In February 1982, Argentine folksinger Mercedes Sosa returned from exile and appeared on a Buenos Aires concert stage for the first time in three years. Simply appearing on stage took considerable courage since at her last concert in Argentina, Mercedes Sosa had been arrested, along with her audience. After that, bowing to international pressure, the military junta allowed her to go into exile, where she first lived in Paris and then in Spain.
Given that background, the atmosphere in the theater was understandably electric on that February summer night twenty-eight years ago. In an auditorium filled to capacity, fans lined the walls and stood in the back, waiting anxiously. As it turned out, no one needed to know Mercedes Sosa’s already stirring history to be captivated. When La Negra's voice, banned by the junta for years, rang out with its first pure chords, all knew they were in the presence of musical genius. As the evening wore on, Mercedes Sosa sang their hopes of liberation and expressed their sorrow about a grief still otherwise unspoken. Whether young or old, all faces shone with tears and joy. It was as if a nation, so long immersed in terror and persecution, found its voice again.
As for Argentina, within two months of this concert, the junta, perhaps sensing their waning support, launched the disastrous Falkland Islands/Las Malvinas war. That ultimately so discredited them in the eyes of the world and their own countrymen that, by the end of the year, the military was out of power and Argentina held its first democratic election in ten years.
Mercedes Sosa died at 74 in October 2009, having lived a remarkable life that took her from a provincial Argentine town to performing in front of sold-out crowds all over the world. In honor of her courage, indeed heroism, in February 1982 and throughout her life, I post these videos of some of my favorite Mercedes Sosa songs.
"La Cigarra" [The Cicada] The song talks of repeatedly being killed and then resurrecting after being given up for dead. The chorus: "I kept singing like the cicada which, after a year underground, sings to the sun; like the survivor, who returns from war."
"Gracias a la Vida " [Thank you, Life] with Joan Baez
"Canción con Todos" [Song with Everyone] This is frequently referred to as the Latin American anthem. One of its lines says: "I feel as I walk all the skin of America in my skin and in my blood runs a river that liberates its flow in my voice."
Other posts in the A Hero's Journey series:
William Joseph Seymour - A Son of Slaves Sparks an International Religious Revival
The Original Literary Hero - Gilgamesh