Lesson Plan

How a Folk Singer’s Murder Forced Chile to Confront Its Past: Mini-Lesson


This 13-minute video delves into the killing of Víctor Jara, the legendary Chilean folk singer and political activist, whose brutal murder during an American-backed military coup in 1973 went unsolved for decades. A quest for his killers led to a Florida courtroom with his family seeking justice.


Students will:

  • Connect the events of the Chilean Coup in 1973 to the broader Cold War in Latin America.
  • Examine the motivation of the United States in supporting Augusto Pinochet’s ouster of democratically elected Salvador Allende.
  • Analyze the role of artists and musicians in political and social movements of the 1960s and 70s.
  • Social Studies
  • U.S. History
  • World History
  • Cold War
  • America as a World Power
  • U.S. Foreign Policy
  • Justice
For Teachers

Essential Questions

  • What kind of political and social change was Victor Jara advocating for? How did his views connect to the political and social upheaval in Central and South America at the time?
  • Why might the United States have wanted to become involved in Chilean politics? What were their goals in Chile and how did those goals compare to their broader goals throughout Latin America?
  • How might “justice” be achieved in a case like this, considering the events were decades ago?

Lesson Procedure

This mini-lesson consists primarily of comprehension and discussion questions for students. It was created as part of the Cold War in Latin America collection, which includes several videos, lesson plans, and an interactive map.

Questions for students:

  • Describe how the political takeover in Chile occured. Who were the main players and what happened in 1973?
  • How did Victor Jara become involved in the reaction to the Coup d’Etat?
  • Describe the events at the University and Chile Stadium. What happened and why was Victor Jara viewed as a target?
  • Why do you think the family pushed for an investigation, even after military rule in Chile ended?
  • What problems are posed by trying cases decades after a crime?
  • Pedro Barrientos claims that “justice is politicized” in this case. Do you agree with him? What does it mean for justice to be politicized and what protections should there be to ensure equal justice for all?

Additional Resources

Transcript for "How A Folk Singer’s Murder Forced Chile to Confront Its Past"Retro Report
The New York Times Retro Report on the case of Victor JaraThe Guernica Group
He Died Giving a Voice to Chile’s Poor. A Quest for Justice Took Decades.Retro Report
Cold War in Latin America CollectionRetro Report
Victor Jara Spotify PlaylistRetro Report

Explain how supporting questions contribute to an inquiry and how, through engaging source work, new compelling and supporting questions emerge.

Critique relationships among governments, civil societies, and economic markets.

Analyze how people use and challenge local, state, national, and international laws to address a variety of public issues.

Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.

Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context.

Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.

Explain how the perspectives of people in the present shape interpretations of the past.

Questions? Tips? Concerns? Reach out to our Director of Education, David Olson: dolson@retroreport.com