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"Guajira Guantanamera"
GenreGuajira Son
Composer(s)Joseíto Fernández

"Guantanamera" (Spanish: "from Guantánamo, feminine" indicating a woman from Guantánamo[1]) is perhaps the best known Cuban song and that country's most noted patriotic song, especially when using a poem by the Cuban poet José Martí for the lyrics. The official writing credits have been given to Joseíto Fernández, who first popularized the song on radio as early as 1929 (although it's unclear when the first release as a record occurred). In 1966, a version by American vocal group The Sandpipers, based on an arrangement by The Weavers from their May 1963 Carnegie Hall Reunion concert, became an international hit. It has been recorded by many other solo artists, notably by Julio Iglesias, Joan Baez, Jimmy Buffett, Celia Cruz, Bobby Darin, Joe Dassin, Muslim Magomayev, José Feliciano, Biser Kirov, Wyclef Jean, Puerto Plata, Trini Lopez, La Lupe, Nana Mouskouri, Tito Puente, Andy Russell, Gloria Estefan and Pete Seeger, and by such groups as Buena Vista Social Club, Los Lobos, and the Gipsy Kings.


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. 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 morir yo 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 Joseíto 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 song "La Bamba". Joseíto Fernández first used the tune to comment on daily events on his radio program by adapting the lyrics 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 peasant woman or country girl[2] (guajira[3]) from Guantánamo, with whom he had a romantic relationship, and who eventually left him. Fernández provided several explanations during his lifetime, including that she did not have a romantic interest in him, but merely a platonic one.


The music for the song is sometimes also attributed to Joseíto Fernández,[1][4] 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 promote the song widely through his radio programs.[5]


Single by The Sandpipers
B-side"What Makes You Dream, Pretty Girl?"
GenrePop, easy listening, Latin, Folk
Songwriter(s)Héctor Angulo, José Martí, Pete Seeger
Producer(s)Tommy LiPuma
The Sandpipers singles chronology
"Everything in the Garden"
"Louie Louie"

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."[6]

Shortly after the Weavers Carnegie Hall reunion concert recording in May, 1963, Seeger recorded the song on his album We Shall Overcome, performed live at Carnegie Hall. The recording is described by Stewart Mason at Allmusic as the "definitive version" of the song.[7][8]

The Sandpipers[edit]

The most commercially successful version of "Guantanamera" in the English-speaking world was recorded by the easy listening vocal group, The Sandpipers, in 1966. Their recording was based on The Weavers' Carnegie Hall Reunion Concert rendition of the song in 1963 and was arranged by Mort Garson and produced by Tommy LiPuma. In addition to the group's vocals, the version includes Robie Lester on background vocals and narration by producer LiPuma.[9] It reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100[10] and No. 7 on the UK singles chart.[11]


Chart (1966) Peak
Canadian RPM Top Tracks 10
Germany (Official German Charts)[12] 22
Ireland (IRMA)[13] 3
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[14] 3
South Africa (Springbok Radio)[15] 2
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[16] 7
US Billboard Hot 100[17] 9
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[18] 3

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cheal, David (March 13, 2015). "The Life of a Song: 'Guantanamera'". Financial Times. Financial Times Ltd. Retrieved May 22, 2016. His chorus sings the praises of a guajira (peasant woman) from Guantánamo (the Guantanamera of the title)
  2. ^ Hamilton, Valerie (March 24, 2016). "How 'Guantanamera' went from Cuba's unofficial anthem to a Swedish recycling jingle". Public Radio International. Public Radio International. Retrieved May 22, 2016. The song's refrain, “guajira Guantanamera,” means “country girl from Guantanamo.
  3. ^ "Define gua-ji-ra"., LLC. 2016. Retrieved May 22, 2016. literally, peasant woman
  4. ^ Vizcaíno, María Argelia, Aspectos de la Guantanamera, La Página de José Martí Archived July 14, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., 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
  5. ^ "Jose Marti. La Guantanamera por María Argelia Vizcaíno #2-2". Archived from the original on 2003-12-19. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  6. ^ Josh Kun. "Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America". p. 6. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  7. ^ Stewart Mason, Review of Pete Seeger at Carnegie Hall, Retrieved May 24, 2013
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Michael Bourne (1995). "The Billboard Interview: Tommy LiPuma" (PDF). Billboard magazine. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955–2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 618. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  11. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952–2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 92. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.
  12. ^ " – The Sandpipers Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  13. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Guantanamera". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  14. ^ " – The Sandpipers – Guantanamera" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  15. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  16. ^ "Sandpipers: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  17. ^ "The Sandpipers Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  18. ^ "The Sandpipers Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  19. ^ Tom Lamont. "Tom Lamont on the chant-makers of British football | Football". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  20. ^ "James Freud and the Reserves - One Tony Lockett (CD)". Discogs. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  21. ^ "Guantanamero - Richard Stallman".

External links[edit]