Gracias a la vida! Celebrating Mercedes Sosa, 1935-2009

Mercedes Sosa in 1980

Mercedes Sosa in 1980

 THE PEOPLE OF HER native Argentina called her “the voice of the voiceless ones.” For the rest of the world, she will always be known as the voice of South America.

The singer Mercedes Sosa was born in the northwestern Argentine town of San Miguel de Tucumán, the birthplace of the Argentine declaration of independence, to working class parents in 1935. Her mother was of French descent and her father traced his family back to Quechua Indian roots. Sosa already began performing traditional tunes as a child and won a radio talent contest at the age of fifteen. She recorded her first folklore album in 1959. After performing in a national folklore festival in 1965 she became a household name in her own country.

Sosa and her parents had been fervent supporters of the populist Peronist movement and particularly revered its charismatic symbol, Evita. From then on she moved increasingly to the left. In the mid-1960s, Sosa and her first husband, Manuel Oscar Matus, helped found the Nuevo Cancionero movement, which first began in Argentina and Uruguay and gradually worked its way up the continent into Central America. Sosa and her fellow musicians idealistically believed that social and political transformation could come about through the message of song. Their music combined folk tunes and pop themes and frequently contained a progressive political message. By 1967 the couple were touring North America and Europe and playing to sell-out crowds.

In 1976 the political tide turned in Argentina, when the junta of Jorge Videla seized power. …



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