Correction: The original version of this story misspelled the name of writer Jorge Luis Borges.
Facundo Cabral, a wide-roving Argentine musician who had been one of Latin America’s most celebrated folk and protest singers, was shot to death July 9 in Guatemala City. He was 74.
Mr. Cabral, who had given a concert two days earlier in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, was en route to the Guatemala City airport when his vehicle was hit by a hail of bullets in an orchestrated attack involving three carloads of gunmen, the Associated Press reported.
Authorities told the AP that the musician’s Nicaraguan promoter, Henry Farina, was the apparent target of the ambush. Farina was wounded but survived.
News of Mr. Cabral’s death brought an outpouring of grief in the Spanish-speaking world.
Rigoberta Menchu, an indigenous Guatemalan activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, called Mr. Cabral “a master.” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tweeted: “Oh what pain! They have killed the great troubadour of the Pampas.”
Mr. Cabral had risen from a childhood of illiteracy and grinding poverty to become one of his country’s leading voices against the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1982.
He was a guitar-playing minstrel busking for tourists at an Argentine beach before he recorded the hit “No soy de aqui ni alla” — “I’m Not From Here Nor There” — in 1970. The song, later recorded by Julio Iglesias and Neil Diamond, launched a career that spanned more than four decades and produced dozens of albums and performances in more than 150 countries.
A Los Angeles Times music critic once described Mr. Cabral as a Latin American Garrison Keillor who used songs, stories and dry humor to describe war, impoverished villages and brutal governments rather than idyllic small-town Minnesota.
Mr. Cabral buttressed his political message with songs about sports, love and God. His performances were studded with references to spiritual leaders such as Mother Teresa and Gandhi and to writers as varied as Walt Whitman, Octavio Paz and Jorge Luis Borges.
After the junta came to power, Mr. Cabral fled to Mexico and lived there for eight years until democracy was restored in Argentina. He used his performances to call for freedom, peace and justice.
“As much a philosopher-poet as a singer. He was a living testament to the search for what unites us in culture and society,” Argentine singer Isabel de Sebastian told the AP. “After his concerts, you’d feel that our life in common was richer, more mysterious, more profound.”
By the time Mr. Cabral returned to Argentina in 1984, he had developed such a following that his concerts drew tens of thousands of fans. In 1996, he was named a United Nations “worldwide messenger of peace.”
“I remember the first work visa they gave me for the United States, in 1974, said, ‘Occupation: preacher,’ ” Mr. Cabral told the Miami Herald in 1996. “I’m a storyteller, a talker. Songs are for a change of pace. I’d say the word, the spoken word, is what is most important in what I do.”
Rodolfo Enrique Facundo Cabral was born May 22, 1937, in La Plata, a coastal city south of Buenos Aires. Abandoned by his father, Mr. Cabral grew up with his mother and many siblings in southern Argentina.
He ran away at age 9 to hitchhike the length of Argentina and claimed to have once snuck into the presidential palace in Buenos Aires, where he said he met Eva Peron and persuaded her to help his mother find a job.
His adventures, including an early introduction to alcohol, eventually landed him in a youth detention center, where a Jesuit priest taught him to read and write.
Mr. Cabral moved to the town of Tandil, where he did manual labor and taught himself to play the guitar. He modeled himself after his early idol, the Argentine folklorist Atahualpa Yupanqui. In 1959, Mr. Cabral moved to Mar del Plata, a beach town, where he began his career under the stage name El Indio Gasparino.
Mr. Cabral’s wife and infant daughter died in a plane crash in 1978, according to the Associated Press. Wracked by grief, he traveled to India to work in a Calcutta home for people suffering from leprosy, following Mother Teresa’s advice to heal himself through serving the needy.
A complete list of survivors could not be confirmed.
His eyesight deteriorated until he was nearly blind, but he continued to tour.
He told an interviewer in Mexico last year he was not afraid of touring in the violence-wracked country. “If you are filled with love, you can’t have fear,” he said, “because love is courage.”