[Marxism] Nuestro Himno -- Our Anthem

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Sat Apr 29 04:22:29 MDT 2006


  	Frankly, when I first heard of this project about ten days ago, it
sounded like an opportunist, even crass move by some self-styled "urban"
record label and hyphenated-American artists trying to prove that you could
be just as cheaply "patriotic" about the United States in Spanish as you
could in English.

	A week ago I heard a 30-second, preliminary promotional cut, and to
my ears it was almost a record label cliche or parody of a Latino version of
the "Star Spangled Banner." Because in that snippet you didn't get to what
sets this song apart, and so the new arrangement made no sense, it sounded
like the same old white content in Latino drag, with a gratuitous rapped
"somos latinos, papá" tacked on to the end in a lame attempt to get street
cred.

	As I saw the reaction today when the full song was released and set
out to it down the song on the Internet, I expected to hate it, and to hate
having to defend it against the barrage of attacks unleashed by the right.
Those 30 seconds had pretty much convinced me, and I just wanted to know
JUST HOW BAD it was. 

	When I found it (not hard, just google: "Nuestro Himno" MP3), the
first time through the complete three and a half minute song, I was caught
by surprise and felt quite conflicted about it. Caught by surprise first
because the mix was a bit different --and a lot better-- than that on the
snippet, but just as I was thinking well, musically it's not THAT bad,
suddenly the song didn't END when it is supposed to, it went on, an became
something very, very different. I've been listening to it, over and over,
for hours. And finding it astonishing, moving, even combative, and very much
in keeping with the spirit of the movement.

	Because the movement, the millions of people who have been
mobilizing and marching, the thousand of activists who have been meeting and
working and planning all over the country, they don't view themselves as
UN-American or ANTI-America. People bring home-made signs saying "I am
America" and "This is America." Note that well, NOT "I am American," meaning
I'm just like you, you're mistaken to reject me as different, but rather "I
AM America" meaning, I too am part of this country, accept me AS I AM,
respect my rights. 

	And having spent most of my life hearing this tune in bombastic,
over-the-top Kate Smith-style orchestrations, this much quieter, mellow
arrangement also communicates that this is a very different anthem. 

	Yes, it is the national anthem of the United States in Spanish, but
it is more, because just about now being a Latino in the United States means
breaking the official boundaries, because there's no room for us inside
them.

	So with a loose translation of the old words there are new words,
mostly in the background, but they have a powerful effect, and towards the
end of the song the new words are shouted, mixing with the translation
that's being sung of the old words. It transforms it from a song about the
flag that waved in resistance to British colonialism almost 200 years ago,
to one also about the flags that have been waved by millions of immigrants
in the past few weeks insisting that they, too, are entitled to the same
rights the breakaway colonists viewed themselves as defending against the
British crown.

	The Washington Post has published what it says are the lyrics, here:
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/27/AR200604270
2522_pf.html>

	But the first few words have been misheard as being in English, or
perhaps there is more than one mix out there. And the words spoken/shouted
in the background, which give the song its real meaning, have been omitted
from the Post's version. 

	I have a corrected and fuller version, including the rapping, the
spoken/shouted words (in parens) which are interjected, they're not to the
music, they don't fill the space of any part of the English lyrics. And it
begins with that sort of rapping, not with "O say can you see," before
switching to Spanish, as the Post version has it. 

(Latinos, Latinas)
(Hermanos y Hermanas) 
(Somos Latinos, papá)

Amanece, lo veis, 
a la luz de la aurora,
Lo que tanto aclamamos 
la noche al caer.
Sus estrellas, sus franjas 
flotaban ayer
en el fiero combate 
en señal de victoria.

Fulgor de lucha, 
al paso de la libertad,
por la noche decían: 
"¡Se va defendiendo!"
¡Oh, decid! ¿Despliega aún 
su hermosura estrellada,
Sobre tierra de libres, 
la bandera sagrada?

Verse 2

Y Sus estrellas, 
sus franjas, 
la libertad, 
hey, somos iguales
Lord, somos hermanos, 
es nuestro himno.

En el fiero combate 
En señal de victoria.
Fulgor de lucha, 
(¡Mi gente sigue luchando!)
al paso de la libertad,
(¡Ya es tiempo de romper las cadenas!)
Por la noche decían: 
"¡Se va defendiendo!"
¡Oh, decid! ¿Despliega aún 
su hermosura estrellada,
Sobre tierra de libres, 
la bandera sagrada?

*  *  *

The original poem that was set to the tune of an English drinking song has
several verses, but usually only one is sung, in fact, I wasn't conscious of
the other verses until I looked it up just now on the Internet, and I can
see why they're never included. Francis Scott Key showed excellent judgment
in not quitting his day job as a lawyer.

And the first pass through that music (apart from the initial rapping,
"latinos, latinas, brothers, sister, we're latinos papá") is a loose but not
unfaithful translation of the original, albeit less bombastic (all to the
good aesthetically).

But where you ear expects to hear the song end the last note changes, it
goes up, and we go into what sounds like an almost improvised riff, a short
second verse that's just impressionistic phrases: 

And its stars,
its stripes,
Freedom,
Hey we're equal.
Lord we're brothers
This is our anthem.

And then it seems to return to a repetition of the last part of the first
verse, but suddenly you hear it with shouted interjections.

	Where the Spanish singing says "Glare of the fight" (for "the
rocket's red glare") we hear right after, "My people are still fighting!"
and after "on the way to freedom," (which replaces bombs bursting in air) we
hear "It's time to break the chains!" And it totally changes the meaning on
the final question, does that flag still wave over land of the free? Because
in the translation, they've dropped the article before land, and the effect
is not to ask about whether the flag is still up, but makes it ambiguous,
and it could just as well be asking about whether what the flag is flying
over is still a land of the free.

	I don't know why it works -- I just know that it does.

	It completely changes the song and its meaning, from one about a
battle long ago to one that is also about a battle going on today and is
connected to that long-ago fight. So it is very much "Nuestro Himno" -- "Our
Anthem." 

Joaquín





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