Things That Matter

Chilean Opera Singer’s Song Touches Hearts Amidst Country State Of Emergency

Frustration over the now-suspended price hike on subway tickets in the Chilean city of Santiago erupted into widespread fury over three weeks ago. Unrest broke out in the country as anger over Chile’s economic inequalities.  Despite its status as one of the most prosperous and stable countries in Latin America, many Chilean citizens have experienced the weight of quickly rising living costs, skyrocketing debt and corruption. Now, violent protests which have resulted in the deaths of over 20 people, have upended Chile putting it in a state of pause as military personal have descended on the streets and the Chilean government has enacted a curfew.  

In a peaceful show of protest, Chilean opera singer Ayleen Jovita Romero, a soprano, performed a heartrending rendition of “El Derecho de Vivir en Paz,” or “The Right to Live in Peace.” In recent decades the song, first released in 1971, has become the country’s national song of protest.

A viral video of Romero has been making the rounds this week after her October 21 performance was shared online.

The video shows Romero putting on a performance of the song on a balcony during the government-imposed curfew which was started after days of clashes amongst protestors and police in Santiago. Since the video’s posting online, it has been viewed over millions of times across the globe and has drawn attention to Chile’s economy-related clashes.

For the past three weeks, Chile has experienced mass protests across the country and specifically in its capital city. 

Spurned by the country’s rising costs of living, the violent protests have resulted in at least 20 deaths and approximately $300 million in damages. On October 18, the government made the decision to declare that it was in a state of emergency and imposed a curfew on Santiago and nearby areas. As of now, the curfew still remains and citizens are required to be inside of their residences from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m.

Speaking about her now-viral performance, Romero shared with Instagram users her reasons for sharing her son.

“We are demonstrating in a peaceful manner during this curfew, all of the neighbors here are supporting the cause, singing and playing their beautiful instrument,” she wrote in a post to her Instagram page. “I invite other artists to do the same in their homes, the people appreciate it and it does them well ❤️ It’s necessary.”

Romer’s performance received a positive and support reaction from the city and those who were lucky enough to witness her sing the song. 

In a video captured by Ernesto Pinto and shared by the Facebook group El Canto Nuevo de Chile, Romero can be seen singing the song as onlookers watch quietly before breaking out into applause. Pinto’s clip was shared to Pinto’s clip was shared to Twitter by a user on Wednesday and has since been viewed over 4 million times.

“El Derecho de Vivir en Paz” has a significant history for the Chilean people. 

The song, which was first recorded and released by beloved folk singer and political activist Víctor Jara was released in 1971. It was originally written in protest of the Vietnam War and was dedicated to the Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh. The song took on a new and significant meaning in 1973 when the Pinochet regiment took power of Chile and Victor Jara was publicly tortured in front of prisoners for his support of President Salvador Allende. 

Speaking to CNN about her performance, Romero said that she felt that “It was very sad to see how the streets were getting empty. It made me feel helpless, and the first thing I did was to put on the song, ‘El derecho de vivir en paz,’ of Victor Jara. She went onto say that she” came out on the balcony to sing for the people. Never thinking this would go viral. It was beautiful, as people were silent during the song.”

When she was done and listeners broke out into cheers, the song began again with more musicians and singers joining in. “More musician neighbors joined, each one with his part — a violinist, an accordionist, and another singer made all the neighbors sing,” the opera singer told CNN. “It was beautiful and emotional.”

Speaking to CNN about her performance, Romero said that she felt that “It was very sad to see how the streets were getting empty. It made me feel helpless, and the first thing I did was to put on the song, ‘El derecho de vivir en paz,’ of Victor Jara. She went onto say that she” came out on the balcony to sing for the people. Never thinking this would go viral. It was beautiful, as people were silent during the song.”

When she was done and listeners broke out into cheers, the song began again with more musicians and singers joining in. “More musician neighbors joined, each one with his part — a violinist, an accordionist and another singer made all the neighbors sing,” the opera singer told CNN. “It was beautiful and emotional.”

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