This is one of the most touching songs I’ve ever heard, so I thought I’d share my translation of it. You can listen to it here. The English is to the right of the original Spanish.
Aprieto firme mi mano, I grip the plow tightly
y hundo el arado en la tierra And I sink it into the earth
hace años que llevo en ella As I have been doing for years.
Cómo no estar *agota’o? How am I not exhausted?
(*The apostrophe represents the unpronounced “D” common to Chile and the Caribbean)
Vuelan mariposas, cantan grillos The butterflies soar and the crickets sing,
la piel se me pone negra, My skin grows dark under the sun
y el sol brilla, brilla, brilla. As it shines on and on and on.
El sudor me hace zurcos, Sweat trickles in furrows down my skin
yo hago *zurcos a la tierra, sin parar. As I dig furrows into the earth without end
(*or spelled Surcos)
Afirmo bien la esperanza I hold tightly to hope while thinking
cuando pienso en la otra estrella of my other star (his wife, I believe)
nunca es tarde me dice ella She tells me it’s never too late,
la paloma volará. And the dove shall continue to fly.
Vuelan mariposas, cantan grillos The butterflies soar and the crickets sing
la piel se me pone negra My skin grows dark under the sun,
y el sol, brilla, brilla y brilla As it shines on and on and on.
Y en la tarde cuando vuelvo, And in the evenings when I return
en el cielo apareciendo una estrella A star appears on the horizon (his wife as he nears home)
nunca es tarde me dice ella She tells me it’s never too late
la paloma volará, volará, volará The dove shall fly and fly and fly.
Cómo yugo de apreta’o Much like a yoke held tightly
tengo el puño esperanza’o I hold my hand in a fist, ready
porque todo cambiará. Because everything will change.
Victor Jara was a Chilean folk singer and teacher. He was a national figure, tortured and machine gunned to death by the military under General Augusto Pinochet at the age of 40 within days of the coup d’etat September 11th, 1973 at the Estadio Chile (since renamed the Estadio Victor Jara). He was part of the Nueva Canción musical movement, and frequently sang about “common” folk – that is, the majority of the country that was not part of the small, elite ruling class of families. This simple song weaves together themes of hard work and hope made worthy of struggle because of love and family. It gets me every time.
Check out this wikipedia entry for more information on his life and work.