History in the Making

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The emergence of Nueva Cancion musicians during 1960’s Chile, such as Victor Jara and Inti-Illimani, played an important role in propelling the left wing revolutionary movements that supported Salvador Allende’s presidential victory in 1970, making him the first democratically elected Socialist in the Western Hemisphere. Although there is much scholarly literature that deals with the social and political aspects of Nueva Cancion, historians have failed to recognize how indigeneity played a crucial role in the shaping the identity that Nueva Cancion musicians embodied through their music. With the power of music, Nueva Cancion became a militant song movement that represented their indigenous heritage through the mixture of traditional Chilean folklore, the utilization of indigenous Andean instruments, and contemporary political lyricism that addressed issues of capitalism, colonization and neoliberal policies that exploited the poor, working class, and indigenous people—all of which were important to Allende’s voting base. Nueva Cancion musicians utilized their representation of indigenous heritage to create a Chilean identity through music that left long-standing impact on Chilean social, political, and most importantly cultural life into the present day.