"Guantanamera" ("girl from
Guantánamo") is perhaps the best known Cuban song and that country's most noted patriotic song.
The music for the song is regularly attributed to José Fernández Diaz, known as
Joselíto Fernández[ http://www.josemarti.org/jose_marti/guantanamera/mariaargeliaguan/guantanameraparte1-1.htm Vizcaíno, María Argelia, Aspectos de la Guantanamera, La Página de José Martí ] , Part 1, first paragraph, line 3] , 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 music already in popular use by peasants in southeastern Cuba during the early 20th century, and that Fernández merely adopted the melody as his own. There is also some debate on whether the writer of the music used in the chorus of the song, pianist Herminio "El Diablo" García Wilson, could be credited as a co-composer. García's heirs took the matter to court decades later; Cuba's Supreme Court credited Fernández as the sole composer of the music in 1993. Regardless of either claim, Fernández can be safely claimed as being the first public "promoter" of the song, through his radio programs [ [http://www.josemarti.org/jose_marti/guantanamera/mariaargeliaguan/guantanameraparte2-2.htm Ibid] , Part 2, Paragraphs 1-3] .
The original lyrics to the song, as written by José Fernández, relate to a particular woman from Guantánamo, with whom he had a romantic relationship, and who — if the lyrics are to be believed — eventually left him. The alleged real story behind these lyrics (or at least one of many versions of the song's origin that Fernández 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 with 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." Fernández'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. Fact|date=February 2007
These lyrics are the ones based on the Martí poem; as described above, many other versions exist.
* http://www.josemarti.org/jose_marti/guantanamera/mariaargeliaguan/guantanameraparte1-1.htm (in Spanish).
* [http://www.juventudrebelde.cu/2004/julio-septiembre/sep-7/laguantanamera.html Article in the Cuban newspaper" Juventud Rebelde,"] which attempts to clear up the origins of the song.
* [http://www.stallman.org/guantanamero.ogg "Guantanamero,"] a Richard Stallman version, with non-traditional Spanish lyrics.
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJ4NOXz3gj "Guantanamera,"] by Compay Segundo, on Youtube, with traditional Spanish lyrics, subtitled.
* [http://www.exilio.com/Marti/Marti.html José Martí's poem "Versos Sencillos,] " from which the verses of "Guantanamera" were taken.
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