All across Chile, there are
only two female barrel-organ players. Two housewives
that, inspired by their husband or relatives'
example, have adopted this traditionally masculine
job, going out to the streets with their instruments
and extending their work on this art beyond the
home-making of balls and horns. Sonia Trujillo
is one of them: "I think there's two
of us in the whole world, because I've never
heard of others", she says laughing. "We
started with this as intruders".
A brother-in-law and a brother took Sonia's
husband to become a player twenty seven years
ago. Besides working in her house in San Bernardo,
making toys, she used to help her husband with
the sales. After two decades, she took her own
barrel-organ. A delicate instrument, more than
a hundred years old, that requires care, maintenance
and a thorough daily cleaning.
"I clean it
every time I go out, before and after using it",
she says. The regular checking, Sonia makes it
at master's Manuel Lizama, an expert on
repairs and restorations. "It's all
about loving your instrument. If you love it,
you care for it".
At her 42 years of age, now mother of four kids,
one of the things this woman most appreciates
about her job is the freedom it gives her: "Nobody
gives you orders. At least I work only on the
weekends, and at the times I want. Sometimes,
the kids would come with me. I go to Las Condes,
Vitacura, Providencia. It may also be a birthday
or wedding... During the week I take care of the
kids and the house. Every Friday we prepare all
together the things for the barrel-organs".
The eight original tunes stored on the cylinder,
include old Spanish songs, Mexican "corridos",
"cuecas" and tangos. "Believe it
or not, some people know the tunes and ask for
them. Last year at the beach, a 14 year-old kid
asked me to play 'La españolita' and 'La
In spite of the solitude moments when nobody comes,
Sonia feels rewarded. "There are days when
nobody would come in an hour, and you have to
keep on playing. Then you start making money.
Sometimes, it's the other way round: people
come at first, but then leave. It depends. But
if you like it, you see no sacrifice. Besides
keeping a tradition, because this is one of Chile's
most typical things. So I relax, I get away from
the week's stress. Sometimes people dance, or
sing. Then I think I'm doing good".