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Guantanamera: A White Rose Red

Guantanamera: A White Rose Red

Most of us who grew up in the sixties and seventies of the last century will be familiar with this iconic song but, if you are like me, familiarity may have given birth to indifference.

It wasn’t until recently that I realised that this sad song is actually talking about Guantánamo Bay in Cuba and the people who once lived there.

Before America decided, in 1898, that it needed a war with Spain to prove to the world that it had come of age, the Bahía de Guantánamo was a natural habour and a little  piece of heaven to seaman all over the world.

While the song is overtly a romantic Ballard sung to a lost love, it is actually a deeply nationalistic cry from the deeply Liberal Cuban nationalist, José Martí. In his poem on which the song was later based, he wrote:

“I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his hand frankly
And for the cruel person who tears
out the heart with which I live,
I cultivate neither nettles nor thorns:
I cultivate a white rose”

These are the words of the song:

Guantanamera
Guajira Guantanamera
Guantanamrera
Guajira Guantanamera

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crecen las palmas
Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece la palma
Y antes de morir yo quiero
Echar mis versos del alma

Y antes de morir yo quiero
Echar mis versos del alma

No me pongan en lo oscuro
A morir como un traídor
No me pongan en lo oscuro
A morir como un traídor

Yo soy bueno y como bueno
Moriré de cara al sol
Yo soy bueno y como bueno
Moriré de cara al sol

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
El arroyo de la sierra
Me complace más que el mar

Tiene el leopardo un abrigo
En su monte seco y pardo
Tiene el leopardo un abrigo
En su monte seco y pardo
Yo tengo más que el leopardo
Porque tengo un buen amigo

Guantanamera
Guajira Guantanamera
Guantanamrera
Guajira Guantanamera

In my opinion, Martí embodied the most noble and beautiful sentiments of Classical Liberal thought. How ironic it is that the Americans have turned the Bahía de Guantanamo into hell itself.

 

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