Cantar con Sentido

A stop motion biography by Leonardo Beltrán & Cecilia Toro

The story of the Chilean composer, songwriter and visual artist Violeta Parra in a touching animation, on permanent show at the Museo Casa Natal de Violeta Parra, in San Carlos, Chile.

Born in San Fabián de Alico, a small town in southern Chile, on 4 October 1917, Violeta was a member of the prolific Parra family. Among her brothers were the notable modern poet, better known as the “anti-poet”, Nicanor Parra, and fellow folklorist Roberto Parra. Her son, Ángel Parra, and her daughter, Isabel Parra, are also important figures in the development of the Nueva Canción Chilena. Their children have also mostly maintained the family’s artistic traditions.


Her father was a music teacher and her mother worked on a farm, but sang and played the guitar in her spare time. Two years after Violeta’s birth, the family moved to Santiago, then, two years later, to Lautaro and, finally, in 1927, to Chillán. It was in Chillan that Violeta started singing and playing the guitar, together with her siblings Hilda, Eduardo and Roberto, and soon began composing traditional Chilean music.

The Parras performed in nightclubs, such as El Tordo Azul and El Popular, in the Mapocho district, interpreting boleros, rancheras, Mexican corridos and other styles.
Along the way, Violeta met Pablo Neruda, who introduced her to his friends. In 1970, he would dedicate the poem Elegia para Cantar to her.

Violeta Art

Violeta by Claudia Martinez

In July 1955, she was invited to the World Festival of Youth and Students, in Warsaw, Poland, then she moved to Paris, France, where she performed at the nightclub L’Escale, in the Quartier Latin and travelled to London to make recordings for EMI-Odeon and radio broadcasts from the BBC. She made contacts with European artists and intellectuals.

Through the intervention of the anthropologist Paul Rivet, Violeta recorded at the National Sound Archive of the Musée de l’Homme La Sorbonne, in Paris, where she left a guitarrón and tapes of her collections of Chilean folklore.

Cantar con Sentido

Violeta committed suicide in 1967 by a gunshot to the head. Her most renowned song, Gracias a la Vida — Thanks to Life —, was popularized throughout Latin America by Mercedes Sosa, in Brazil by Elis Regina and later in the US by Joan Baez. It remains one of the most covered Latin American songs in history.

Several memorials were held after her death, both in Chile and abroad.

Cantar con Sentido 2


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