Tim Hollins introduces the Victor Jara Festival, El Sueño Existe
Deep in the heart of rural West Wales, in the pretty market town of Machynlleth, a quite extraordinary political/cultural festival “El Sueño Existe” (The Dream Lives On) keeps the spirit, the music and the politics of Victor Jara of Chile alive each summer. If you want a small scale summer festival combining politics and culture, this is it!
Victor Jara mural, Chile: “Give us your strength and courage to struggle”, from the Victor Jara song, Manifiesto
Victor Jara, a member of the Chilean Communist Party, emerged as the iconic singer of Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity Government of 1970-73. On a wave of optimism and enthusiasm Allende had been democratically elected, introducing far reaching reforms throughout society – nationalising the copper mines, land rights for the peasants, free healthcare and education for workers, popular art and culture and much more. It was all brutally ended on 11th September 1973 by the military coup, led by the fascist General Pinochet – and supported by the CIA and the US Government of Nixon and Kissinger.
Victor Jara’s sublime poetry and songs of the workers’ struggles, their joys and sorrows were heard throughout Chile, and after his brutal killing in the immediate aftermath of the coup, he quickly became a key voice in Latin America’s struggles for justice and socialism, in resistance to 500 years of oppression and genocide.
Alejandro Reyes, contemporary of Victor Jara
Today the El Sueño Existe festival brings together for a magical weekend, not only Latin American singers, songwriters, exiles, bands, dancers, poets and painters, but also a great crowd of solidarity activists, journalists, academics, film makers, theatre groups, Welsh language activists and festival goers, in a wonderful melting pot. It is a happening on a grand scale, where you are just as likely to drop into a workshop debate on ‘AMLO’, the new progressive President of Mexico, or an Argentinian singer in a laid-back concert, a full-on dance set from Quimantu playing Chilean/fusion rhythms, a shaman taking you on a mind journey to the heart of the Amazon, or an academic demolition of Trump’s attempts to take imperialism back to white supremacy.
In short the festival is an eclectic and heady mix of all things political and cultural, and creates its own special energy through the hundreds who make it over the hills to Machynlleth. Each festival (entirely run by volunteers) chooses a Latin American country as a main focus, whilst promoting all cultures that seek a progressive way forward. In August 2019 the main country focus will be Mexico, from Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s astonishing art, via the missing & disappeared ‘43’ students to AMLO – Lopez Obrador, who has recently triumphed in elections. In the era of Trump, Brexit and all of the threats we all face, El Sueno Existe is an uplifting and magical experience.
Tony Corden, festival director and self-confessed Victor Jara fan
As Chilean academic and activist, Dr. Francisco Dominguez from Middlesex University says:
In all my many years as an activist in Britain, I have found that one of the most beautiful gestures of commitment with Latin America’s struggles is the El Sueño Existe Festival in the depths of marvellous Wales. Organised to celebrate the worldview and music of Chilean singer, Victor Jara, to tell the world that his dream, our dream, of a better world goes on. El Sueño Existe is solidarity at its very best. Just get there, & you won’t be disappointed.
Victor Jara Festival - El Sueño Existe, August 16th-18th, Machynlleth, Wales SY20 8ER. All info & weekend tickets, (£50/£60 + camping £15, campervan - £25) available from the festival website.
Thanks to Kevin Hayes for all images.
Tim Hollins is a musician, educator and cultural activist.