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Mercedes Sosa, Argentine Activist and Musician, Dies at 74

October 7, 2009

Singer Mercedes Sosa raised her voice in resistance to economic injustice and brutal military rule in 1970s Argentina. Known as the “voice of Latin America,” Sosa reminds us that even one voice can threaten state violence.

Mercedes Sosa died on Sunday at the age of 74. Honoring her memory also means acknowledging both the history and the continued reality of U.S. imperialism in Latin America.

In the 1970s, when Sosa and other folk singers in South America were creating a musical movement based on resistance to rule by military juntas, the United States backed the overthrow of democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende. In the wake of the coup, Chilean folk singer Victor Jara was tortured and murdered. Sosa herself fled Argentina from 1979-1982 after receiving threats from death squads during the Argentine Dirty War.  She continued to garner international attention with her music until shortly before her death. 

Economic violence and intervention by the United States continues in Latin America today in the form of free trade agreements that deepen inequality, economic sanctions against Cuba, and increased militarization in Colombia and Mexico.

In such a world, we could all do a little more singing out. 

Sosa’s song “Si se calla el cantor” [“If The Singer is Silenced”] speaks to the power of music to sustain resistance and life itself: “Si se calla al cantor, se calla la vida, porque la vida, la vida misma es un canto” [“If the singer is silenced, life is silenced, because life, life itself is a song”].

In the midst of “Si se calla el cantor,” is a spoken riff that, roughly translated, says this: “What would become of life if the person who sings did not raise his voice from the dais for the one who suffers, the one who, without any reason, is condemned to walk without cover.”

  1. tommaso permalink
    March 31, 2010 1:41 am



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