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Juana Martinez-Neal

Columbus Day Music

I was born and raised different because my dad is different. I’m glad.

My father was part of a small group of Peruvians who actually loved the folk dances and traditional dresses that women and men wore throughout Peru. Everywhere but in the “civilized” Lima you would be able to see them with no special trips. Just get out to the plaza and you’d see them. But Lima being the capital and all had to be cautious of “these” dangerous, folk activities in the big city. Stadiums and places would only be rented for those type of festivals on Sundays – when no “decent” events would take place.

And yes, most children would be ashamed to be seen in these Sunday folk festivals but my father loved them. He woke up early, packed his camera bags with extra lenses and even more film and got our orange VW beetle ready for the trip. He also dragged my brother and me. We were no different. We were also embarrassed but we had to help. There you saw us walking behind him carrying cameras, lenses and film, lots of film. In a sea of colorful dresses and masks, we stood out like sore thumbs. Like most children, we complained and whined but when nobody was watching we also tapped our feet loving the mountain music. Mini dirt clouds behind my dad waiting for a camera, lens or film exchange.

Those Sunday folk festivals taught me about the different music, patterns, colors and food that made Peru. Latin America is also an amalgam of different music, patterns, colors and food. Since we are celebrating Columbus Day here in the States, I thought I’d share a song that says like no other what it is to be from Latin America: “Latinoámerica” from Calle 13.

Soy lo que dejaron
Soy las sobras de lo que te robaron
Un pueblo escondido en la cima
Mi piel es de cuero por eso aguanta cualquier clima

Soy una fábrica de humo
Mano de obra campesina para tu consumo
Frente de frío en el medio del verano
El amor en los tiempos del cólera, mi hermano!

Soy el que nace
y el día que muere
Con los mejores atardeceres
Soy el desarrollo en carne viva
Un discurso político sin saliva

Las caras más bonitas que he conocido
Soy la fotografía de un desaparecido
La sangre dentro de tus venas
Soy un pedazo de tierra que vale la pena

Una canasta con frijoles
Soy Maradona contra Inglaterra Anotándole dos goles
Soy lo que sostiene mi bandera
La espina dorsal del planeta es mi cordillera

Soy lo que me enseño mi padre
El que no quiere a su patria no quiere a su madre
Soy América Latina
un pueblo sin piernas pero que camina

Tú no puedes comprar al viento
Tú no puedes comprar al sol
Tú no puedes comprar la lluvia
Tú no puedes comprar al calor
Tú no puedes comprar las nubes
Tú no puedes comprar mi alegría
Tú no puedes comprar mis dolores

Tengo los lagos
Tengo los ríos
Tengo mis dientes
pa’ cuando me sonrío
La nieve que maquilla mis montañas

Tengo el sol que me seca y la lluvia que me baña
Un desierto embriagado con pellote
Un trago de pulque para cantar con los coyotes
Todo lo que necesito!

Tengo a mis pulmones
Respirando azul clarito
La altura que sofoca
Soy las muelas de mi boca mascando coca

El otoño con sus hojas desmayadas
Los versos escritos bajo la noche estrellada
Una viña repleta de uvas
Un cañaveral
bajo el sol en Cuba

Soy el mar Caribe
que vigila las casitas
Haciendo rituales de agua bendita
El viento que peina mi cabello
Soy todos los santos
que cuelgan de mi cuello

El jugo de mi lucha
no es artificial
porque el abono de mi tierra
es natural

Trabajo bruto pero con orgullo
Aquí se comparte, lo mío es tuyo
Este pueblo no se ahoga con marullos
Y si se derrumba, yo lo reconstruyo

Tampoco pestañeo cuando te miro
Para que te recuerdes de mi apellido
La operación Cóndor
invadiendo mi nido
Perdono pero nunca olvido

Vamos caminado
Aquí se respira lucha
Vamos caminando
Yo canto porque se escucha
Vamos caminando
Aquí estamos de pie

No puedes comprar mi vida

I am
I am what they left behind
I am the leftovers of what they stole
A village hidden at the summit
My skin is leather this is why it stands any climate

I’m a smoke factory
A peasant workforce for your consumption
Cold front in the middle of summer
Love in the time of Cholera, my brother

I’m the one who’s born
and the day that dies
With the best sunsets
I am development in the raw
A political speech without saliva

The most beautiful faces I’ve known
I’m the photo of a disappeared
The blood in your veins
I’m a piece of earth that’s worth the trouble

A basket of beans
I’m Maradona vs. England
Scoring two goals
I’m what holds my flag
The backbone of the planet is my mountain range

I’m what my father taught me
He who doesn’t love his fatherland
doesn’t love his mother
I am Latin America
People without legs that walk

You cannot buy the wind
You cannot buy the sun
You cannot buy the rain
You cannot buy the heat
You cannot buy the clouds
You cannot buy my happiness
You cannot buy my suffering

I have lakes
I have rivers
I have my teeth
for when I smile
The snow that paints my mountains

I have the sun to dry me and the rain to bathe me
A desert drunk on peyote
A drink of Pulque to sing with the coyotes
All that I need

I have my lungs
Breathing clear blue
The altitude that suffocates
I’m the molars of my mouth chewing coca

The autumn with its fainting leaves
The verses written under the starry sky
A vineyard full of grapes
A sugar cane plantation under the sun in Cuba

I’m the Caribbean sea
that watches over the little houses
Performing rituals with holy water
The wind that combs my hair
I’m all of the saints
that I hang from my neck

The juice of my struggle
is not artificial
Because the fertilizer of my earth
is natural

Brutal work but with pride
Here we share, what’s mine is yours
These people don’t fall for dirty tricks
And if it collapses, I rebuild them

I don’t wink when I look at you
So that you’ll remember my surname
Operation Condor
is invading my nest
I forgive but never forget

We are standing
We breathe fight
We are standing
I sing because it is heard
We are standing
Here we stand

You cannot buy my life

Children's book author and illustrator, mami of three, wife, sun aficionado, amateur singer and Margarita lover born in Lima, Peru and living in sunny AZ.


  • October 10, 2011


  • October 10, 2011

    Thank you so much for posting this! My husband and I went to Peru in May for our honeymoon and it was wonderful to be reminded of beautiful Peru!

  • October 18, 2011


  • October 20, 2011

    Descrubì ahorita tus maravillosas ilustraciones!
    Super lindas!
    Soy una chica italiana a la q gusta dibujar…y aprender de todo.
    Acabo de escuchar la cancion…y espero poder pronto hacer un viaje a Perù q desde pequena me persigue con cuentos, musicas e historias!

  • October 20, 2011

    Descrubì ahorita tus maravillosas ilustraciones!
    Super lindas!
    Soy una chica italiana a la q gusta dibujar…y aprender de todo.
    Acabo de escuchar la cancion…y espero poder pronto hacer un viaje a Perù q desde pequena me persigue con cuentos, musicas e historias!

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