In 1979, Mercedes Sosa was arrested onstage and subsequently deported by Jorge Videla’s military junta. She was that kind of folksinger, an avowed Communist and a star of the “nueva canción” (new song) movement of politicized folk music that developed in Latin America during the 1950s and ’60s. Dubbed La Negra due to her dark skin and hair, Sosa became the voice of Argentina’s poor and dispossessed, particularly during the 1976-83 political dictatorship, when 30,000 dissenters were murdered and tens of thousands more imprisoned for political crimes. Sosa returned to Argentina in 1982 and her career flourished. She sold out Carnegie Hall in 2002. Caetano Veloso and Shakira joined her on her final albums, Cantora 1 and 2. She died of kidney problems on October 4 and thousands lined the route to her funeral yesterday.
In this video she sings perhaps her most famous song, Violetta Parra’s “Gracias a la Vida” (Thanks to Life):
Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me laughter and it gave me longing.
With them I distinguish happiness and pain—
The two materials from which my songs are formed,
And your song, as well, which is the same song.
And everyone’s song, which is my very song.