Chilean dancer and human rights activist Joan Jara dies at 96

The widow of murdered songwriter Victor Jara spent most of her life advocating human rights and seeking justice

Imagen de archivo de Joan Jara (izq), viuda de Víctor Jara, quien murió el domingo a los 96 años de edad. CD/SB

British-Chilean dancer Joan Jara, the widow of Chilean songwriter Víctor Jara who dedicated most of her life to fight for human rights and seek justice for the disappearance and murder of her husband, died on Sunday in Chile at the age of 96. The cause of death was not been disclosed. 

“We are sorry to report that our dear and beloved 96-year-old Joan Jara passed away today, November 12, at 5.30 p.m.,” said a social media statement by the Victor Jara Foundation, which she created in 1990 soon after returning to Chile from her London-based exile during Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship.

Joan Jara was forced to leave the country a few days after the September 1973 coup d’état against democratically-elected President Salvador Allende, which gave way to a genocidal dictatorship commanded by General Augusto Pinochet.

After the kidnapping and murder of her husband Víctor Jara, Joan left for Europe with her daughters (Manuela Bunster, from her first marriage, and Amanda Jara). She was only able to return in the ’80s when the dictatorship started to withdraw.

Over the years, Joan sought justice for her husband’s murder but it wasn’t until the end of last August that the Chilean Supreme Court convicted seven former soldiers for his kidnapping and homicide.

Meanwhile, within the next two weeks, the United States is expected to extradite former Army lieutenant Pedro Barrientos Núñez, prosecuted by Chilean courts more than a decade ago as the murderer of both Jara and Allende’s Head of Prisons Littré Quiroga.

Author of Victor Jara’s biography Un canto truncado, Joan also received Chile’s National Award for Representation and Audiovisual Arts in 2021. The dancer’s funeral kicked off at noon on Monday at the Spiral Dance Company, the academy she created in the mid-80s in downtown Santiago de Chile.

You may also be interested in: Chile’s coup 50 years on: cries for justice are waiting for answers

—with information by Télam


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