Singing on the street corner. Anna, Richard and Guantanamera.

Posted: April 22, 2017 in *Celebration*, LOVE

For Anna

She saw me first and in her own blend of English and Spanish asked what time the package store was going to open? She had a shopping cart that had been unloaded with 4 large black bags of cans sitting on the side of the building. Oh Senora, Mushas del les grandes blosas I tried in my poor Spainish. She laughed. We talked sometimes not know what the other one was saying but having fun trying. Soy 74 anos de edad, Oh me I am 70 holding up my fingers to show her. “What is your name, Ricardo, you Senora, Anna.” Where are you from, de donde eres? Here America, you? Cuba. Oh Cuba, Cuba es in pas hermose, Cuba is a beautiful country.” I know the song Guantanamera, and we began to sing, Guantanamera, guajira, Guantanamera, Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera. Then Anna sang, 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. Yes I thought those are the words that I know. I am a truthful man from the land of the Palm Trees, Before Dying I want to share these poems of my soul. We sang again, Guantanamera, guajira, Guantanamera.

Forgetting where we were standing on a street corner in West Hartford Ct. But who cared. Certainly not myself and certainly not Anna. We reminded everyone as we were surrounded by commerce and wealth where we stood, 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 mas que el mar.  Yes,  “With the poor people of the earth I want to share my fate. Guantanamera, guajira, Guantanamera.”  We danced and laughed like teenagers. Oh, Senora, bye, bye, adios, I am going to the doctor, voy al medico. We pecked each others cheek, gave a hug and I went down the street whistling Guantanamera, guajira, Guantanamera, turned back and waved. What a wonderful way to start the day.

Anna came to this country 10 years ago. She liked Castro but was too poor, “Now here,” she said, “I collect cans.”


About the song

Originally written in 1929 as a patriotic song about Cuba, the rhyme scheme and structure of “Guantanamera” (purchase/download) has always lent itself easily to evolution and adaptation. Both of these things are necessary for any good protest song and that is exactly what it became famous for. The tune has evolved through the years and used in struggles for peace and justice across Latin America and the U.S. In America, “Guantanamera” has been used during anti-war demonstrations, union strikes, marches for an overhaul of the US immigration system, and civil rights for immigrants. In more recent demonstrations, it was sung at Wall Street and around the country where folks were commenting on the balance of wealth.

When employed in the United States, the verses sung tend to remain concise – sticking to the verse about being an honest man. This states “My verses flow green and red” and references blood on the land – an allusion to revolution, though it’s almost never used to incite violence in the US. The final verse speaks about casting one’s lot with the poor.

We find this in Song Facts “Guantanamera” is Spanish for “Guantanamo,” a city on the southeast tip of Cuba where the notorious Guantánamo Bay military base/detention camp is located. The United States has leased the area under a treaty signed in 1903, but the song has nothing to do with it. The refrain “guajira Guantanamera” means “peasant girl from Guantanamo.” A Cuban bandleader named Joseito Fernandez had a radio show in the 1930s called “La Guántanamera,” and he regularly performed the song, changing the verse lyrics every time to be about whatever he felt like talking about – only the “guajira Guantanamera” part remained constant.

Joes Marti

Related image

Apostle of the Cuban Revolution

Born in Havana, Martí began his political activism at an early age. He traveled extensively in Spain, Latin America, and the United States, raising awareness and support for the cause of Cuban independence. His unification of the Cuban émigré community, particularly in Florida, was crucial to the success of the Cuban War of Independence against Spain. He was a key figure in the planning and execution of this war, as well as the designer of the Cuban Revolutionary Party and its ideology. He died in military action during the Battle of Dos Ríos on May 19, 1895. His death was used as a cry for Cuban independence from Spain by both the Cuban revolutionaries and those Cubans previously reluctant to start a revolt.

More on Marti see HERE.

Jose Marti: What the revolutionary means to Cubans from Aljazeera.

Some verses of the song.

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece la palma
Y antes de morirme, quiero
Echar mis versos del alma
Guantanamera, guajira guantanameraMi verso es de un verde claro
Y de un carmín encendido
Mi verso es de un ciervo herido
Que busca en el monte amparo
Guantanamera, guajira guantanameraCultivo una rosa blanca
En julio como en enero
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera

Y para el cruel que me arranca
El corazón con que vivo
Cardo ni ortiga cultivo
Cultivo la rosa blanca
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera

Con los pobres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte echar
El arroyo de la sierra
Me complace más que el mar
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera

I’m an honest man

From where the palm trees grow
and before I die, I want
To share the verses in my soul
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera

My verse is light green
My verse is fiery crimson
My verse is a wounded doe
Looking for shelter in the mountains
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera

I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January
For a true friend
Who gives me his honest hand
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera

And for the cruel one who breaks
My beating heart
I cultivate neither thistles nor nettles
I cultivate a white rose
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera

With the poor people of the earth
I cast my lot
Mountain streams
Please me more than the sea
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera


Comments are closed.