I have sung this song all my life. I have had no idea what I was singing, but I’ve just kind of made up my own sound to mimic the line… and I’ve loved how it feels to roll “Guajira Guantanamera” off my tongue.
This afternoon while music from my Latin folder played from my Ipod, I decided it was high time I learned what this meant. I love the internet!
Written in Cuba in 1929, Guajira Guantanamera refers to a peasant girl from Guantanamo. The tune was so popular, many lyrics evolved as years went by. When I read the final verse in a translation, I was amazed, and taken back to a very poignant moment in my life.
With the poor people of the earth
I want to cast my lot
The brook of the mountains
Gives me more pleasure than the sea
It was our very first trip to South America. We flew into Peru, armed guards were everywhere, catching a taxi was daunting – as we were being told we had to take an “official” taxi, while dozens of drivers looked imploringly at us through a chain link fence. I hadn’t known what to expect, and the crowded, smog filled streets were making their impression on me while I tried to speak my childlike Spanish to our driver.
“Guantanamera” came on the radio. Surreal. I couldn’t believe this beautiful song from my childhood was actually serving as background music for this scene. And then this woman… this very poor, very crippled woman was making her way down through the inching traffic. She walked past our taxi, and our driver handed her a coin out the window. She smiled. They nodded at one another. It was all in slow motion… while this music played.
And now today I’ve read the translation of this verse. I’m overwhelmed. I’m just overwhelmed.
(The photos are from that trip in 1998… Cochabamba, Bolivia.)