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Guantanamera (A Song Of Guantánamo)

By Thomas Keyes
Mar. 18, 2006

“Guantanamera” is a song of Guantánamo. Guantánamo is the name of a province and a town at the east end of the island of Cuba, as can be seen in this enlargeable map; just click in the lower right-hand corner to get a zoom:

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/americas/cuba.jpg
This of course is the same place where the US maintains a base that has suffered some notoriety of late. The song was composed in 1928 by José Fernández Díaz for a poem by José Marti.

The refrain contains the words “Guajira Guantanamera”. “Guajira” has several meanings. “Guajira” is the name of a peninsula on the Caribbean, in Colombia and Venezuela. “La Guajira” is the name of a department (state) in Colombia. “Una guajira” may refer to a peasant woman or girl, or to a kind of song or dance. Looking at the words of the song generally, I’d guess that the meaning is, “A Song of Guantánamo”, rather than “A Girl of Guantánamo”, as Wikipedia translates it. There’s nothing in the lyrics about any kind of girl. This is a song of compassion and humility of the kind that one encounters frequently among poor people in Latin America. The melody can be heard at the following URL, where it may or may not require a couple further clicks:

http://acryfromafar.blogspirit.com/list/files/guantanamera.mid

I have copied the Spanish lyrics below and added my own translation, which is not fitted to the melody, being intended just to display the meaning. I have known this song, which I love, since the 1960’s:

GUANTANAMERA (Spanish lyrics)

Yo soy un hombre sincero de donde crece la palma,
Yo soy un hombre sincero de donde crece la palma,
Y antes de morirme, quiero echar mis versos del alma.
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,

Mi verso es de un verde claro y un carmín encendido.
Mi verso es de un verde claro y un carmín encendido.
Mi verso es un ciervo herido que busca en el monte amparo.
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,

Cultivo una rosa blanca en julio como en enero,
Cultivo una rosa blanca en julio como en enero,
Para el amigo sincero que me da su mano franca.
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,

Con los pobres de la tierra quiero yo mi suerte echar.
Con los pobres de la tierra quiero yo mi suerte echar.
El arroyo de la sierra me complace más que el mar.
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,

GUANTÁNAMERA (Translation)

I am a sincere man from where the palm grows,
I am a sincere man from where the palm grows,
And before I die, I want to pour my verses from my soul.
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,

My verse is of a light green and a flaming red.
My verse is of a light green and a flaming red.
My verse is a wounded deer that seeks shelter in the mountains.
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,

I cultivate a white rose in July as in January,
I cultivate a white rose in July as in January,
For my sincere friend who gives me a generous hand.
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,

With the poor folk of the land, I want to cast my lot.
With the poor folk of the land, I want to cast my lot.
The mountain stream pleases me more than the sea.
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera,
Guantanamera, guajira guantamera, guantanamera, guajira guantamera.

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About the author Thomas Keyes: I have written two books: A SOJOURN IN ASIA (non-fiction) and A TALE OF UNG (fiction), neither published so far.

I have studied languages for years and traveled extensively on five continents.

Email: udikeyes@yahoo.com


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