from violence,
only love with its science makes us so innocent.

There it goes tangling, tangling like the ivy on the wall,
and so it sprouts up, and keeps sprouting,
like tiny moss on the stone, oh yes oh yes.

Love is a whirlwind of primeval purity,
even the fierce animal whispers its sweet trill,
it stops pilgrims, it liberates prisoners,
love with its solicitude turns the elderly into a child
as to the bad person, only affection makes him pure and sincere.

There it goes tangling, tangling like the ivy on the wall,
and so it sprouts up, and keeps sprouting,
like tiny moss on the stone, oh yes oh yes.

The window opened wide as if under a spell
love entered with its blanket like a warm morning,
and to the sound of its beautiful reveille prompted the jasmine to flower,
flying like a seraph put earrings on the sky
and the cherub turned my years into seventeen.

Entangling, entangling it moves, like the ivy on the wall,
and so it sprouts up, and keeps sprouting,
like tiny moss on the stone, oh yes oh yes.