Violeta Parra was born October 4, 1917 and died by her own hand February 5, 1967. She was a Chilean composer, songwriter, folklorist, ethnomusicologist and visual artist. Violeta pioneered the Nueva Canción Chilena (Chilean New Song), a renewal and a reinvention of Chilean folk music that would inspire Latin American artists of her time, such as Victor Jara, and form an important artistic response to oppression that transcended Latin America alongside the work of Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, and others. Violeta is acknowledged as the Mother of Latin American folk, her birthdate chosen as Chilean musicians’ day. In 1992, the Violeta Parra Foundation was founded in Santiago by her children to organize and disseminate her still-unpublished work. Highlights of her artistic life include learning to play the uniquely Chilean 25-string guitarrón, taught to her by Don Isaiah Angulo, a tenant farmer; hosting an immensely successful radio program Sing Violeta Parra for Radio Chilena; several European tours, and an exhibition of her arpilleras (woven hangings at which she also excelled) at the Louvre Museum where she was the first female Latin American artist ever shown.
Violeta was from a large family of siblings, many musical, but none more important to her life and artistic development than eldest brother Nicanor Parra a Chilean poet, mathematician, and physicist born September 5, 1914 and died January 23, 2018 at 103. He, like Violeta, was born in the small city Chillán, but left early, studying in Oxford and the United States. Nicanor encouraged Violeta to pursue the larger sphere of first Santiago and later, the world.
Nicanor chose to leave behind the conventions of poetry, creating poetic language that renounced the refinement of most Latin American literature and adopted a more colloquial tone. His first collection, Poemas y Antipoemas (1954) is a classic of Spanish literature, and cited as an inspiration by American Beat writers such as Allen Ginsberg. Nicanor Parra appears as a character in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s autobiographical film Endless Poetry (2016). Get tickets.
Some helpful links:
Read her brief biography: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Violeta-Parra
Listen to some of her music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wE_cjp-_49A
Read Nicanor’s poetry: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/nicanor-parra
Nicanor’s obituary in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/23/obituaries/nicanor-parra-chile-poet-dead.html
Check out the Violeta Parra Foundation (in Spanish): http://www.fundacionvioletaparra.org/