The Prisoner of Til Til (El cautivo de Til Til)

Author:
Patricio Manns
Testimony by:
Fernando Aravena
Place & date:

The political prisoners organised mate-drinking gatherings once or twice a week, during which we did poetry and sang songs, amongst them ‘El cautivo de Til Til’ by Patricio Manns, ‘Samba Landó’ and ‘Vuelvo’ by Inti-Illimani, ‘Valparaíso’ by Osvaldo ‘Gitano’ Rodríguez, and songs by Eduardo ‘Gato’ Alquinta and Silvio Rodríguez.

‘El cautivo de Til Til’ had a special significance. As many of the prisoners were from El Frente *, ‘El cautivo de Til Til’ turned into our hymn. When they transferred another fellow and me to La Serena Prison, we also sang the song there. It was appropriate at that moment due to the number of people who were falling down. It would awake a feeling of injustice and abuse.

Let’s remember that Manuel Rodríguez was the first detained-disappeared of Chile. That left a profound impression, so you sang the song with passion, with that helplessness that you feel in the face of a tragedy that you cannot resolve.

* El Frente, or the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front, was a paramilitary organisation opposing the dictatorship.


Published on: 27 April 2019


A pair of clear eyes
that through many swords
could be seen to sparkle,
and that laughter that hid
who knows what secrets
and was meant for me.

When head high he marched off
Amidst the shouts of the sheriff
a premonition pained me
upon seeing him leave.

They say his name is Manuel
and they are taking him
on the road to Til Til,
that the governor doesn’t want
to see his noble presence
along La Cañada anymore.

They say that in the war
he was the best and in the city
they call him the Fighter
of Freedom.

All I know is that his mind has wandered
the soldiers take him away
tied to a saddle,
the troops distance him from his General.

All I know is that the wind
ruffles his hair
and the sun shines in his eyes
as they lead him
towards Til-Til.

They say he was like a bolt of lightning
when he galloped
on his steed,
and as he rode past
everyone would call out
his name: Manuel.

I know not if I will see him again
free and noble
All I know is he was smiling
on the road to Til-Til.