Last Saturday, Argentine protest folk singer Facundo Cabral was killed while on his way to the airport in Guatemala City. Earlier in the week he had done concerts in Quetzaltenango and in the capital. Apparently, he wasn’t the intended target of the ambush, which President Colom has blamed on organized crime. Preliminary arrests have been made.
Cabral was beloved all across Latin America, and there’s been mourning throughout the region. The secretary general of the Organization of American States (via the MCC Latin America Advocacy Blog) had this to say:
The assassination of Facundo Cabral, a great artist in our América, who was committed to the most noble causes of his people, can only be understood as the result of the irrational criminality that, unfortunately is engulfing our lovely Guatemala and other nations in our hemisphere…If the theory that the assassins’ bullets were not meant for him is true, this only increases our indignation, because it demonstrates that no one today is safe from the murderous actions of gunmen, not even someone whose only weapons are music and the truth.
The Los Angeles Times’ La Plaza blog has a good biographical write-up for those of us less familiar with his significance and his story:
Facundo Cabral, the folk singer from Argentina who was killed in Guatemala City on Saturday by gunfire reportedly not intended for him, was as civilian and migratory as you can get in Latin America.
Cabral was eighth-born to a poor family in Buenos Aires in 1937, and later grew up in the far southern tip of Argentina, the province of Tierra del Fuego. He ran away from home at age 9 with the intent of making it back to the capital and seeking a meeting with then-President Juan Peron. The boy, gone for four months, had heard Peron “gave jobs to the poor.”
His singing career took off in 1970 with an international hit, “No soy de aquí, ni soy de allá,” or “I’m Not From Here, and Not from There.” In spoken verse that precedes one famous video recording of the song, Cabral says, “I am not liberty, but I am he who provokes it.” Cabral’s greatest hit has been recorded some 700 times and in 27 languages.
After the rise of the military junta in Argentina, the singer went into exile for a time in Mexico. By 1996, he was designated a United Nations “Worldwide Messenger of Peace.” Cabral, 74, toured and performed actively across the region, which is what took him for a planned series of concerts in Central America beginning last week.