Guantanamera

It might not be the national anthem, but few would argue that ‘Guantanamera’ is the song of Cuba. No matter where you are on the island, you’re going to hear it.

If you’re staying at an All Inclusive hotel you are definitely going to hear it, a lot; if you’re in a bar, a club or walking the streets of Old Havana / Vinales / Trinidad, again, you’re going to hear it over and over. At the beach / in the countryside, yup, their too.

The word Guantanamera means ‘a woman from Guantanamo’ (yes, that one) and it is essentially a love song although, for most Cubans, it is first and foremost a patriotic song.

The original / official lyrics come from the Versos Sencillos, a collection of poetry from Jose Marti, Cuba’s most famous poet and independence hero, and adapted by Julian Orbon. There are four verses, each taken from a separate poem, as set out below.

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece la palma,
Y antes de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma
Mi verso es de un verde claro
Y de un carmín encendido
Mi verso es un ciervo herido
Que busca en el monte amparo
Cultivo una rosa blanca
En julio como enero
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca
Con los pobres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte echar
El arroyo de la sierra
Me complace más que el mar.
The music for Guantanamera is credited to Jose Fernandez (although that has been contested) and, while there is no definitive date for the song, 1929 is the most commonly touted year.
Despite the song’s reputation in Cuba, it wasn’t until 1966, and a recording by The Sandpipers (using a 1963 adaptation by Pete Seeger) that Guantanamera gained international fame. In the 50 years since, it has been covered numerous times by such diverse acts as the Buena Vista Social Club, Julio Iglesias, Joan Baez, Celia Cruz, Wyclef Jean & Pitbull.
A band in Baracoa, Cuba
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