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"Santianna", also known as "Santiana", "Santy Anna", "Santayana", "Santiano", "Santy Anno" and other variations, is a sea shanty referring to the Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna. The song is listed as number 207 in the Roud Folk Song Index.[1]


The theme of the shanty, which dates from at least the 1850s, may have been inspired by topical events in the news related to conflicts between the armies of Mexico, commanded by Antonio López de Santa Anna, and the U.S., commanded by Zachary Taylor, in the Mexican–American War.[1]

The lyrics are not historically accurate: for example, both the Battle of Monterrey and the Battle of Molino del Rey (different versions refer to one or other) were US victories, not Mexican ones. Some suggest that this tradition was caused by British sailors, who deserted their ships to join Santa Anna's forces.[1]


As with many shanties, there are many recorded variations on the words and tunes, which may have developed on particular shipping lines - and the shantymen who led the shanties would make up their own versions as they went along, many of which were never recorded.[2]

Shantyman and shanty collector Stan Hugill wrote that "Santianna" was originally a pump shanty, but became a popular capstan shanty as wooden ships were replaced by iron in the common call and response form.

Part of one of Hugill's versions is below

The call is in normal type and the response is in italics.

O! Santianna gained the day[2]
Away Santianna!
And Santianna gained the day
All across the plains of Mexico!
He gain'd the day at Molly-Del-Rey*.
Away Santianna
An' General Taylor ran away
All across the plains of Mexico
All of his men were brave an' true.
Away Santianna
Ever soldier brave and true
All across the plains of Mexico
Oh Santiana fought for fame
Away Santianna
An' Santiana gained a name
All across the plains of Mexico
*Monterrey or Molino del Rey

Hugill states that there were many variations in the refrain, including:[2]

First refrain:

Heave and weigh Santiana
Hooray Santiana
And away Santiana
Hooraw boys, hooraw ho
Horoo Santy Ana
'Way Santiana

Second refrain

Heave away, hurra for roll-an'-go
All on the plains of Mexico
Heave an' weigh, we're bound for Mexico
All across the plains of Mexico
All along the shores of Mexico
Along the plains of Mexico
On the banks and plains of Mexico
Around the Bay o' Mexico
All along the coasts of Mexico
Upon the plains of Mexico

Alan Lomax published a completely different version, that he heard from a sailor called J.M. Hunt in 1935

We're sailing down the river from Liverpool[3]
Heave away Santy Anno
Around Cape Horn to Frisco Bay
All on the plains of Mexico


So heave her up and away we'll go
Heave away Santy Ano
Heave her up and away we'll go
All on the plains of Mexico
She's a clipper fast ship and a bully good crew
Heave away, Santy Anno
A down-east Yankee for her captain, too
All on the plains of Mexico

In the 1950s and 1960s, shanties became popularised as part of the American folk music revival and British folk revival, and Santianna became part of the musical repertoire of musicians including Paul Clayton[4][5] and The Clancy Brothers.[6]

Sometimes there is an additional chorus or bridge, after A. L. Lloyd:

Mexico oh Mexico[7]
Hurray Santy Ano
Oh Mexico where I must go
All on the plains of Mexico

Other versions[edit]

Covers in English[edit]

One English version recorded by both Odetta (1956) and The Kingston Trio (1958) is about a ship that leaves from Liverpool to California "Plenty of gold, So I've Been told, way out in California". The Weavers album The Weavers at Home (1958) describes a journey from Boston to California.[8] These versions are probably about the California Gold Rush and based on Lomax's version[3].

The soundtrack to the game Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire includes a cover of the song called Aim Spirente[9]. Its lyrics are similar to Hugues Aufray's Santiano, but adapted to fit the game's lore. The lyrics, written on a scrap of paper, can also be found as an in-game item[10].

The Longest Johns covered the song on their album Between Wind and Water.

Covers in French[edit]

"Santiano" was recorded in 1961 by Hugues Aufray[11] and refers to a ship leaving Saint Malo bound to San Francisco, described as a wealthy place. It became very popular and has inspired several cover versions including the reality show Star Academy in 2005.[12]

Covers in Welsh[edit]

A Welsh language cover of Santiana was recorded by Welsh folk singer Meic Stevens in 1969. It remained unreleased until 2002, when it was released on the Disgwyl Rhywbeth Gwell i Ddod compilation.[13] Stevens' version of the song contains references to contemporary events in Wales such as the incarceration of Free Wales Army soldiers in 1969. This version has also inspired recent cover versions of the song by Alun Gaffey, Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog and Iwcs a Gaff.

Covers in other languages[edit]

In 2008, German folk-collective Werkraum under leadership by Axel Frank recorded their own adaption of the English original[14] using some changes in the verses, referring to Tory Island instead of Liverpool, probably inspired by a stormy cruise to the north-west coast of Ireland and the historical Irish immigration to America.

In 2012, the German group Santiano recorded a new version of this song. The group has had much success, and received an Echo for their first album containing Santiano as well as other shanties.

Metusa, a German Folk-Rock band, recorded a German version of this shanty called "Santyano" which appears on their album "Piratenseele".

There is a Norwegian version of this song about a man who sails from Copenhagen to Kristiansand and meets a girl with whom he spends a night. He then has to travel to India and, when he arrives, he is handed a letter saying that his Norwegian friend is dead. He never returned to Norway for his Anna is dead. The song is remodeled by Storm Weather Shanty Choir.

There is a version in Icelandic, called "Fulla ferð Santíanó" ("Full Ahead Santiano"), a seaman's story about sailing home after days at sea, written by Siggi Björns an Icelandic musician and an ex-fisherman. This version was recorded and realised on a CD with a band called"Æfing" from a small fishing town, Flateyri, in the Icelandic Westfjords.


  1. ^ a b Ted Gioia (23 March 2006). Work Songs. Duke University Press. pp. 127–. ISBN 0-8223-8768-9.
  2. ^ a b c Hugill, collected by Stan (1994). Shanties from the seven seas : shipboard work-songs and songs used as work-songs from the great days of sail (New U.S. ed.). Mystic, Conn.: Mystic Seaport Museum. ISBN 0-913372-70-6.
  3. ^ a b Alan Lomax (1941). Our Singing Country: Folk Songs and Ballads. Courier Corporation. pp. 206–. ISBN 978-0-486-41089-0.
  4. ^ Clayton, Paul (1956). Whaling And Sailing Songs From the Days of Moby Dick - sleeve notes. Tradition Records.
  5. ^ Bob Coltman (2008). Paul Clayton and the Folksong Revival. Scarecrow Press. pp. 128–. ISBN 978-0-8108-6132-9.
  6. ^ The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem (1968). Sing Of The Sea - sleeve notes. Columbia Records.
  7. ^ A.L. Lloyd and Ewan MacColl (1963). The Coast of Peru - sleeve notes. Topic records.
  8. ^ The Weavers (1958). The Weavers at Home - sleeve notes. Vanguard Records.
  9. ^ "Aim Spirente - Composition by Traditional". Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  10. ^ "Aim'Spirente". Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  11. ^ Alain Wodrascka (29 October 2015). Douce France. Editions Du Moment. pp. 81–. ISBN 978-2-35417-444-6.
  12. ^ "Top 100 des singles les plus vendus du millénaire en France, épisode 2 (90-81)". Chartsinfrance. 19 July 2014. Retrieved 2015-03-15.
  13. ^ Meic Stevens (2002). Disgwyl Rhywbeth Gwell i Ddod. Sain.
  14. ^ Werkraum (2008). Early Love Music - sleeve notes. Ahnstern.