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Musical portrayal of South American struggle for freedom

DAVID BRADBURY: Havana, Cuba. In 1959 when the guerrilla army of Fidel Castro came out of the hills in triumph, alarm bells rang throughout Central and South America. North Americans saw it as a military threat, a communist enclave dangerously close to U.S. territory and it was more. It was a propaganda defeat of huge proportions. A Socialist revolution had succeeded just 90 miles from downtown Miami.

The United States has always liked to call the shots south of the border and if that has meant propping up dictators, arming and subsidising military rulers, then that's what was done. This film began as a search for the music of Central America, but it went where the music lead, into politics, revolution, repression, and the power play of those who would hold back history in five of the countries that make up a land bridge between north and south. In Central America, where the press is censored and the radio gagged, the regimes have failed to stop the music. You can be gaoled, even killed for singing the wrong song, the song of protest or political comment, but the music goes on. The music of Central America is close to life, it comes from the people rather than from the commercial music canneries of North America and it has a relevance that's lacking in money motivated pop.



A song is breaking through that says `Revolution...' In Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Mexico too ... We'll give Uncle Sam the medicine he deserves ...

RALPH MCGEHEE: South America is very economically important to the United States in as such it must be maintained as a colony, if you will, of the United States and I think it's perceived right now as being very critical, I think the situation, if look at what's happening today in Central America. Why are we so concerned, obsessed with Nicaragua? I don't think it's Nicaragua that's important. It's the fact that Nicaragua is an example for all of Central America. If the Nicaraguans can have an Government independent of American control and domination then the rest of South America may want to do the same thing.

DAVID BRADBURY: Mexico city. Here an Aztec civilisation once thrived. Here the Aztec's faced Cortez and the conquerors from Spain. The Aztec's lost. Their gold, their gods, their civilisation.



They saw them come from the sea, they were the bearded men predicted in the prophecy. Then the voice of the monarch was heard that the gods had arrived. We welcomed them through fear of the unknown. They were like evil demons mounted on beasts. Clothed in metal, they came with fire in their hands. Only the bravery of a few offered any resistance and at the sight of the blood flowing the Indians covered themselves in shame because they knew gods neither eat nor enjoy what is stolen. By then it was too late. It was all over. By that error we handed over the greatness of the past and fell into three centuries of slavery. We were left with the evil curse of giving to these strangers our faith, our culture, our food and wealth.

Today we continue changing our gold for their glass beads and give away our riches for their bright mirrors. Today in the middle of the twentieth century the light-skinned people still arrive. We open our homes to them and call them friends. But if an Indian arrives weary from tramping the mountains, we humiliate him and treat him as if he were a stranger in his own land. Oh the curse of Malinche! Illness of the present. When will you leave my land? When will my people be free?

DAVID BRADBURY: Their land has been stolen, these Mexican Indians say. The Government will not help. They protest by hunger strike.

UNIDENTIFIED: `Liberty... Liberty...' Nonsense! That doesn't work! You have to fight. Liberty is won with blood sweat and tears; not by whining. `Oh I can't bear the repression...' `Oh Virgin Mary, Lord help me...' No way! You must fight! Only through fighting can we have a decent life. Prayers are no use. We've had five centuries of praying and the swines have exploited us for five centuries. We mustn't pray. We must fight! We want a country where we Indians and Mexicans can live with dignity.



Come friend, come friend, I'll give you my thoughts. Come friend, Come friend ... come. The country isn't a master, the country isn't a judge. The country is its children, the country is you. The country is the hate towards its oppressor that runs through the veins of Latin America; the peasants' struggle, casting students into the classrooms of the streets to support the workers. The country is the people, its music is its voice. The country is you friend. The country is you friend. Come friend, come friend, come on I'll give you my thoughts. Come friend, come friend, come on I'll give you my thoughts.

HERBERTO CASTILLO: The United States dominates us economically. The more money that's invested in a poor country the poorer it becomes. They have to pay out more than the loans they receive just to repay the interest on the debt. The poor countries have to hand over their petroleum so the rich nations can continue to prosper. It's going to mean that the poor countries won't have energy resources for the future, nor industrial growth. That means there simply won't be any work for the poor.

UNIDENTIFIED: How much do you earn a day?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Fire breather) Two dollars ... $2.50. A maximum of $3.

UNIDENTIFIED: Doesn't it harm your health?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Fire breather) No, because I drink milk.

UNIDENTIFIED: You drink milk...?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Fire breather) Sometimes it cleans my lungs.

UNIDENTIFIED: Sometimes what?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Fire breather) Sometimes the mile cleans my stomach a bit.

UNIDENTIFIED: Do you have a family?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Fire breather) Yes, they're over there.

UNIDENTIFIED: How many children?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Fire breather) Two.

UNIDENTIFIED: (Fire breather's wife) Two girls.

UNIDENTIFIED: How old are they?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Fire breather's wife) This one is six years old. The other is 18 months.

UNIDENTIFIED: Why are you here?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Fire breather's wife) To be with my husband.

UNIDENTIFIED: Are you here all day?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Fire breather's wife) Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED: How can you survive now in Mexico?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Fire breather's wife) It's very hard. Often we don't have enough to eat.

POLICEMAN: Your permit please?




Listen driver, I'm also steering myself through life. We too don't have enough to eat. Running in third gear, I get by. You too have the wheel of life in your hands. You can change things if you want to. Don't wait for the solution to come from above in this unequal world. Change things. Take a different turn and see ...

LLANERO MEMBER: This song comes from El Salvador. We dedicate it to the children of Central America who at this very moment are taking up rifles to fight and defend their countries.

POLICEMAN: You need a permit?


POLICEMAN: This is not permission.

FILM CREW MEMBER: But isn't this a free country?

POLICEMAN: You need a permit. Stop filming! Stop filming!

FILM CREW MEMBER: We can't film here...?



... destroying dictatorships!

With Sandino and Che Guevara. With Farabundo and Archbishop Romero, with the voice of Victor Jara whose voice belongs to the whole continent, we are an active volcano and our fury won't be held back until the oppressed can sing for peace!

We are millions of brothers and sisters forging our difficult history. Hammer, rifle and song destroying dictatorship! Our song knows no frontiers. Our sun belongs to everyone and it will blind the brutal imperialists.

With Sandino and Che Guevara. With Farabundo and Archbishop Romero, with the voice of Victor Jara whose voice belongs to the whole continent, we are an active volcano and our fury won't be held back until the oppressed can sing for peace!

DAVID BRADBURY: Just north of the border between Mexico and Guatemala there is refugee camp. Its inhabitants, 60,000 Guatemalans, have fled into Mexico from persecution at the hands of the Guatemalan military.

UNIDENTIFIED (Male refugee): We're here because the Army repressed us back there. The Army's repression was quite harsh. They massacred and kidnapped many people. That's why we came to Mexico. We can't return to Guatemala because although the Government says there's peace there now we know the violence continues. There's kidnappings, torture, human rights continue to be violated in Guatemala.

UNIDENTIFIED: Are you communists?

UNIDENTIFIED (Male refugee): We have nothing to do with the communists, nothing. We are just country folk who work hard on the land. That's all we want to do.

UNIDENTIFIED (Female refugee): We didn't want to leave our country, but after so much suffering... Two of our children died. They took two of my brothers out of the house at one in the morning with all of their families. The Army surrounded the place... That's why we feel...

DAVID BRADBURY: The sign says `Welcome to Quiche, land of valient men, where the Army and the people have said no to communist subversion'.


Neither bombs nor machine guns will silence the people. I dress up as a policeman only for Carnival. This is not Carnival time so why are you wearing such silly fancy dress.

DAVID BRADBURY: There are few trucks to carry farms needs and farms products, but trucks aplenty to carry soldiers. The military gets what it wants, the people go without.


This trash in fancy dress stop us at every corner and ask for our ID papers. Trash belongs in the rubbish bin. Trash go where you belong.

DAVID BRADBURY: Each soldier wears and carries equipment worth more than most peasants will earn in years. Forced to abandon their traditional villages, the Indians have herded into artificial settlements called `model villages' and the Army goes on trying to convince people that the military is good for them.

UNIDENTIFIED: Today, thanks to God, we have the things we need. Why? Because the Army helped us. We're with the Army, everything's okay. What do you say? Is that true or not?


DAVID BRADBURY: The Army seems not to have learnt that a similar idea didn't work for the north Americans in Vietnam. Volunteers line up for guns and guard duty in a model village. They're volunteers in a very military sense of the word. The alternative is to be regarded as subversive and to miss out on whatever meagre benefits the Government is handing out.



Give your hand to the Indian. Give it. It'll do you good. You will find the way as I found yesterday. Give your hand to the Indian. Give it. It'll do you good. Soak yourself in his saintly sweat of duty and struggle, the Indians touch will show you the path to take... all the blood that'll be shed.

UNIDENTIFIED: Why are you living here?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Female refugee) My house isn't there anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED: What happened to your house?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Female refugee) The Army burnt my house because of the guerrillas.

UNIDENTIFIED: Who burnt it?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Female refugee) The soldiers.

ROBERTO LETONA: First you have to understand how these `model villages' or what we call ? started. They started because our people like to live very scattered, apart one from the other. So it's very difficult for the Government to give them services because they are so far apart. What really the villages made was they brought hostility for the Government to bring services: schools, running water, electricity, to many people.

UNIDENTIFIED: Here there are many problems. We don't have drinking water, there's no electricity or medicine. Because there are many illnesses amongst the people here. Before there was work, cattle. Before I worked looked after the animals. But now there's no animals, so there's no work.



Give your hand to the Indian. Give it. It'll do you good. You will find the way as I did yesterday. It's time for protest and rifles. If doors aren't being opened, people will have to open them. People are rising up, time is running out. Plains, rivers and mountains are freeing their own light. Singing requires no master. Owners your time to order is over! The American guitar while fighting has learnt how to sing.

DAVID BRADBURY: This is a rubbish on the edge of the capital, Guatemala city. It is home for these people, they breath its stink and its smoke, eat its scrapes and live by scavenging from its daily loads.

UNIDENTIFIED: Would you like a Guatemalan refreshment?

UNIDENTIFIED: Ah, a Guatemalan refreshment.

UNIDENTIFIED: Would you like some?

UNIDENTIFIED: That's my humble shack over there. I'd like the TV camera to go with me to see it. Will you come with me? Just to see it. I want the President to see how we live so he takes into account our plight. I live here. I work with this. I wash nylon (to recycle it). That animal you can see is my dog, Goofy. He's my friend.

DAVID BRADBURY: Just a couple of hundred miles away from life on the city dump there's another Guatemala. This is the Caribbean coast in the north, an outpost of the surviving African culture which came with the slaves. Welcome, the sign says. Welcome to Salvadorean democracy.


1980, year of the sad event when we were ordered to leave the village of Guayabo. Saturday, April 9th, I remember it all too well... With pistols and rifles they ordered all the people out. Oh how sad... what a fright... we had to leave all that work behind us. We left with nothing on our way to Llobasco. Manuel said to Jose, `Little brother I fear if we don't leave this place we will all surely die!' The two eldest children said `Save us please blessed God...' Oh how sad... what a fright... we had to leave all that work behind us with nothing to take with us on our way to Llobasco. So now we say goodbye singing wistfully this story of what happened to the little brothers.

DAVID BRADBURY: The U.S. backs the Salvadorean Army. Gives it the bazookas and the bombs to dig up a hillside. From Washington the Foreign Aid figures look good. One million dollars a day the U.S. is pouring in here, but fifty cents in every dollar, half a million dollars a day, comes as machines for killing people.

UNIDENTIFIED: How do you feel having fired the bazooka?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Young soldier) Well, I was a little shocked by the loud explosion.

UNIDENTIFIED: Do you want to fire it well?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Young soldier) Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED: What do you think of war?

UNIDENTIFIED: (Young soldier) Well, we fight at the cost of our lives and I want to serve my country.


UNIDENTIFIED: (Young soldier) For... for... to get peace.

UNIDENTIFIED: (Protesters) Long live Archbishop Romero! He lives!



Keep on marching. Even slowly is progressing. Keep pushing the sun towards the dawn. Keep your strength as pure as a young woman in love...

DAVID BRADBURY: Outside the Cathedral in the capital, San Salvador, a modern martyr is honoured. Here the death squads murdered Archbishop Romero as he said mass. His crime was to speak his mind. But the Archbishop in death is even more damaging to this regime than he was in life. He's a folk hero and his memory gathers strength by the year.

UNIDENTIFIED: Don't forget, you murderers of Archbishop Romero! Don't forget murderers! Romero lives on in the hearts of all of us here. Long live Archbishop Romero! He lives!

UNIDENTIFIED: Everybody knows President Duarte was put there by the North Americans, not the people, since democracy prohibits death squads, disappearances, torture, murder. How can the North American government say the death squads don't exist when there is ample proof to the contrary? This year alone the various humanitarian organisations have listed 300 people as disappeared.

UNIDENTIFIED: This is a letter written by a mother to her disappeared son.


NORMA HELENA GADEA: Like a free bird in free flight. Like a free bird that's how I love you. Nine months I had you growing inside me. Every day I die. But I tell you you don't have to go through life as a beggar. The world's in your hands, you must change it. Everytime the road becomes shorter. Like a free bird in free flight. Like a free bird that's how I love you. Like a free bird in free flight. Like a free bird that's how I love you.

DAVID BRADBURY: In the guerrilla zones of El Salvador the songs are of the heroes whose revolution succeeded. San Dino (?), ? and of the nameless revolutionaries who've died in the service of such guerrilla armies as this.


We are fighters from Guasapa front, we dedicate this song to that town. Don't be demolished even if they invade, even if they send planes or cannons roar. We have a brave guerrilla army which fights hard for our liberation. Let's all walk and advance towards the capital with a rifle on our shoulder to defeat criminal fascism.

UNIDENTIFIED: (Guerrilla) I was a student at the university in San Salvador. I could see the reality my country experienced; the misery and injustice, people living in slums. The repression against students was very severe. Many student friends were captured, disappeared or murdered. Faced with this situation, which couldn't be resolved, many of us made the decision to take up arms to fight against this regime. We first joined the armed struggle in the city, and since 1980, we've been in the mountains.



This snail goes on its slow way around the corners looking for the sun. Little snail, little snail so small, but it never gets tired. The snail carries the branch of hope. It's the branch of Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. This snail has a love for the rivers and jungle. Like the rain that falls into the sea, the snail cannot be stopped. Slow moving snail, all your paths are an example. This snail of good love is not in a hurry, nor is it afraid. This snail, our snail, to reach the sun, it has the wind in its favour. This snail, our snail...

IVAN: I'm in the struggle here to see if I can change this system of injustice.

UNIDENTIFIED: Have you seen much combat?


UNIDENTIFIED: How long have you been here Ivan?

IVAN: Here in the war? Two years.

UNIDENTIFIED: How old are you?

IVAN: Twelve.

UNIDENTIFIED: Are you afraid? Are you afraid in combat?


UNIDENTIFIED: What do you feel?

IVAN: Courage to face the enemy?



With one verse after another, one bullet after another, we'll free El Salvador. The vultures of the North are anxious to intervene. The people of El Salvador are ready for anything. We shall not surrender. No, no, no to intervention, the people want revolution.

DAVID BRADBURY: For the military, helicopters. For the people, ox-carts. And the American advisors, anonymous, non-uniformed, insidious.



Yankees get out of El Salvador! All the world must be paying attention to El Salvador to see what happens here. Let's prepare our actions because on the Salvadorean struggle depends the dignity of Latin America and all our peoples who fight for their freedom. No, no, no to intervention the people want revolution. If they don't leave, if they don't leave they'll lose like they did in Vietnam.

DAVID BRADBURY: This is Honduras, happy to do as its told and let the United States marines storm its beaches in rehearsal for an invasion which might occur, one day, in Nicaragua. The U.S. Marine Corps is no stranger to Central America. They've been here before, many times, protecting U.S. interests and investments.

UNIDENTIFIED: Would you like to go to Nicaragua?

UNIDENTIFIED: (U.S. Marine) I'd like to go anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED: Think you get a chance in the uniform you've got on at the moment?

UNIDENTIFIED: (U.S. Marine) I don't know. Sure. From what I understand the United States are welcomed in most places in Central America, not much in the Middle East though.

UNIDENTIFIED: (Demonstrators) Rubbish Contras... Get out of Honduras! United we'll never be defeated.



A U.S. base, Coca Cola, flower of Vietnam (VD). The U.S. Marines, a war... and the Contras. These are the presents we get from the North Americans. We'll never be able to repay them for their special gifts. Rosario Mining Company (USA) Texaco and AIDS. The economy out of control like our foreign policy . Government corruption. The press, radio and tv censored. Open repression by a shameless elite. A U.S. base, Coca Cola, flower of Vietnam (VD). The marines, a war and the Contras. What's impossible to buy even with all the world's money is our determination to achieve peace. AIDS... a U.S. base, Coca Cola, flower of Vietnam (VD).

MARCOS: I look after parked cars.

UNIDENTIFIED: What's your name?

MARCOS: Marcos.

UNIDENTIFIED: Where do you live?

MARCOS: In the forest.

UNIDENTIFIED: Do you have any parents?


UNIDENTIFIED: Where are they?

MARCOS: They died.

UNIDENTIFIED: How did they die? Tell us.

MARCOS: My dad... the police killed him and my mother was run over.

UNIDENTIFIED: How did you know the police killed your father?

MARCOS: My mother told me.

UNIDENTIFIED: Tell us how it happened.

MARCOS: He went to buy medicine in the market. The police thought he was a thief so they killed my Dad. They shot him in the heart.



Reagan is for the Reagans. Nicaragua is for the Nicaraguans.


After 24 hours we finally reached the crash site. The plane was shot down by Sandinista troops. It entered Nicaragua over the San Juan river. Two mercenaries and a Nicaraguan were killed. Before the plane fell, one mercenary, identified as Eugene Hasenfuss, parachuted free. Hasenfuss said he came from Wisconsin in the USA. He'd flown from El Salvador with a cargo of small arms.

DANIEL ORTEGA: Be certain that those who govern now in the USA don't fear Nicaragua because she has lots of guns or because she has lots of tanks or because she has lots of fighter planes. They don't fear us for that. They fear us because they know there's a whole population here ready to fight...ready to win...ready to die!

ADMIRAL CROWE: Some years ago it was fashionable for critics to conclude that the United States was on the wrong side of history. But in this region that assertion has been convincingly debunked. It is clear that the wave of the future is democracy, the cause you serve, not despotic alternatives. Let me assure you, however, that your efforts here, serving the best interests of the United States and its friends are universally admired and appreciated in our country. In fact, they are regarded as indispensable to the advance of democracy and prosperity in this key region.

JACKSON BROWNE: I would like to dedicate this song to the woman the children who are always the first, the first victims of any war, but in the case of the CIA war against Nicaragua they've made up 40 per cent of the death toll. I'd like to dedicate this song to them, this is called `Limes in the Valley'.

DAVID BRADBURY: A Contra gang, U.S. armed and supported, has ambushed a wedding party in northern Nicaragua. The young bride is dead, her mother mourns. The widower, just an hour ago, he was the bridegroom.



UNIDENTIFIED: (Bridegroom/Widower) It happened at 5.30. That's when we heard the shots. We stopped but they kept shooting. We were ten civilians, all relatives. They didn't ask us anything. They weren't at risk because we were only three men and seven women. Most are dead, that's about it. It happened very quickly, 10-15 minutes. Nobody was armed, we couldn't respond. Anyway, they were Reagan's `freedom fighters' and they took advantage of us. I feel the pain of the mothers; my wife's mother and my wife's other relatives who were there.



Virgin bird Mary, joyful virgin bird. Bird with tired wings, bird of thorns and roses. Little bird of the cotton fields. Dark little bird of the coffee plantations. We beg of you little bird on behalf of your children, the worker, the farmer, the humble and the exploited that you don't let your flight be swayed little bird of peace. Little bird of Nicaragua, little bird of revolution. Little bird of liberation, little bird without frontiers, little bird that's necessary, little guerrilla bird.

DAVID BRADBURY: No trade with Nicaragua, Uncle Sam has ruled. No trade means no medicines, no foodstuffs, no parts for vehicles and machines. And queues, endless queues. Dissatisfaction, discontent. The U.S. knows it works. It worked for them in Chile against Allenda and now, they want to make it work here, against Daniel Ortega.

UNIDENTIFIED: (Woman citizen) Life is hard because everything is expensive and scarce, but we don't blame the Government. We have to live like this while the Yanks attacks us. We know they'd like to crush us if it were at all possible. They believe they're hurting the Government, but instead, they're hurting us, the poor; destroying our co-operatives, destroying trucks, killing peasants. So our sons are in the mountains to defend us. They must eat. But often they go without eating for days.



In the mountains of Nicaragua a strange radiance lit the night, like dawn at midnight, as if the cornfields were set on fire. Christ was born in Palacaguina, Mary his mother, humbly irons the clothes of the landlord's beautiful wife. Joseph, his father, works hard all day. He suffers from rheumatism, the price of his carpentry. Mary dreams that one day her son will be a carpenter too. But her son says, `I want to be a guerrilla'.

RALPH MCGEHEE: All the murder that's going on is just trying to impose American domination over a people who want to be free. And we're doing it to destroy the Government of Nicaragua because it is an example and we're trying to use the excuse of the weapons shipment from the Sandinistas to the El Salvadorean leftists as an excuse for doing this. But even though we've established, made Nicaraguan borders, one of the most watched borders in the world, we have not been able to find a single weapon that's gone from the Sandinistas to the El Salvadorean leftists.



An embrace for Central America. Hit it! Lets go... There's a clamour coming down from the mountains. There's a clamour which can be heard at dawn and it says, Revolution...