Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mercedes Sosa, Argentinian singer for Justice Dies

By Sijisfredo Aviles

Mercedes Sosa is dead, Long live Mercedes. And she will live in the hearts of many music lovers of the Nueva Cancion, the new form of music that combined modern popular music with folk music with a message of support of the exploited and a call for social justice for the indigenous people, Afro Latinos and the poor of Latin America. She will also live in other singers to whom she passed the torch of commitment to social justice and struggle.

As a singer, interpreter of the Nueva Cancion and a member of the Communist Party, she was considered an arch enemy of the military dictatorship that controlled Argentina from 1976 to 1983 after a coup. The regime either killed or disappeared perhaps 30,000 people, including their children who were kidnapped and given for adoption and whose family do not know their fortune. She and her audience were arrested during a concert and she was freed after an international campaign in favor of her freedom. Threats from right wing death squads forced her to flee, seek exile in France and live in Spain. She returned in 1982 just before the military dictatorship crumbled.

Born in Tecuman, one of the poorest northern province of Argentina, she died at age 72 this past Sunday, October 4 in Buenos Aires, peacefully according to her son, Fabian Matus, although she suffered from hepatitis and other complications. Her fans called her fondly "La Negra" in reference to the shining black hair that she inherited from her Quechuan Indian roots. Her death ended a sixth decade career that began at age 15. Her remains lay in state at the National Congress and a funeral procession accompanied her to the Chacarita Cemetery where she was cremated.

Thousands of people paid their respects with tears, flowers, dance and song. They remembered her as a person who loved humanity and justice and not only just a singer. After all there have been many singers but few as committed as Mercedes Sosa.

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