What shall we do with all these debates about the sky above
Help me, Valentina, as you have flown so far.
Tell me once and for all that there is no such mansion up there;
Tomorrow it will be built by mankind and its reason,
These lines are from a song. A revolutionary song. A song from a LP my parents loved (both of them 😮 )! The LP was called Canto A La Revolución De Octubre and contained songs of protest and marching songs, composed and sung by Chilean artist such as Victor Jara, Inti-Illimani and Isabel Parra.
There are several songs on this album that I listened to religiously as a kid, even though I clearly didn’t really understand them. I saw how my parents reacted to these songs and they often explained to me what they were about and what the historical context was.
The song Ayúdame Valentina is an emotional plea to someone who has flown far away, to bring us some of her wisdom from the heavens above. I knew that critical thinkers, writers and singers did not befall pleasant fates under Pinochet, so I assumed Valentina must have been one of the victims of this cruel regime.
It wasn’t until relatively recently that I decided to look up if I could find out who Valentina was, and it turned the whole song upside down for me! Not only was Valentina still very much alive when the song was written, she has outlived most of the singers on the album and is with us until this very day!
Who is this wise woman that Isabel Parra calls upon, then?
Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova.
I don’t know about you, but I had never heard about this woman…
Even though I grew up with her name ringing in my ears, I had never realized what a badass woman I had been serenading.
So… when Isabel Parra asks Valentina for help, she is not calling upon some spiritual force to come give her courage and reassurance, as I imagined. She doesn’t expect support from the heavens above; she is asking a woman who has flown to space and back to affirm that there is no such thing as heaven at all. Isabel asks a female powerhouse to come back her up in her attempt to debunk the threats and lies of the religious zealots she sees around her.
Finding out about the true meaning of this song made me look into the lives of those who wrote and sung them. I read about Violeta Parra, Isabel’s mother, who actually wrote this song and sung it herself with more verses than the version included above, which is the one I grew up listening to.
Violeta, who wrote on of my all time favorite songs Gracias a la Vida (I give thanks to life) ironically took her own life about a year after it was released. I guess Valentina didn’t answer her question about heaven and in the end, Violeta couldn’t wait any longer to find out for herself…