The Letter (La carta)

Music piece by:
Violeta Parra
Testimony by:
Pedro Mella Contreras

Some testimonies have short notes that explain Chilean slang, dates, names, acronyms, concepts and important contexts. To read the notes, click on the underlined wordsThis is a sample note..

In January 1987, when solitary confinement was lifted and we were able to receive visitors, a brother who lived in Santiago travelled to see me.

He gave me a cassette with a song that says ‘A letter has arrived.’

When he handed me the cassette, he said: ‘Here is a letter that will really leave a mark on you.’ And so it did.

That song also made sense to the comrades who were with me. Several of them were students from Linares, Los Angeles and Valparaíso.

We listened to the song often on a radio receiver we had in jail. It was rather emotional. That letter moved us all.


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Published on: 30 September 2019


They sent me a letter
in the post this morning
and in this letter they tell me
that my brother is in jail
and, mercilessly, in chains
they dragged him in the street, yes.

The letter tells the crime
that Roberto has done
supported the strike
that is already resolved
If that is a good reason
please take me to jail too, sergeant, yes.

I’m so far away
waiting for news
the letter tells me that
in my country there's no justice
the hungry ask for bread
and they get bullets, yes.

In this pompous manner
they want to keep their seats
those with fans and tails
unworthy of them
they come and go to church
and forget the commandments, yes.

Ever seen such an insolence,
barbarity and treachery
to present the rifle
and kill in cold blood
those without defence
and with empty hands, yes.

The letter that I received
asks for an answer
I ask that to spread
to the entire population
that El León(The Lion of Tarapacá) Arturo Alessandri Palma (1868-1950), President of Chile in 1920-1925 and 1932-1938. is a murderer
in every generation, yes.

Luckily I have my guitar
to cry my pain
I also have nine brothers
other than the one in jail
all nine are communists
with god's blessing, yes.