Like the Cicada

Map of Argentina from the Hungarian school atlas (1915) of my grandaunt. The inscriptions, probably by her hand, are the following: Near to Lima: “Creoles, Indians”. In Bolivia: “rubber, silver. Capital: Szükre”. Near to Chile: “saltpeter, wheat, potato”. At Argentina, near to Montevideo: “cattle breeding, they produce much canned food”, and near to Patagonia: “many studs, grain”.
Our appeal to our Readers to send us the songs telling about their history has been generously answered by Julia sharing with us her experiences of their change of regime in the early ’80s:

Having read this post of the Poemas del Río Wang, I have realized that I could not give a really comprehensive picture of the music of the protest songs or the songs of the Transición in Argentina. There are so many that I do not know or do not remember, or that I know by name but, to be sincere, has never touched me. Nevertheless, if I consider it with sincerity and renounce to be exhaustive to any extent, there are some songs that begin to emerge in my head when I think about the period.

I don’t know whether they all are of the same quality, and I also know that they do not represent the same period. Some of them I remember from the period when I was 12 and they started to speak about democracy in Argentina again, while others were handed to me by my parents. Here I offer a rather aleatory compilation, adding that the last ones are those of the most universal value.

As there are many great names in Argentina that could not be absent from a complete overview but have not became part of my real history, I thought it would be the best to select only from the songs of 1982 and 1983.

In Argentina we were ruled since 1976 by a military dictatorship calling themselves “Proceso de Reorganización Nacional”) that had won themselves a dark fame by their brutal repression killing thousands and thousands. The state terrorism acted through underground canals and its dimensions were not really known to everyone in their complete magnitude until the reappearing of democracy. We lived at that time in the climate of silent violence, censure and oppression that became almost natural.

In 1982, the Junta Militar committed its silliest mistake by starting a war against Great Britain for the Falkland Islands. Although I believe that we Argentinians all defend our sovereignty above these islands, the mortal project of attacking the British and send a large number of 18 years old boys, doing their obligatory military service, poorly equipped and poorly defended, was a desperately irresponsible undertaking from the government. Unfortunately many Argentinians, intoxicated by the mental dullness provoked by Chauvinism, applauded the de facto President of the country, Comandante Leopoldo F. Galtieri in declaring war. The defeat to be expected from the British was one of the most important factors forcing the “Proceso” to leave the power and to convoke elections in 1983.

I told about this war so much in detail because it was due to this conflict with Great Britain that in this year of 1982 the military dictatorship prohibited the radio stations from broadcasting music in English, thus producing the boom (what a mutiny, to use a word of the “enemy”) of the so-called “Rock Nacional”.

Then, in 1983 we were electrified by the imminent arrival of democracy. I was 11-12 years old (and, for an exotic detail, we lived in Ushuaia, in the most southernmost city of the world), and I remember my fascination at listening to the songs of the great Argentinian rocker Charly García, like the Inconsciente colectivo.


Charly García - Inconsciente colectivo - From the album Yendo de la cama al living, 1982

The Collective Unconsciousness
Charly García

A flower is born, every day the sun rises,
every now and then you hear that voice,
like bread, wanting to sing,
in the roof of my mind, with the bees.
But at the same time there is a transformer
that consumes the best of you
holds you back, asks more and more of you
up to a point where you want to have no more to do with it.

Breast suck liberty. You’ll always have it
within your heart.
You may be corrupted,
you may forget,
but she’ll always be there.
Breast suck liberty. You’ll always have it
within your heart.
You may be corrupted,
you may forget,
but she’ll always be there.

Yesterday I dreamt about the hungry people, the mad people.
Those who went away , those who are in prison.
Today I awoke singing this song
that had already been written .
It’s necessary to sing again
once more.

Inconsciente colectivo
Charly García

Nace una flor, todos los días sale el sol
de vez en cuando escuchas aquella voz.
Cómo de pan, gustosa de cantar,
en los aleros de mi mente con las chicharras.
Pero a la vez existe un transformador
que te consume lo mejor que tenés
te tira atrás, te pide más y más
y llega un punto en que no querés.

Mamá la libertad, siempre la llevarás
dentro del corazón
te pueden corromper
te puedes olvidar
pero ella siempre está
Mamá la libertad, siempre la llevarás
dentro del corazón
te pueden corromper
te puedes olvidar
pero ella siempre está

Ayer soñé con los hambrientos, los locos,
los que se fueron, los que están en prisión
hoy desperté cantando esta canción
que ya fue escrita hace tiempo atrás.
Es necesario cantar de nuevo,
una vez más.

I also remember the song Los dinosaurios which told a lot without saying, by referring to the members of the military dictatorship leaving the power and to the “disappeared”, the persons who were arrested, tortured and in the majority killed by state terrorism developing in the years of the dictatorship between 1976 and 1983.


Charly García - Los dinosaurios - From the album Clics modernos, 1983

The Dinosaurs
Charly García

Neighborhood friends may disappear,
radio singers may disappear,
those who are in the papers may disappear,
the person that you love may disappear,
those who are in the street may disappear,
those who are on the air might disappear.
Neighborhood friends may disappear.
But the Dinosaurs, will disappear.

I’m uneasy, my love.
Today is Saturday night,
a friend is in jail.
Oh, my love,
the world disappears.
If the heavy people of the world, my love,
carry such a lot of baggage in their hands,
Oh, my love, I want to be lighthanded.
When the world pulls you down
It’s better not to be tied up to anything.
Imagine Dinosaurs in bed,
when the world pulls you down,
it’s better not to be tied up to anything.
Imagine Dinosaurs in bed.

Neighborhood friends may disappear,
radio singers may disappear,
those who are in the papers may disappear,
the person that you love may disappear,
those who are in the street may disappear,
those who are on the air might disappear,
neighborhood friends may disappear.
But the dinosaurs, will disappear.

Los dinosaurios
Charly García

Los amigos del barrio pueden desaparecer
Los cantores de radio pueden desaparecer
Los que están en los diarios pueden desaparecer
La persona que amas puede desaparecer.
Los que están en el aire pueden desaparecer en el aire
Los que están en la calle pueden desaparecer en la calle.
Los amigos del barrio pueden desaparecer,
Pero los dinosaurios van a desaparecer.

No estoy tranquilo mi amor,
Hoy es sábado a la noche,
Un amigo está en cana.
Oh, mi amor,
Desaparece el mundo
Si los pesados, mi amor, llevan
todo ese montón de equipajes en la mano
Oh, mi amor, yo quiero estar liviano.
Cuando el mundo tira para abajo
es mejor no estar atado a nada
Imaginen a los dinosaurios en la cama
Cuando el mundo tira para abajo
es mejor no estar atado a nada
Imaginen a los dinosaurios en la cama

Los amigos del barrio pueden desaparecer
Los cantores de radio pueden desaparecer
Los que están en los diarios pueden desaparecer
La persona que amas puede desaparecer.
Los que están en el aire pueden desaparecer en el aire
Los que están en la calle pueden desaparecer en la calle.
Los amigos del barrio pueden desaparecer,
Pero los dinosaurios van a desaparecer.

But without doubt the song that unified the Argentinians of any shades was the Sólo le pido a Dios by León Gieco that was written in 1978 but became a hymn of pacifism during the Falkland War of 1982 and continued to be very symbolic for all the Transición towards democracy.


León Gieco - Sólo le pido a Dios - Del álbum IV LP, 1978 - Sung in this link by Mercedes Sosa

I Only Ask God
León Gieco

I only ask God
that pain be not indifferent to me.
that dry death won’t find me
empty and alone
without having done enough.

I only ask of God
that war be not indifferent to me,
it’s a big monster
and it tramples hard
on the poor innocence of people.

I only ask God
that injustice be not indifferent to me
that I will not be slapped on the other cheek
after a claw has torn me in this manner.

I only ask God
that deceit be not indifferent to me
if a traitor is mightier than a few
let those few not forget it easily.

I only ask God.
that the Future be not indifferent to me
someone who has to leave and live a different culture is
one to be despaired of.

Sólo le pido a Dios
León Gieco

Sólo le pido a Dios
que el dolor no me sea indiferente,
que la reseca muerte no me encuentre
vacío y solo sin haber hecho lo suficiente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que lo injusto no me sea indiferente,
que no me abofeteen la otra mejilla
después que una garra me arañó esta suerte.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que la guerra no me sea indiferente,
es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
toda la pobre inocencia de la gente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que el engaño no me sea indiferente
si un traidor puede más que unos cuantos,
que esos cuantos no lo olviden fácilmente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que el futuro no me sea indiferente,
desahuciado está el que tiene que marchar
a vivir a una cultura diferente

If I already mentioned Mercedes Sosa who sings so beautifully this song by León Gieco, I must also remember another song by María Elena Walsh that my mother had shown to me. This genial and versatile writer is an institution of children’s literature and songs in our country, but she also wrote songs “for adults”, including the Serenata para la tierra de uno, a precious song that touches me again each time I listen to it (undoubtedly a heredity from my mother). María Elena Walsh suffered a lot because of the ideological closure of the governments of Juan Domingo Perón (from 1946 to 1955 and from 1973 to 1976, followed after his death in 1974 by his wife, elected vice president) and also by the various dictatorships following them (except for some small breaths of democracy in the 60’s). This song of love to her own country and of her dedication to it beyond all the difficulties, troubles and conflicts shows the exact feelings of many Argentinians. It is obviously hard to accept, of course, that it is only us who bear responsibility for the way we live (as we had no invasions, no external attacks, neither natural catastrophes that could justify the dark moments of our history). Anyway, the lyrics of the song is very subtle, without any shade of denunciation. It only suggests almost without words how much difficulties she has to overcome in order to justify her will to live “in one’s own land”.


Serenata para la tierra de uno by María Elena Walsh, sung also by Mercedes Sosa

Serenade for One’s Own Land
María Elena Walsh

Because it pains me if I stay
But it kills me if I leave
For everything and in spite of everything, my love,
I want to live in you.

Because of your decency of vidala.
And because of your scandal of sun,
Because of your summer with jasmines, my love,
I want to live in you.

Because childhood language
Is a secret between us two,
Because you gave shelter
To my heart’s dereliction.

Because of your old rebellions
And because of the age of your pain,
Because of your endless hope, my love,
I want to live in you.

To scatter the seeds of guitars in you
To take care of you in every flower,
And to hate those that harm you, my love,
I want to live in you.

Serenata para la tierra de uno
María Elena Walsh

Porque me duele si me quedo
pero me muero si me voy,
por todo y a pesar de todo, mi amor,
yo quiero vivir en vos.

Por tu decencia de vidala
y por tu escándalo de sol,
por tu verano con jazmines, mi amor,
yo quiero vivir en vos.

Porque el idioma de infancia
es un secreto entre los dos,
porque le diste reparo
al desarraigo de mi corazón.

Por tus antiguas rebeldías
y por la edad de tu dolor,
por tu esperanza interminable, mi amor,
yo quiero vivir en vos.

Para sembrarte de guitarra
para cuidarte en cada flor,
y odiar a los que te lastiman, mi amor,
yo quiero vivir en vos.

Another, for us very emblematic song is the Como la cigarra. It was composed at the end of the 60's, in a period of transition from a military government to the last one by Perón which then, in 1976, would lead into the “Proceso”. It is interesting that the very author told that when she publicly sung this song before 1975, it did not attract special attention, and nobody seemed to understand it, but some years later, in 1983 it became a hymn of the rebirth of democracy. It seems that in that moment many Argentinians understood that we had been and we were like the cicada.


Como la cigarra – María Elena Walsh, 1972 - En este link cantada Mercedes Sosa (a mediados de los '70 supongo)

Like the Cicada
María Elena Walsh

I was killed so many times.
I died so many times
however, here I am
reviving .
I thank misfortune
and I thank the hand with the dagger
because it killed me so badly
that I went on singing

Singing in the sun
like the Cicada
after a year
under the earth
just like a survivor,
that’s returning from war.

So may times was I wiped away
so many times did I disappear,
I went to my own funeral
alone and crying
I tied a knot on my handkerchief
but then I forget
that it hadn’t been the only time
and I went on singing.

Singing in the sun,
like the Cicada
after a year
under the earth
just like a survivor
that´s returning from war

So may times will you be killed
so many will you revive
how many years will you spend
despairing.
And at the moment of shipwreck
and that of darkness
someone will rescue you
to go on singing

Singing in the sun
like the Cicada,
after a year
below the earth
just like a survivor
returning from war.

Como la cigarra
María Elena Walsh

Tantas veces me mataron,
tantas veces me morí,
sin embargo estoy aquí
resucitando.
Gracias doy a la desgracia
y a la mano con puñal,
porque me mató tan mal,
y seguí cantando.

Cantando al sol,
como la cigarra,
después de un año
bajo la tierra,
igual que sobreviviente
que vuelve de la guerra.

Tantas veces me borraron,
tantas desaparecí,
a mi propio entierro fui,
solo y llorando.
Hice un nudo del pañuelo,
pero me olvidé después
que no era la única vez
y seguí cantando.

Cantando al sol,
como la cigarra,
después de un año
bajo la tierra,
igual que sobreviviente
que vuelve de la guerra.

Tantas veces te mataron,
tantas resucitarás
cuántas noches pasarás
desesperando.
Y a la hora del naufragio
y a la de la oscuridad
alguien te rescatará,
para ir cantando.

Cantando al sol,
como la cigarra,
después de un año
bajo la tierra,
igual que sobreviviente
que vuelve de la guerra.

4 comentarios:

learn chinese dijo...

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Anónimo dijo...

Julia: It is with great interest that I read your posting. I am currently translating some works of María Elena Walsh and am VERY interested in knowing who is responsible for the English translations of the lyrics that you provide on this page. I sincerely hope to hear back from you. Mil gracias, Laura lcollin5@kent.edu

Julia dijo...

Perdón, Laura, recién hoy veo tu comentario.
Las traducciones son de mi madre (una excelente traductora aficionada, creo yo)
Te escribiré de todas formas un e-mail.
Me alegro de que te haya interesado el post.