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Composer Joseíto Fernández
Language Spanish

"Guantanamera" (Spanish: "from Guantánamo, feminine", thus "she from Guantánamo") is perhaps the best known Cuban song and that country's most noted patriotic song. In 1966, a version by American vocal group The Sandpipers, based on an arrangement by Pete Seeger, became an international hit.



The music for the song is sometimes attributed to José Fernández Diaz, known as Joseíto Fernández,[1] 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 public promoter of the song, through his radio programs.[2]


Original lyrics and José Fernández

The lyrics to the song, as sung by José Fernández, are about a woman from Guantánamo, with whom he had a romantic relationship, and who eventually left him. The alleged real story behind these lyrics (or at least one of many versions of the song's origin that Fernández suggested during his lifetime) is that she did not have a romantic interest in him, but merely a platonic one. If the details are to be believed, she had brought him a steak sandwich one day as a present to the radio station where he worked. He stared at some other woman (and attempted to flirt with her) while eating the sandwich, and his friend yanked it out of his hands in disgust, cursed him, and left. He never saw her again. These words are rarely sung today.[citation needed]

Another history behind the chorus and its lyrics ("Guantanamera … / Guajira Guantanamera …") is similar: García claimed he was at a street corner with a group of friends and made a pass (a pick-up line—or piropo in Spanish—like "your mother made you good", "you came from a star") to a woman who walked by the group. She answered back rather harshly, offended by the pass. Stunned, he could not take his mind off her reaction while his friends made fun of him; later that day, sitting at a piano with his friends near him, he wrote the song's main refrain.[citation needed]

Adaptation from the Versos Sencillos by José Martí

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. Given Martí's significance to the Cuban people, the use of his poem in the song virtually elevated it to unofficial anthem status in the country. 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 morirme 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.

Use as social "newspaper"

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 classic "La Bamba". Fernández's first use of the song was precisely this; he would comment on daily events on his radio program by adapting them to the song's melody, and then using the song as a show closer. Through this use, "Guantanamera" became a popular vehicle for romantic, patriotic, humorous, or social commentary in Cuba and elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world.

Recorded versions

Single by The Sandpipers
B-side What Makes You Dream, Pretty Girl?
Released 1966
Recorded 1966
Genre Pop, easy listening, Latin, Folk
Length 3:10
Label A&M
Writer(s) Héctor Angulo, José Martí, Pete Seeger
Producer(s) Tommy LiPuma
The Sandpipers singles chronology
- "Guantanamera"
Wyclef Jean chronology
"We Trying to Stay Alive"
"Gone Till November"

Pete Seeger

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." [3]

Seeger recorded the song in 1963 on his album We Shall Overcome, recorded live at Carnegie Hall. The recording is described by Stewart Mason at Allmusic as the "definitive version" of the song.[4][5]

The Sandpipers

The most commercially successful version of "Guantanamera" in the English-speaking world was recorded by easy listening vocal group The Sandpipers in 1966. Their recording was based on Pete Seeger's adaptation of the song and was arranged by Mort Garson and produced by Tommy LiPuma. It reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100[6] and #7 on the UK singles chart.[7]

Chart (1966) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 9
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary 3
U.K. Singles Charts 7
Canadian RPM Top Tracks 10
Dutch Top 40 3
German Singles Charts 22
Irish Singles Charts 3

Other recordings

The following musicians have also covered the song:

Use as a football chant

The general tune of this song is a common English football chant, such as "There's only one (insert player/manager name)" or "You only sing when you're winning".[12] This song is also used as soundtrack of Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, a football video game developed and published by KONAMI.

In Australian Rules Football

Brownlow and 4-time Coleman Medalist of the Australian Football League, Tony Lockett was praised in James Freud And The Reserves song – "One Tony Lockett" to the tune of Guantanamera.[13]

In popular culture

Michael Nesmith of The Monkees sang a parody song entitled "One Ton Tomato" which included the lyrics: "One ton tomato, I ate a one ton tomato..."

Dana Carvey of Saturday Night Live sang a parody song about "one ton of fan mail", involving a rival pair of Latin singers who try to one-up each other's exploits to the tune of "Guantanamera".

A group of ants, including Z, do a line dance to the song early in the movie Antz.


  1. Vizcaíno, María Argelia, Aspectos de la Guantanamera, La Página de José Martí , 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
  2. Ibid, Part 2, Paragraphs 1-3.
  3. Josh Kun, Audiotopia: Music, Race, And America, University of California Press, 2005, p.6
  4. Stewart Mason, Review of Pete Seeger at Carnegie Hall, Retrieved 24 May 2013
  5. 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 2011-04-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 618. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 92. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Paola De Simone (22 November 2012). "Zucchero - La sesion cubana - Recensione" (in Italian). Retrieved 8 January 2013. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Italian single certifications" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Select Online in the field Sezione. The certification will load automatically
  10. "Guantanamero - Richard Stallman". Retrieved 2 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Sage The Gemini and Trey Songz Have a Summer Anthem With 'Guantanamera'". BET. 28 April 2015. Retrieved 2 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. [1], Guardian Online Newspaper.

External links