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September 2004


By Bernardo Guerrero Jiménez

There's no one more typical of Iquique than Luis Advis. Even without living here, he sinks his roots in our land, like a tamarugo tree. The Advis family has been close to Iquique since the 19th Century, and have been able to read the subconsciousness that this city hides behind its festive spirit. During the 30s, Luis Advis —the mayor—- was focusing all of his efforts on how to get the port out of the saltpeter crisis.

Luis Advis Vitaglich was a musician with a classical formation, but a popular sensibility. Tired of seeing how the official History ignored the horrible killings of December 21st, 1907, he composed the Santa María de Iquique Cantata during the year 1969. The record is still heard now, with the same admiration as in the 70s. Under Pinochet the tapes used to run from hand to hand. Today we have a digital recording, as moving as the original version. For the Iquique people, to know this record by heart is an obligation if you want to call yourself "iquiqueño".

As a young man, what Luis Advis really enjoyed was classical music. He had a piano at his house, where he used to play Beethoven's "Moon sonata". Advis was born in 1935 as part of an aristocratic family; and popular music never seduced him until he became a student in Santiago, where he met Gustavo Becerra and Sergio Ortega, with whom he learnt to appreciate the songs of Violeta Parra and Margot Loyola.

He is also the author of "Canto para una semilla" ("Song for a seed") and "Sinfonía los tres tiempos de América" ("America's three-times symphony"). Last January he recieved the Presidente de la República Chilean Music Award. The jury declared the work of Luis Advis as part of a "continuos dedication to Chilean music, unique for its fusion of classical and folkloric elements, besides his several academic efforts. It was hard for us to decide in which field to recognize his work". And that's true: it is hard to classify the work of this author. He doesn't feel classical nor popular.

The people of Iquique feel we have a doubt with Luis Advis. A doubt of gratitude, of identity, of pride. It is not about giving him a diploma -he must have enough of those for sure. What we want is to invite him to the Puerto Mayor y Mall, and at the Municipal Theater's Mayor Hall give him those applauses he deserves; no speeches, please. If Lautaro Nuñez was a History National Award, and Mabel Condemarín the Education National Award -both of them from Iquique-, we ought to promote Luis Advis as our Art National Award.

The Santa María School Cantata is our national anthem. We sing it each time we remember that relative of ours who was shot on that December afternoon. For it to have been written by somebody from Iquique proves once again that nobody but us can talk about our History. This work has prophetic traces. Finally, and as a way of warning: "You who have already heard the story that's been told...".

Published on January 25th of the year 2004. La Estrella de Iquique newspaper.

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