El recién fallecido Rafael Manriquez durante el Encuentro 2011 en el Teatro Brava. The late Rafael Manriquez performing at Encuentro 2011 in Brava Theater. Photo Mabel Jimenez

Renown Bay Area singer, composer, journalist, and activist Rafael Manríquez died on June 25 after suffering a stroke. He was 66 years old. His ashes will be spread at Bodega Bay.

Manríquez was driving on Highway 80 around 10 p.m. to visit his daughter Marci Valdivieso. The stroke hit as he exited Buchanan Street in Albany. As a result of the stroke, he made an abrupt left turn that caused another car to hit him on the driver’s side.

Shortly thereafter, Manríquez was transported by ambulance to Highland Hospital in Oakland. At the hospital, it is reported, he could not remember the crash and moments later he suffered a second stroke that took his life.

Considered by many as of the local ambassadors of La Nueva Canción, a progressive musical style that focuses on political struggles and social change, Manríquez was also instrumental in the founding of La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley.

“What a loss,” said Paul Chin, former executive director of La Peña Cultural Center. “I’ve known Rafa for over 35 years. He has been an important member of our community, so I am deeply sad by his death.”

Born in Santiago, Chile, Manríquez was a leading force of Latin American folk music in the Bay Area. He was a skilled musician on Latin American string instruments, ranging from the guitar to the charango to the cuatro and tiple.

Before moving to the Bay Area in 1977, Manríquez performed as a solo artist and with several musical groups throughout Chile and Ecuador. He has also performed throughout the Americas and Europe, recording over 10 albums in the process.

From 1980-1984, Manríquez was the musical director and lead singer of Grupo Raíz, an internationally acclaimed Chilean ensemble that recorded three albums and toured extensively in the
United States and abroad. The group performed many times at the annual El Encuentro del Canto Popular, a San Francisco-based Latin American folk music festival.

Fernando Torres, a former member of Grupo Raíz and La Peña collective from 1990-2012, said: “His departure is very painful for all the community. He was a very special being, with a very simple lifestyle that he had, a devotee of his profession. He considered himself first and foremost a cultural worker, his political struggle was his music.”

Since 1984, Manríquez focused on his career as a solo artist, creating several independently produced CDs and performing throughout California. He has served as an artist-in-residence at La Peña Cultural Center. He is also a founding member of the Andean music group Arauco that performed throughout Northern California.

Manríquez’ recordings include the CDs “Canto a Gabriela” on which he collaborated with Gabriela Mistral, “Amistades” (with Quique Cruz ), “La Travesía”, and, in 2001, “Canto al Poeta” (songs with texts by Pablo Neruda) with David Barrows. His most recent CDs were “Que viva el canto,” produced by Smithsonian Folkways, and “Aqui te traigo una Rosa,” singing with Ingrid Rubis.

In addition, Manríquez produced a CD for children titled “Alma de Niño.”

Up until his death, Manríquez taught classes in guitar and “New Latin American Song” at La Peña. At one time, he also directed the La Peña Community Chorus.

On its website, La Peña issued the following statement: “We are saddened by the sudden passing of Rafael Manríquez Silva on June 26, 2013. His spirit for justice and passion for music will always be remembered. Rafa’s contributions to our community through his songs and leadership will forever echo in our hearts. Rest in Power!”

“Rafael was an extremely talented songwriter and musician who inspired us with songs about fighting injustices and seeking social change,” said Juan Gonzales, one of the founders of El Encuentro del Canto Popular. “His passion and vision for justice truly touched our hearts and minds.”

“His legacy can be found in the children and friends he taught to carry on the music he so loved,” added Gonzales.

“As with so many artists that take their work seriously, Rafael was completely devoted to his music — a daunting and frustrating undertaking for any creative person,” said Paula Tejada, owner of Chile Lindo, A mission District eatery specializing in empanadas. “I am honored to have been his friend and to have had the privilege of experiencing those years at La Peña that undoubtedly made me a better human being.”

A memorial is planned on July 12, 8 p.m., at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., in Berkeley. An image of Manríquez will be incorporated into the new La Peña mural being designed this summer. For more information, log onto www.lapena.org or call (510) 849-2568.

2 replies on “Remembering Rafael Manríquez”

  1. Rafael’s most recent recording is “Hoy” pre-released in the Spring of 2013. He also has a to date unpublished work called “El Pajaro Vuela” which will be released in the near future.

  2. Also released around the same time as the Smithsonian recording was the collections of songs with Neruda’s sonnets called “Canto y Soneto”

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