Last Saturday at 05:20 am, revered Argentine singer of conscience Facundo Cabral was gunned down while on tour in Guatemala. Cabral made his name as a protest singer in the 70’s whose powerful folk lyrics protested violence and dictatorship throughout Latin America. His most famous song, “Ni soy de Aquí, Ni Soy de Allá,” has been recorded 700 times in 27 languages by the likes of Neil Diamond, Alberto Cortes, and Julio Iglesia.
He had performed the previous evening in Quetzaltenango, and was heading to La Aurora International airport when three vehicles surrounded his white Range Rover and fired over twenty shots into the vehicle, eight of which hit and killed Cabral. Named in 1996 a United Naions Messenger of Peace, his death sent shockwaves throughout Latin America. Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom declared three days of national mourning, crowds waved red carnations at a tribute concert in Guatemala City, and personalidades from Calle 13 to Hugo Chavez to 1992 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Rigoberta Menchú expressed their grief at his assassination.
“I love life so much because it cost me so much to enjoy it,” Cabral said in an interview in 2008. Indeed, his tale is remarkable. Born the eighth son of a poor Argentinian family, he left home at the age of 9 and traveled over 3,000 km to Buenos Aires to personally ask president Juan Perón for a job, to which Eva replied, “porfin alguien que pide trabajo y no limosna.” He was illiterate till the age of 14, when a Jesuit priest turned him onto literature at a juvenile prison.
Throughout the course of his life, Cabral wrote at least 22 books sin titulos y sin autor, the most famous of which is Borges y yo, where he writes of his friendship with the cerebral author. His love of literature and Argentinian folk influences resulted in sold out concerts that were a mix of spoken word and music, where Cabral would speak about spirituality, anarchy, and social criticism.
Towards the end of his life Cabral was nearly blind, a cancer survivor, and yet his music and his person always retained an undertone of optimism: “Siempre le pregunto a Dios, ¿por qué a mí tanto me diste? Me diste miseria, hambre, felicidad, lucha, luces… vi todo. Sé que hay cáncer, sífilis y primavera, y buñuelos de manzana.”