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Uruguayan musician Daniel Viglietti passed away on October 30 at the age of seventy-eight. As a Smithsonian Folkways Recordings artist and prominent nueva cancion performer, he was pivotal to the development of socially conscious popular music throughout the 1960s and ’70s in Latin America.
“Insistence on Latin American culture, in a moment when the North American colossus is trying to devour one’s nation, is an act of resistance,” the liner notes of his 1973 album read. “Daniel Viglietti, then, is a patriot ... not just for Uruguay, but for all of Latin America.”
His song “A Desalambrar (Tear Down the Fences),” two versions of which Paredon Records released in the 1970s, calls attention to rural poverty and became an international call to action on land reform. In 1972, a year before the Uruguayan military coup, he was arrested and imprisoned for his music. Soon afterward, he was released and exiled to Paris, due in large part to the efforts of French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. After democratic elections were held in 1984, he returned to Montevideo. He reportedly continued to write and perform music until only a few months prior to his passing.
His legacy lives on, as the liner notes suggest: “Daniel Viglietti has placed his artistry on the side of the peoples of the world, saying that he will be happy if his music helps a person go forth one day more, in the sun, full of hope for the future.”
Meredith Holmgren is a program manager at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.