Sunday, September 16, 2007

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Today is el 16 de Septiembre - Mexican for "4th of July" - so what better time to poke gentle fun at the Mexican National Anthem? Okay, first let's poke fun at Independence Day in general, which is not only today, but also yesterday. Two Independence Days back to back? Well, it used to be just September 16, since that was the day in 1810 that a group of rebels boldly declared war on Spain and, quicker than you can say "Viva Mexico," found their severed heads displayed on pikes around the fortress in Guanajuato. Then, around the turn of the (last) century, the dictator Porfirio Diaz decreed that the celebration should be a two-day affair, adding September 15 - which just happened to be the birthday of....Porfirio Diaz! (Go ahead - laugh at the silly little banana republic; George W. Bush's birthday is July 6. Enjoy your three-day weekend.)

So we've had ample opportunity to listen to the Mexican National Anthem over the past two days. There's no shortage of batshit crazy nativists who predict that this song will replace the "Start Spangled Banner" unless the US builds a 2,000 mile alligator-infested moat. Nonsense, cobardes. Sure, it's hard to feel a lot of national pride when your anthem contains the word "spangle," but the actual title of the Mexican National Anthem is "The Mexican National Anthem" (El Himno Nacional Mexicano). Seriously, it's like they're not even trying. But just compare them side by side - theirs vs. ours. We would suggest that this is a large and vastly underreported reason why so many Mexicans are coming to the US.

The song consists of a chorus and four stanzas (numbered, amusingly, 1-5-6 and 10.) If the crowd in the Plaza de Armas last night is any indication, every Mexican knows the first stanza really well. The remaining ten minutes (it's about as long as "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys") is just incoherent mumbling. Probably for the best, since the actual lyrics have nothing to do with the Mexico we know:

War, war without quarter to any who dare
to tarnish the country's coat of arms!
War, war! Let the national banners
be soaked in waves of blood.
War, war! In the mountain, in the valley,
let the cannons thunder in horrid unison
and may the sonorous echoes resound
with cries of Union! Liberty!

Oh country, ere your children, defenseless
bend their neck beneath the yoke,
may your fields be watered with blood,
may they leave their footprints in blood....

...etc, etc, etc. Makes those "bombs bursting in air" seem positively quaint, doesn't it? Maybe they should jettison the words and music altogether and just hold up a severed foot. Bear in mind that the Mexican Army is pretty much Washington Generals of the Americas. If not for the Civil War, I don't think they'd have a single notch in the "win" column.

About six months ago the US had a collective attack of the stupids when some Latino artists released a Spanish version of the "Star Spangled Banner" (titled Nuestro Himno, because no one could translate "spangled" without giggling). By contrast, Mexico is secure enough in its national ideantity to have commissioned translations of their anthem into ten indigenous languages. RealAudio clips here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Our castillos were better than yours, I bet. Viva viva.