Joan Jara

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Joan Jara
Joan Jara.jpg
Jara in 2012
Joan Alison Turner

1927 (age 91–92)

Joan Jara (born Joan Alison Turner, England, 1927) is a British-Chilean dancer, activist, and widow of Chilean icon, communist and folksinger Víctor Jara.[1] Since his death, she dedicated herself to perpetuating the memory of him, his work, and his values.[2] She wrote An Unfinished Song: The Life of Victor Jara in 1984,[1] and founded the Víctor Jara Foundation.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Jara was born in England in 1927.[2] She met Víctor at the University of Chile in 1961:[3] he studied theatre and she gave dance classes in the theatre school.[1] At this time, Jara also danced in the national ballet.[1] When she was recovering from an illness once, Víctor brought her flowers that Jara surmises he stole from the park due to his budget.[1] Jara had a daughter less than a year old at this time from a previous husband, from whom she was separated.[1] The daughter and Víctor were close.[1]

1973 Coup[edit]

Her husband died in the 1973 coup.[3] He left the morning of the coup to defend the university and was corralled with others into the stadium, which became "a makeshift concentration camp".[3] Jara sought assistance from the British embassy, which was closed.[3] Jara identified his body in the Santiago morgue within a pile of corpses, where his wrists and neck were broken, his abdomen gory, and his body shot with 44 bullets.[3] Before he died, he arranged for a message to be smuggled out of the stadium to his wife, telling her where he had last parked their car and saying that he loved her.[3] He became one of the best-known victims of the coup.[3]

She left Chile in 1973, changed her surname to Jara, and dedicated herself to perpetuating the memory of her husband, his works, and his values.[2] She returned to Chile in 1984 to revive his memory.[2]

In an interview, Jara said the Chilean military would not tell her the names of the officers at the stadium where Víctor died.[1] As court cases proceeded, the military underlings outed their officers.[1] Her lawyer added that the Chilean military has a "pact of silence" against providing information to the families of the disappeared, and that the low-level soldiers' testimony was pivotal to their officer identification efforts.[1]

Civil lawsuit[edit]

In 2013, Jara filed a civil lawsuit against a former military officer she charges as responsible for her husband's death, Pedro Barrientos, who has lived in Florida for about 20 years and became an American citizen[1] through marriage.[3] The lawsuit was filed under the Torture Victim Protection Act and the Alien Tort Statute, a federal law that lets American courts try foreign human rights disputes.[3][1] Barrientos and six others were charged in Jara's murder in December 2012 based on a conscript's corroborated testimony.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "40 Years After Chile Coup, Family of Slain Singer Víctor Jara Sues Alleged Killer in U.S. Court". Democracy Now!. 9 September 2013. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e Andreu, Tomás; Neira, Elizabeth (27 September 2013). "Joan Jara: "Lo que hicieron en mi vida no tiene reparación…"" [Joan Jara: "What they did in my life is beyond repair ..."]. El Salvador (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Watts, Jonathan; Franklin, Jonathan (10 September 2013). "Agony of Chile's dark days continues as murdered poet's wife fights for justice". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013.

External links[edit]


Media related to Joan Jara at Wikimedia Commons