"Guantanamera" (Spanish: "from Guantánamo [feminine]", thus "the one from Guantánamo") is perhaps the best known Cuban song and that country's most noted patriotic song. In 1966, a version by American vocal group The Sandpipers, based on an arrangement by Pete Seeger, became an international hit.
The music for the song is sometimes 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[who?] claim that the song's structure actually came from Herminio "El Diablo" García Wilson, who could 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 and José Fernández
The lyrics to the song, as written by José Fernández, are about a woman from Guantánamo, with whom he had a romantic relationship, and who 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 where he worked. He stared at some other woman (and attempted to flirt with 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.
Another history behind the chorus and its lyrics ("Guantanamera … / Guajira Guantanamera …") is similar: García claimed he was at a street corner with a group of friends and made a courteous pass (a polite pick-up line, like "your mother made you good" or "you came from a star", piropo in Spanish) to a woman (who also happened to be from Guantánamo) who walked by the group. She 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 near him, he wrote the song's main refrain.
Adaptation from the Versos Sencillos by José Martí
The better known "official" lyrics are based on selections from the poetry collection Versos Sencillos (Simple Verses) by Cuban poet and independence hero José Martí, as adapted by Julián Orbón. 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. The four verses of the song were adapted from four stanzas of Versos sencillos, each from a different poem. They are presented here in the original Spanish (poem:stanza).
|Spanish Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
Given the song's musical structure, which fits A-B-A-B (sometimes A-B-B-A) octosyllabic verses, "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, "Guantanamera" became a popular vehicle for romantic, patriotic, humorous, or social commentary lyrics, in Cuba and elsewhere in the Spanish speaking world.
|Single by The Sandpipers|
|B-side||What Makes You Dream, Pretty Girl?|
|Genre||Pop, easy listening, Latin|
|Writer(s)||Héctor Angulo, José Martí, Pete Seeger|
|The Sandpipers singles chronology|
The version of the song created by Martí and Orbón was used by Pete Seeger as the basis of his reworked version, which he based on a performance of the song by Héctor Angulo. Seeger combined Martí's verse with the tune, with the intention that it be used by the peace movement at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. He urged that people sing the song as a symbol of unity between the American and Cuban peoples, and called for it to be sung in Spanish to "hasten the day [that] the USA... is some sort of bilingual country." 
The most commercially successful version of "Guantanamera" was recorded by easy listening vocal group The Sandpipers in 1966. Their recording was based on Pete Seeger's adaptation of the song. The recording was arranged by Mort Garson and produced by Tommy LiPuma. It reached no.9 on the Billboard Hot 100, and also reached no.7 on the UK singles chart.
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||9|
|U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary||3|
|U.K. Singles Charts||7|
|Canadian RPM Top Tracks||10|
|Dutch Top 40||3|
|German Singles Charts||22|
|Irish Singles Charts||3|
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2011)|
The following musicians have also covered the song:
- The Weavers
- Willy Chirino
- Perez Prado
- Freddie McGregor
- African Fiesta
- TPOK Jazz
- Jimmy Buffett
- Buena Vista Social Club
- Gipsy Kings
- Marlon Wayans
- Joan Baez
- The Brandos
- The Mavericks and Raul Malo
- Nini Camps
- Celia Cruz
- Betty Curtis in Italian
- Lucrecia and Andy Garcia
- Joe Dassin in French
- José Feliciano
- Julie Felix
- Jimmy Fontana
- Leon Gieco
- Gilda (On Un Sueño Hecho Realidad)
- Goombay Dance Band in Italian
- Mary Hopkin in Welsh
- Julio Iglesias
- Los Lobos
- Zucchero Fornaciari, a faithful Italian translation, released as a single in 2012 and certified platinum by Federation of the Italian Music Industry for domestic downloads exceeding 30,000 units.
- Trini Lopez
- Nana Mouskouri in English and French
- Tito Puente
- Los Reales del Paraguay
- Demis Roussos
- Arturo Sandoval (In the movie For Love or Country)
- Alamgir (pop singer)
- Die Toten Hosen
- Nanette Workman
- Phil Manzanera
- Robert Wyatt
- Banda Bassotti
- Dean Reed
- Muslim Magomayev
- Roland Alphonso Ska Version
- Wyclef Jean & The Refugee Camp Allstars (including cameos from Lauryn Hill and Celia Cruz)
- Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation
- Oleksandr Ponomaryov
- Frank & Mirella in Dutch
- Frost Olly in French
- Compay Segundo
- Zé Rodrix
- Youknowwho (vocalist: Christina Undhjem)
- Hip Hop Hoodíos, with Kemo the Blaxican (of Delinquent Habits) and Loren Sklamberg (of The Klezmatics)
Use as a football chant
The general tune of this song is an extremely common English football chant, such as "There's only one (insert player name)" or "You only sing when you're winning". This song is also used as soundtrack of Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, a football video game developed and published by KONAMI.
- Vizcaíno, María Argelia, Aspectos de la Guantanamera, La Página de José Martí , Part 1, and Manuel, Peter (2006), “The Saga of a Song: Authorship and Ownership in the Case of ‘Guantanamera’.” Latin American Music Review 27/2, pp. 1-47
- Ibid, Part 2, Paragraphs 1-3.
- Josh Kun, Audiotopia: Music, Race, And America, University of California Press, 2005, p.6
- Stewart Mason, Review of Pete Seeger at Carnegie Hall, Allmusic.com. Retrieved 24 May 2013
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 34 - Revolt of the Fat Angel: American musicians respond to the British invaders. [Part 2] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
- Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 618. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
- Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 92. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.
- Paola De Simone (22 November 2012). "Zucchero - La sesion cubana - Recensione" (in Italian). Rockol.it. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- "Italian single certifications" (in Italian). Federation of the Italian Music Industry. Select Online in the field Scegli la sezione. Select Week -- and Year ----. Click Avvia la ricerca
- , Guardian Online Newspaper.