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What Does the Music of Puerto Rico Say About Puerto Ricans?


Gentle Patriots - p 3

Gentle Patriots

While "love" dominates as a universal theme in vitually every culture, the lyrics of other themes can illuminate our exploration.

For example, the theme of nationalism as expressed in the danza:  Recuerdos de Borinquén (complete lyrics), composed by Luis R. Miranda here interpreted by the well known cuatro artist, Edwin Colón-Zayas.

Interestingly, the lyrics are gentle and speak of the beauty of the island rather using bellicose language that speaks of a fatherland.

Recuerdos de Borinquén (partial lyrics)

La tierra de Borinquen
no olvidaré jamás,
en sus montañas verdes
fundióse mi corazón.
Oh, mi Puerto Rico
eres mi inspiración.

The land of Borinquen
I will never forget you,
your green mountains
at the core of my heart.
Oh, my Puerto Rico
you are my inspiration.

Lyrics translat

This not only reflects the gentle style of the danza but the spirit of the Puerto Rican people; a people who are indeed patriots and dearly love their country but never put nationalism ahead of other more important virtues. Anthropologists may speculate on the connection between this gentle spirit and the heritage of the peaceful Taíno indians that greeted Columbus when he first set foot on Borinquén in 1493.

In countries all around the world, few songs evoke nationalism more than the country's national anthem. Yet, in the case of Puerto Rico, we see once again the gentle spirit of its people.  La Borinqueña, again interpreted by Edwin Colón-Zayas, is the national anthem of Puerto Rico. The melody was composed by Felix Astol in 1867 and various versions of the lyrics have since been produced. The lyrics of the danza and offical version, were written by famous Puerto Rican journalist and poet, Manuel Fernández Juncos.

Lyrics by Manuel Fernández Juncos

La tierra de Borinquen
donde he nacido yo
es un jardín florido
de mágico primor.

Un cielo siempre nitido
le sirve de dosel
y dan arrullos plácidas
las olas a sus pies.

Cuando a sus playas llegó Colón
exclamó lleno de admiración.
¡Oh!, ¡Oh!, ¡Oh!, esta es la linda
tierra que busco yo.

Es Borinquen la hija, la hija
del mar y el sol, del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol, del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol.

The land of Borinquén
where I was born
is a flowered garden
of pure magic.

A sky always clear
Serves as your canopy
and the waves at your feet
sing gentle lullabys

When Columbus reached your shores
in admiration he exclaimed
¡Oh!, ¡Oh!, ¡Oh!, this is the beautiful
land I search for.

It's Borinquén, the daughter
of the sea and sun, of the sea and sun,
of the sea and sun, of the sea and sun,
of the sea and sun.

Lyrics translated by Jaime Serrat

Lola Rodriguez de Tió

A more strident version of the lyrics were written by the noted Puerto Rican poetess, Lola Rodríguez de Tió during a period of rampant nationalism; often violent and culminating in the ill-fated "Grito de Lares" uprising against Spain in 1867.

Lyrics by Lola Rodríguez de Tió

(letra parcial)...
Bellísima Borinquen
a Cuba hay que seguir.
Tú tienes bravos hijos
que quieren combatir.
Ya por más tiempo impávidos
no podemos estar,
ya no queremos tímidos,
dejarnos subyugar.
Nosotros queremos ser libres ya
y nuestro machete afilado está.
¿Por qué entonces,
nosotros hemos de estar
tan dormidos y sordos,
y sordos a esa señal?

(partial lyrics)...
Beautiful Borinquen
you must follow Cuba's lead.
You have brave sons
that want to fight.
We cannot be undaunted
for much longer,
we don't want the timid
to let us be subjugated.
We want to be free now
and our machetes are sharp.
Why then,
should we be asleep and deaf
to that signal?

Lyrics translated by Jaime Serrat

Thus, we see that while nationalism exists in the hearts of Puerto Ricans, it is held in check by their gentle nature.

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