Latin American Political Chants compiled by Leandro Cardoso
Artist Leandro Cardoso presents context to the rise of Latin American political chants, which are rooted in 1970s Chilean politics. In 1970, Salvador Allende was the first Marxist on the American continent to become an elected national leader. Before Allende's socialist government was prematurely ended, Chile saw a flowering of the culture of street politics, including political speeches and chants.
"BANDERAS ABAJO, NO VEMOS UN CARAJO" (translated into English as "Flags down, we can't see shit.") chanted people at the back of demonstrations, desperately trying to see the speakers on stage through the sea of flags and banners. In Latin America, public squares have always been considered the ultimate place of the people; to some extent, public squares created and legitimised the very notion of a political body constituted by ‘the people'. It's no wonder then why the Catholic Church has made sure to stick a cross in the main square of every city in Latin America: what came first, the square or the cathedral? But there were always ‘other' squares. In Rio de Janeiro, it was Praca Onze. For the first half of the 20th century, "that little Africa", as the samba composer Heitor dos Prazeres used to say, was a node for the heterogeneous socialising flows of Rio.
‘The square' is a powerful figure of speech in Latin America: it's the place of emancipated people, a dreamed autonomous territory in model scale. As supporters of Salvador Allende's socialist government shouted A LA PLAZA! A LA PLAZA! [to the square! to the square!], they were not strictly referring to a given piece of land within Santiago de Chile's master plan; they were building ‘that' space with their voice. But political chanting also suffers coups; the same words that produce emancipation and equality might just as well become a resonant litany of empty slogans. In Cuba, students organised their time around the mandatory morning and afternoon gatherings in the school square (an altogether different type of square), during which they invariably had to go through some patriotic drill or other. This particular one took the form of a "musical game":
A la Plaza: listen
Solista: Pioneros por el comunismo
Coro: Seremos como el Che
Solista: Solo los cristales se rajan, los hombres mueren de pie y nosotros los pioneros
Coro: Moriremos como el Che.
Solista: Ideología es ante todo
Solista: La defensa de la patria socialista, es el más grande honor y deber de cada
Solista: El pueblo unido
Coro: Jamás será vencido
Solista: Comandante en Jefe
Solista: Patria o Muerte
Coro: O muerte
Orator: Pioneers for Communism
Students: We will be like Che
Orator: Only crystals brake, men die standing and us pioneers
Students: Will die like Che
Orator: Ideology above all
Orator: The defence of the socialist nation is the biggest honour and duty of each
Orator: A united people
Students: Will never be defeated
Orator: Commander in Chief
Orator: Homeland or Death
Students: We will prevail
Students: Or death
The middle bit, EL PUEBLO UNIDO JAMAS SERA VENCIDO, is the prototypical expression of resistance in Latin America - our way of saying "power to the people". It was recently heard in the streets of London as Colombian cleaning ladies demanded better pay and more humane working conditions.
El pueblo unido: listen
In a particularly egomaniac party manoeuvre "the people" have often been replaced by "the left" resulting in the similar sounding but altogether different chant LA IZQUIERDA UNIDA JAMAS SERA VENCIDA.
La Izquierda Unida: listen
Across Latin America, definitions for the leader, the hero, and the enemy required local readjustments to trigger the collective will to chant. For instance, EL QUE NO SALTA ES MOMIO [if you don't jump you are a mummy] also reads EL QUE NO SALTA ES UN BOTON [if you don't jump you are a military] because in Uruguay a "mummy" did not equate to a dry and corrupt conservative citizen as it did in Chile. Conversely, some self-appointed leaders and heroes did not have the subtlety to adjust their endurance speeches to people's good patience; and, more often than not, have considered the people to be "a people", an undifferentiated mass or rather, just a single volume to fill in the vista from governmental balconies. Those stereotypical ranting figures (smoking cigars in the mind of the Western citizen) have caused great confusion and misunderstanding with their demagogy.
El que no salta es momio: listen
It was during the 1970's and 1980's, when a major part of Latin America was either under the threat or already in the hands of such dictatorial figures, that some of the political chants you can hear on this website became the means to effectively mark territories and replicate messages nationwide and beyond. Chants were repeated for hours and days on end, and daily talks seamlessly unfolded in inflated public speeches delivered from the roof of parked cars or on the shoulders of some unlucky compañero. Occasionally, public address systems appeared from nowhere, which increased the gravitation pull of a given speaker in direct proportion to his words. Sometimes people could not agree on who should speak, and sometimes people just wouldn't let anyone speak.
Cordones, presente! Salvador Allende's plans to install a government of the people in Chile motivated industry workers to take over factories and self-organise into so called "industrial belts". What you can hear are different "belts" from across the country marking presence in a major street parade in Santiago de Chile in 1971, in support of Allende.
Cordones, presente!: listen
Trabajadores al poder! is a demand for "power to the workers", or in a more literal translation, "workers in power". In this case, the power-hungry mob was formed of street vendors who normally use a kind of trumpet to announce their presence in the neighbourhood for potential buyers. This is what I call transferable skill.
Trabajadores al poder!: listen
by Leandro Cardoso, devised in collaboration with Tamara Bringas, Ana Laura Lopez, Muniz Sodre, Sol Hernano, Thales de Azevedo, Florencia Terzano.