Today, October 4, is Violeta Parra’s birthday. Only a few days ago I myself knew nothing about her. Every month my husband and I rent movies from our local public library. Coincidentally “Violeta” was one of the October picks. I chose the film because of its cover. There was something intriguing in the image of this poetic-looking woman holding a guitar. The remarkable film told a rather brutal story of the well-known Chilean leftist poet, folklore singer and composer. It revealed the little-known life of a self-taught musician, a talented and innovative singer and painter; her complicated personality and the intricate existence she led rebelling against the accepted norms of society.
Invited to the Warsaw Music Festival, she dashed off to Europe to establish herself as a singer outside of the South American continent, leaving behind her two young children and a newborn. During her lifetime she became the first South American artist to have an exhibition in the Louvre, and she greatly contributed to the evolution of Chilean music. Violeta committed suicide at the age of 49 because of an unhappy love affair with Gilbert Favre, nearly twenty years her junior.
Many liked the film because of the actress Francisca Gavilan, who created an excellent interpretation of Violeta, and because of the beautiful music. For me it raised thorny issues about the fate of a woman who chose to live an unconventional life. Forced to make difficult decisions between maintaining her career and being a mother, between her personal freedom and duty, she lived her life the way she thought it was right to do. She succeeded in creating a place for herself in the history of world music. The film was based on a book written by Violeta’s son, Angel Parra, whose love and understanding of Violeta and her choices in life proved that she also succeeded as a mother.