SANTIAGO, Chile — Violeta Zuniga gets around with a cane because of her knee problems, but nothing can keep the 83-year-old from performing Chile’s national dance to protest her partner’s disappearance during the country’s military dictatorship.

The cueca dance is performed by couples during Chile’s national holidays, a source of celebration and pride for many in the South American country. But Zuniga has danced alone for nearly 40 years to mourn and protest the forced disappearance of her partner, Pedro Silva Bustos, during Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 rule.

Zuniga is among the women British pop singer Sting told of in his 1987 protest song, “They Dance Alone.”

“Why are there women here dancing on their own?” Sting asked in the song. “Why is there this sadness in their eyes?”

Sting invited Zuniga and other women from her group to dance on stage during an Amnesty International concert in Argentina in 1988. They also performed with singers Peter Gabriel and Sinead O’Connor before more than 70,000 people in Chile’s National Stadium in 1990.

Zuniga will dance alone to the cueca on Sunday, the 43rd anniversary of the Sept. 11, 1973 bloody coup that brought Pinochet to power. She’ll wear a picture of her partner around her neck and wave a white handkerchief embroidered with one word: “Justice.”

“You never want to give up the search,” Zuniga said of Silva Bustos, a mason and Communist Party member who was disappeared in 1976.

In all, 40,018 people were killed, tortured or imprisoned for political reasons.