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For other uses, see Guantanamera (disambiguation).
Composer Joseíto Fernández
Language Spanish

"Guantanamera" (Spanish: "from Guantánamo, feminine") 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. It has been recorded by many other solo artists, notably by Joan Baez, Jimmy Buffett, Bobby Darin, José Feliciano, Wyclef Jean, Trini Lopez, and Tito Puente, and by such groups as Buena Vista Social Club, the Gipsy Kings, and The Weavers.


By José Martí[edit]

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).

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.

By José Fernández[edit]

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". Joseíto Fernández first used the tune to comment on daily events on his radio program by adapting them to the song's melody, and then using the song to conclude his show. Through this use, "Guantanamera" became a popular vehicle for romantic, patriotic, humorous, or social commentary in Cuba and elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world.

The lyrics often sung by Fernández are about a woman from Guantánamo, with whom he had a romantic relationship, and who eventually left him. Fernández provided serveral explanations during his lifetime, including that she did not have a romantic interest in him, but merely a platonic one. In one version, she once brought him the gift of a steak sandwich to the radio station where he worked. He stared at and attempted to flirt with another woman 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.[citation needed] 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 pass (a pick-up line—or piropo in Spanish—like "your mother made you good", "you came from a star") to a woman 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.[citation needed]


The music for the song is sometimes attributed to Joseíto Fernández as well,[1] 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 People's 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 to promoter the song widely through his radio programs.[2]


Single by The Sandpipers
B-side What Makes You Dream, Pretty Girl?
Released 1966
Recorded 1966
Genre Pop, easy listening, Latin, Folk
Length 3:10
Label A&M
Writer(s) Héctor Angulo, José Martí, Pete Seeger
Producer(s) Tommy LiPuma
The Sandpipers singles chronology
- "Guantanamera"
Wyclef Jean chronology
"We Trying to Stay Alive"
"Gone till November"

Pete Seeger[edit]

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." [3]

Seeger recorded the song in 1963 on his album We Shall Overcome, recorded live at Carnegie Hall. The recording is described by Stewart Mason at Allmusic as the "definitive version" of the song.[4][5]

The Sandpipers[edit]

The most commercially successful version of "Guantanamera" in the English-speaking world was recorded by easy listening vocal group The Sandpipers in 1966. Their recording was based on Pete Seeger's adaptation of the song and was arranged by Mort Garson and produced by Tommy LiPuma. It reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100[6] and #7 on the UK singles chart.[7]

Chart (1966) Peak
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

In popular culture[edit]

The general tune of this song is a common English football chant, such as "There's only one (insert player/manager name)" or "You only sing when you're winning".[8] It is also used as soundtrack of Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, a football video game developed and published by KONAMI.[citation needed] Tony Lockett of the Australian Football League was praised to the tune of Guantanamera in the song "One Tony Lockett" performed by James Freud And The Reserves.[9] Michael Nesmith of The Monkees sang a parody song entitled "One Ton Tomato" which included the lyrics: "One ton tomato, I ate a one ton tomato..." Dana Carvey of Saturday Night Live sang a parody song about "one ton of fan mail", involving a rival pair of Latin singers who try to one-up each other's exploits to the tune of "Guantanamera". A group of ants, including Z, do a line dance to the song early in the movie Antz. It is sung in the movie For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story.


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ Ibid, Part 2, Paragraphs 1-3.
  3. ^ Josh Kun, Audiotopia: Music, Race, And America, University of California Press, 2005, p.6
  4. ^ Stewart Mason, Review of Pete Seeger at Carnegie Hall, Retrieved May 24, 2013
  5. ^ 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. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 618. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 
  7. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 92. ISBN 0-00-717931-6. 
  8. ^ [1], Guardian Online Newspaper.
  9. ^

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