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"Guantanamera" ("girl from Guant√°namomarker") is perhaps the best known Cubanmarker song and that country's most noted patriotic song.



The music for the song is regularly attributed to José Fernández Diaz, known as Joseíto Fernández, who claimed to have written it at various dates (consensus puts 1929 as its year of origin), and who used it regularly in one of his radio programs. Some researchers claim that the song's structure actually came from Herminio "El Diablo" García Wilson, who should be credited as a co-composer. García's heirs took the matter to court decades later but lost the case: the Supreme Court of Cuba credited Fernández as the sole composer of the music in 1993. Regardless of either claim, Fernández can safely be claimed as being the first public promoter of the song, through his radio programs.


Original lyrics

The original lyrics to the song, as written by Jos√© Fern√°ndez, relate to a particular woman from Guant√°namo, with whom he had a romantic relationship, and who ‚ÄĒ if the lyrics are to be believed ‚ÄĒ eventually left him. The alleged real story behind these lyrics (or at least one of many versions of the song's origin that Fern√°ndez suggested during his lifetime) is that she did not have a romantic interest in him, but merely a platonic one. If the details are to be believed, she had brought him a steak sandwich one day as a present to the radio station he worked at, he stared at some other woman (and made a pass at her) while eating the sandwich, and his friend yanked it out of his hands in disgust, cursed him and left. He never saw her again. These words are rarely sung today.

The history behind the chorus and its lyrics ("Guantanamera … / Guajira Guantanamera …") is quite similar to this one: García was at a street corner with a group of friends, and made a courteous pass (a "piropo", in Spanish) to a woman (who also happened to be from Guantánamo) who walked by the group, and answered back rather harshly, offended by the pass. Stunned, he could not take his mind off her reaction while his friends made fun of him; later that day, sitting at a piano his friends next to him, he wrote the song's main refrain.

The song used as social "newspaper"

Given the song's musical structure, which fits A-B-A-B (sometimes A-B-B-A) octosyllabic verses, the Guantanamera lent itself from the beginning to impromptu verses, improvised on the spot, similar to what happens with the Mexican folk classic La Bamba. Fern√°ndez's first use of the song was precisely this; he would comment on daily events on his radio program by adapting them to the song's melody, and then using the song as a show closer. Through this use, the Guantanamera became a popular vehicle for romantic, patriotic, humorous, or social commentary lyrics, in Cuba and elsewhere in the Spanish speaking world.

Adaptation from the "Versos Sencillos" by José Martí

The better known "official" lyrics are based on the first stanza of the first poem of the collection "Versos Sencillos" (Simple Verses) by Cuban nationalist poet and independence hero José Martí, as adapted by Julián Orbón. Word has it that Orbón considered Martí's poems as fitting, and thus dignifying, to such a popular song. Given Martí's significance to the Cuban people, the use of his poem in the song virtually elevated it to unofficial anthem status in the country.

Ambiguity in the song

In the original lyrics, the author referred to a "guajira guantanamera" (a peasant girl from Guantánamo), but since the song itself is structured as a guajira (the Cuban rhythm, named after Cuban peasants), some people (erroneously) think that the chorus refers to the song itself (or rather its rhythmic structure), and not to an individual. In other words, the words are interpreted as an introduction to a "guajira, Guantánamo-style". This has essentially guaranteed that the chorus' lyrics still be used to this day, as evidenced by their use along with the (seemingly) unrelated Martí verses.


These lyrics are the ones based on the Martí poem; as described above, many other versions exist.

Spanish language English language
Yo soy un hombre sincero

De donde crece la palma

Y antes de morirme quiero

Echar mis versos del alma

Guantanamera, guajira, Guantanamera
I am an honest man

From where the palm tree grows

And before dying I want

To share the verses of my soul.
Mi 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, Guantanamera
My verse is a clear green

And it is flaming crimson

My verse is a wounded deer

Who seeks refuge in the woods.
This third verse of "Versos Sencillos" is usually not part of the song

Cultivo una rosa blanca

En julio como en enero

Para el amigo sincero

Que me da su mano franca

Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera
I cultivate a white rose

In July as in January

For the sincere friend

Who gives me his honest hand.
This fourth verse is translated during the song as sung by Pete Seeger & Arlo Guthrie

Y para el cruel que me arranca

El corazon con que vivo

Cardo ni ortiga cultivo

Cultivo la rosa blanca

Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera
And for the cruel one

who would tear out this heart with which I live

I do not cultivate nettles nor thistles

I cultivate a white rose

Final verse of song, as published:

Con los pobres de la tierra

Quiero yo mi suerte echar

El arroyo de la sierra

Me complace m√°s que el mar

Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera
With the poor people of the earth

I want to share my fate

The brook of the mountains

Gives me more pleasure than the sea

Recorded versions


External links

See also

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