DEEP in the heart of rural West Wales in the pretty market town of Machynlleth, a quite extraordinary political and cultural festival El Sueno Existe (The Dream Lives On) keeps the spirit, music and politics of Victor Jara of Chile alive each summer.
Victor Jara, a member of the Chilean Communist Party, emerged as the iconic singer of Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government of 1970-73.
On a wave of optimism and enthusiasm, Allende had been democratically elected, introducing far-reaching reforms throughout society — land rights for the peasants, free healthcare and education for workers, popular art and culture and much more.
It was all brutally ended on September 11, 1973 by the military coup led by the fascist General Pinochet, supported by the CIA and the US government of Nixon and Kissinger.
Jara’s sublime poetry and songs of the workers’ struggles, their joys and sorrows, were heard throughout Chile. After his brutal killing in the immediate aftermath of the coup, he quickly became a key voice in Latin America’s struggles for justice and socialism and its resistance to 500 years of oppression and genocide.
Today the El Sueno Existe festival, which runs from July 28-30, brings together not only Latin American singers, songwriters, bands, dancers, poets and painters but also a great crowd of solidarity activists, journalists, academics, film-makers, theatre groups, Welsh language activists and festival-goers.
It’s a wonderful melting pot, a happening on a grand scale, where you are just as likely to drop into a workshop debate on the life and legacy of Fidel Castro, an Ecuadorean singer in a laid-back concert, a local film maker presenting her work with indigenous communities of the Amazon or a kids’ orchestra from the mean streets of South London showing off their skills and commitment.
The music line-up includes Quimantu (pictured), one of Britain’s finest South American bands, guitarist and sound explorer Juan Carlos Chiriboga, ECCO (Ethnic Contemporary Classical Orchestra), Society of Imaginary Friends, with their classical folk, Quijada — “Cornwall’s answer to Buena Vista Social Club” — and Expresion Inka, a fusion of melodies, performance, rhythms, colour and Latin American traditions.
That line-up typifies a festival which is an eclectic and heady mix of all things political and cultural and it creates its own special energy through the hundreds who make it over the hills to Machynlleth.
Each festival, run by volunteers and supported by Unite the Union, Wales, chooses a Latin American country as a main focus, while promoting all cultures that seek a progressive way forward.
Next July, the focus will be Ecuador, where the Citizens’ Revolution President Lenin Moreno has recently triumphed in elections. In the era of Trump, Brexit and the threats we all face, El Sueno Existe is an uplifting and magical experience.
Weekend tickets are £50, camping £12, camper vans £22 and can be bought from elsuenoexiste.com