Ricardo Arjona is a famous Guatemalan singer-songwriter. He is probably the only Guatemalan singer who has reached such levels of popularity and success. He is known for his romantic songs and his great admiration for women and women’s beauty (often times their bodies/nudity, one of his great hits is called “Desnuda” [naked] and “Mujeres” is another one). He is also openly anti-imperialist and has a few songs that deal with this issue. Arjona is a great poet his songs are always full of metaphors that merge with history, current events, politics, poetry, and rhythm.
Arjona’s song “Si el Norte Fuera el Sur” (if the North was the South) is one example of his unique style and his politically charged work. I will post the video for all of you to listen to, for those of you who speak Spanish the message will be LOUD and clear. For those of you who don’t, I will translate, to the best of my ability (translating is difficult!), parts of his lyrics. I must warn you that with translation all rhyme, rhythm, and meter will be lost, but you will get the message.
“The North and their McDonalds, basketball, and Rock and roll
Their topless, their Madonnas, and Stallone’s six-pack
Intellectual of tanning, scholar/experts of supermarkets/malls
They have everything but have paid for nothing
At 18 you are a child to get a drink at a bar
But you are a man for war and to kill
Viva Vietnam and Forrest Gump
Viva Wall Street and Viva Donald Trump
Viva seven eleven
…… [I skipped a stanza]
Chorus: The bars and stars (reference to American flag) take over/ are taking over my flag
And our liberty is nothing more than a prostitute
And if the external debt/loans stole our spring
Hell with geography, we are done with borders
If the North was the South it would be the same crap
I would sing a rap and this song wouldn’t exist”
There is undoubtedly A LOT going on here, but I will just make a few observations about what I find interesting (feel free to comment). In this song Arjona exhibits great knowledge of American popular culture which he juxtaposes with what could be considered Latin America pop culture or common knowledge, in a very creative way puts them side by side. The chorus reveals that there is a certain fear of the “bars and stars” taking over “his flag.” I understand this in the literal sense, as the U.S. taking over the territory, “his” territory, but also in more indirect or subtle ways such as McDonalds or other big corporations of world-wide scope taking over or American movies, music (as we talked in class), sort of becoming the norm or the dominant while silencing all others.
For those of you interested in more Arjona has two other songs that would be interesting to look at after having listened to “Si el Norte Fuera el Sur,” there is one that he sings with Intocable (Mexican group) about illegal immigration and the U.S./Mexico border, is called “Mojado” and “El y Ella” that talk about interracial marriage, more specifically narrates the story of an American man falling in love with a Cuban “mulata.”