English dancer Joan Jara, widow of Victor Jara, dies at 96

English dancer Joan Jara, widow of Victor Jara, dies at 96
English dancer Joan Jara, widow of Victor Jara, dies at 96

The English dancer Joan Alison Turner Roberts, Joan Jara, died this Sunday afternoon at the age of 96 in Santiago, Chile. The widow of the Chilean singer Víctor Jara, murdered during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), dedicated much of her life to the fight for human rights. The mother of Manuela Bunster – daughter of her first marriage, with the Chilean dancer Patricio Bunster – and Amanda Jara won the National Award for Performing and Audiovisual Arts of Chile in 2021. Her wake is scheduled for this Monday at noon at the Company of Danza Espiral, the academy that opened in the mid-eighties in the center of the capital.

“We regret to inform that our dear and beloved Joan Jara, at the age of 96, passed away today, November 12 at 5:30 p.m.,” the Victor Jara Foundation, an organization created by the dancer in 1990, published on social media.

Joan Jara, recognized by the Chilean Academy of Fine Arts for her contribution to the development of dance, played a fundamental role in the search for justice for the murder of the Chilean singer-songwriter when he was 40 years old, on September 16, 1973 at the Chile Stadium , five days after the coup d’état led by Pinochet. Widowed, Joan returned to London accompanied by her daughters Manuela and Amanda. In the mid-eighties she returned from exile and dedicated herself to training new generations of dancers.

In 1999, a year after Pinochet was arrested in London by order of former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón and accused of crimes against humanity, Joan Jara and her daughter Amanda went to lawyer Nelson Caucoto to ask him to reactivate the case that by then had been running longer. closed for two decades and without any processing.

It was only at the end of last August that the Supreme Court convicted seven former Army soldiers as perpetrators of the Víctor Jara kidnapping and homicide on the eve of half a century since the crime. In two more weeks, the United States will extradite former Army Lieutenant Pedro Barrientos Núñez, prosecuted by the Chilean justice system more than a decade ago as the author of the murder of Jara and the prison director of Salvador Allende’s Government, Littré Quiroga.

The artist, nationalized Chilean by grace, published a book titled Victor Jara. A truncated song (2001, Argos Vergara), a biography of the singer-songwriter and an autobiography of her and their 20 years together. She wrote it between 1980 and 1983 in London. In it she tells how she met Víctor, who was a student at the drama center where the dancer worked as a dance teacher, in Santiago de Chile. She arrived in the South American country in 1954, married to Bunster. “Víctor had a great capacity for bodily expression, but he was not a student who attracted particular attention. Until a few years later, when my marriage had already failed and he was going through a moment of loneliness, our union would not take place,” she noted in the book.

From 1960 they became inseparable. “Socially and politically we had a great affinity and, professionally, each of us continued with her activities with the support of the other and without interference,” wrote Joan, who highlighted the time that her husband dedicated to the theater. “As a theater director he worked from 1957 to 1970. He directed all kinds of works, always seeking the social content that interested him. It was a very fruitful stage, silenced by his subsequent significant success as a singer.”

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