Violeta Parra

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Violeta Parra

Violeta del Carmen Parra Sandoval (born October 4, 1917 in San Carlos in the province of Ñuble , Región del Bío-Bío , Chile ; † February 5, 1967 ) was a Chilean folklore musician and visual artist .


Her father was a music teacher, from her mother she heard traditional folk songs, which she accompanied on the guitar. During her childhood Violeta lived with eight siblings in rural areas in poverty. Deep furrows and scars on her face were evidence of smallpox as a child. At the age of nine Parra learned to play guitar and singing and at the age of twelve she composed her first songs. She was trained as a teacher in a state school in Santiago . During this time she composed boleros , corridos and tonadas and performed in bars, small dance halls in the districts, at the circus and in leisure facilities.

In 1938 she married Luis Cereceda. With their children, Isabel Parra and Ángel Parra , she realized large parts of her musical work. She became a member of the Communist Party of Chile [8] and actively supported her presidential candidate Gabriel González Videla in 1944 and performed Spanish songs from the repertoire of Lolita Torres and Imperio Argentina. After separating from her husband in 1948, she returned to her mother with the children and sang in bars and pubs in town.

In 1949 she married a carpenter and opera tenor; the couple had two daughters.

In 1954 Parra performed at the International Youth and Student Festival in Warsaw , visited the Soviet Union and spent two years in France . There she recorded her first long-playing records, which also included her own compositions. She made many contacts with European artists and intellectuals before she returned to Chile to resume her creative work. During this time her youngest daughter died, which led to the separation from her second husband. Hindered from performing because of a hepatitis disease, she painted and dealt with pottery and embroidery at a high artistic level. At the invitation of a university, she traveled to the north, where she organized poetry readings , folklore, writing and painting courses and exhibitions of her works.

On her 43rd birthday, she met the 24-year-old Swiss musician Gilbert Favre. It was a very intense, sometimes difficult relationship with several breakups and reconciliations.

At the invitation of the youth festival in Finland , Parra went on a tour with her children that took them through the USSR, Germany, Italy and France, where she spent three years in Paris from contributing to radio and television, performing in the Latino quarter and reading poetry at UNESCO Lived for the United Nations theater. She realized a series of concerts in Geneva and exhibitions of her own sculptures. In 1964, she was the first Latin American artist to have a solo exhibition in the Marsan Pavilion in the Louvre in Paris.

In 1965 she traveled to Switzerland , where she worked on a documentary film covering the entire spectrum of her work. After her return to Chile, she took part in the Peña de los Parras of her children Isabel and Ángel in Calle Carmen 340 in Santiago, where she shortly afterwards called La Carpa de La Reina (Spanish for “the tent in the La Reina district”) Inaugurated art center.

Peña means rock , but also regulars' table and stands all over Chile for cultural-political community celebrations, in which singing competitions of all generations, solo and as a choir, with and without instrumental accompaniment, are often the focus. Today there are many Peñas not only in Chile, but also in other American countries, in Europe and Australia , since many Chileans fled at the time of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship .

In 1966 Parra traveled to Bolivia , gave concerts in the southern regions of Chile and made other records with her children. She returned to Santiago to continue her work in La Carpa. In the evenings she performed there, sang and accompanied herself on the guitar and served her guests homemade dishes. There Víctor Jara , a Chilean actor and theater director, got to know her work and herself and was quickly drawn under her spell. Ángel Parra pressed a guitar into his hand and had him perform folk songs from his homeland and his own compositions.

Parra committed suicide eight months before her 50th birthday, on 5 February 1967 suicide .


Violeta Parra's visual arts initially received little attention in her home country until her exhibitions at the Louvre in Paris. Many of her sculptures and oil paintings, which she created between 1954 and 1965 in Santiago, Buenos Aires , Paris and Geneva, are now part of the Violeta Parra Foundation , which was created by public figures in Chile to buy back and protect their inheritance.

Encouraged by her brother Nicanor Parra , Parra began to document folk music from the rural areas from 1952. This collection discovered the poetry and folk song from quite different regions of Chile. This work brought to light the enormous hidden richness of the traditions that had fused into Chilean culture. From here she began her fight against stereotypical foreign music and initiated a renaissance of authentic folk culture with her songs, décimas and instrumental music.

Parra created the basis for La Nueva Canción Chilena , the New Chile Singing Movement that renewed Chilean folklore music. This movement spread in Chile in the 1960s and 1970s. Since she combined folkloric musical elements with religious forms and contents of the protest movement and social criticism of the sixties, she became the head of a powerful cultural movement and spread across the whole country. Even after the coup in Chile in 1973, she became for many a symbolic figure for Chile, suffering and struggling under the military dictatorship , which achieved its return to democracy.

In 2011, the Chilean director Andrés Wood filmed Parra's life with Francisca Gavilán in the title role in the feature film Violeta se fue a los cielos .

Gracias a la vida

Shortly before her death, Violeta Parra created the song Gracias a la vida ('Thanks to Life'), which is considered a pillar of the Nueva Canción (Spanish: 'New Song'). It was first published in Últimas Composiciones (1966), Parras' last album. The title has been reinterpreted many times in Latin American music and received internationally. In addition to the version by Mercedes Sosa , the interpretation by Joan Baez is best known; other recordings were made by Holly Near , Elis Regina , Nana Mouskouri , Richard Clayderman and Yasmin Levy , for example . In the German-speaking countries, the song enjoys continued popularity thanks to a post-poetry ("Liebes Leben, Danke!", 1990) by the musician Gerhard Schöne . Another transmission is from Heinz Kahlau ; it begins with the line of text "I thank the life that has given me so much". Manfred Maurenbrecher published another German version of the song on his CD at the end of the night in 2004. Konstantin Wecker released his version in 2017 on the album Poetry and Resistance .


  • 1956: Guitare et Chant: Chants et Rhythms du Chili
  • 1957: Canto y Guitarra (El Folklore de Chile, Vol. I)
  • 1958: Acompañada de Guitarra (El Folklore de Chile, Vol. II)
  • 1958: La Cueca Presentada por Violeta Parra (El Folklore de Chile, Vol. III)
  • 1958: La Tonada Presentada por Violeta Parra (El Folklore de Chile, Vol. IV)
  • 1960: Toda Violeta Parra (El Folklore de Chile, Vol. VIII)
  • 1961: Violeta Parra en Argentina
  • 1962: Los Parra de Chile
  • 1965: Recordando a Chile (Una Chilena en París)
  • 1965: Carpa de La Reina
  • 1966: Las Últimas Composiciones


  • Patricio Manns: Violeta Parra , Ediciones Jucar, 1978, ISBN 84-334-2034-8
  • Albrecht Moreno: “Violeta Parra and 'La Nueva Canción Chilena.'” In: Studies in Latin American Popular Culture 5 (1986): 108–26.
  • Angél Parra: Violeta se fue a los cielos Verlag Catalonia, 2006, ISBN 978-9568303358 .
  • Omar Saavedra Santis : The beauty of an ugly: Violeta Parra, 40 years after her death; a bow. In: ila. Latin America Observatory Journal, 2007, October, pp. 49–53
  • Fernando Saez Garcia: La Vida Intranquila: Violeta Parra Biografia Esencial (paperback), Sudamericana publishing house, 2001, ISBN 956-262-092-1

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ( Memento of the original from October 11, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. ^ Spanish text on the homepage of Nana Mouskouri
  3. ^ Text version by Gerhard Schöne
  4. Liederbaum, Lied 89, kunterbundedition, 3rd edition 2005, ISBN 3-7957-5655-3
  5. Text version by Heinz Kahlau ( Memento of the original from April 2, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /