Héctor Roberto Chavero was born on January 31, 1908 in Campo de la Cruz, two kilometers from Juan A. de la Peña, in the Pergamino district. At the age of two, his father, who was a railway employee, was assigned to the Peña Station, so his early childhood was spent there, first in Campo de la Cruz and then in a house in front of the town station. where he lived until he was 9 years old. There he learned about the music and singing of the countrymen, who accompanied themselves with his guitars.
They were songs inspired by the extensive Pampas plain, the ombú, the galloping of the foals, the sorrows of love. Slow milongas, in C major or E minor, tones that the countrymen used to describe what they wanted to tell. As he himself says: "Thus, on countless afternoons, I began to penetrate the song of the plain, thanks to those countrymen. Each one had 'his' style. Each one expressed, playing or singing, the matters that the pampa dictated to him.".
In 1917 with his family he spent a vacation in the province of Tucumán, and there he discovered a new landscape and a new music, with his own instruments, such as the bass drum and the Indian harp, and his own rhythms, the zamba, among them. The early death of his father prematurely made him the head of the family. He was an improvised school teacher, then a typographer, chronicler and musician. He played tennis, boxed and became a journalist. At 19 years of age, he composed his song “Camino delIndiano”. He knew Jujuy, the Calchaquí valleys and the south of Bolivia.
In 1935 he settled in Raco, Tucumán, and from there he went to Buenos Aires to act on radio. In the Sintonía magazine of that year there appeared a note entitled "Indigenous Recital by Radio Fénix" in which it announced the presentation on that Buenos Aires station of a young singer, but instead of naming him Atahualpa "Yupanqui" they wrote "Tupanqui". He was then invited to the inauguration of Radio El Mundo, on November 29, 1935, accompanied by the Dajos Bela orchestra. Radio Nacional currently operates in that building, located at Maipú 555 in the San Nicolás neighborhood.
In 1949 in France, Atahualpa Yupanqui was heard by Edith Piaf, who then invited him to perform in Paris on July 7, 1950, closing the singer's show. He immediately signed a contract with Chant du Monde, the recording company that published his first LP in Europe: “Minero soy”, which won the first prize for best album from the Charles Cros academy, which included 350 participants from all continents in the Contest. Folklore International. Subsequently, he traveled extensively in Europe.
Between poems and songs Atahualpa Yupanqui has written more than 1,300 compositions, of which about 350 songs are registered, most of which have been set to music by himself. The ones that stand out are “Piedra y Camino”, “El arriero”, Los axes de mi cart” and “Coplas del payador persecuted”, among others.
As a writer he published “Piedra Sola”, “Cerro Bayo”, “Aires Indios”, “Tierra que anda”, “Guitarra”, “El canto del viento”, “El payador persecuted”, “Del Algarrobo al cerezo (notes from a trip through the Japanese country), “The sacred word” and “The foreman”. Among those letters was the subtle pen of Nenette, his second wife and companion, who helped him write many of his classics under the pseudonym Pablo del Cerro.
In his long career, Atahualpa Yupanqui received many recognitions, especially in his later years. In 1984 the Konex Foundation of Argentina awarded him the Merit Award and a year later the Brilliance Award for being “the most important artist in popular music.” In 1986 the French government named him Knight of Arts and Letters of France.
At the National University of Córdoba, Argentina, he was named an Honoris Causa Doctor, and in 1991 he was declared an Illustrious Citizen of Buenos Aires.
In 1989 he created the “Fundación Yupanqui”, in his house in Cerro Colorado, in Córdoba. There are his books, his grandfather's daggers, ponchos, tools, gifts that people gave him on his tours around the world.
During the course of that year, Atahualpa Yupanqui had to be admitted to Buenos Aires due to a heart condition, despite which in January 1990 he participated in the Cosquín Festival. On November 14 of that same year Nenette died, and a few days later Yupanqui fulfilled an artistic commitment in Paris. In December 1991 he appeared in Buenos Aires, in what would be his last concert given in Argentina.
In 1992, Yupanqui returned to France to perform in the city of Nîmes, where he became unwell and died on May 23. At his express wish, his remains were repatriated and rest in Cerro Colorado, under a European oak tree.
In 1997, a material was published, which included a dialogue with Julio Mahárbiz, in his remembered program Argentinísima from 1972. The material is called “The word and the living song of Atahualpa Yupanqui”, and was recorded in the Estudio Mayor de Channel 11, located in the San Cristóbal neighborhood.