My Bilingual Journey
A Cultural Space is where we grow up: our life experiences, identities, languages, the social spaces we inhabit – our ROOTS; and in my story, my heart and soul are NOT FAR FROM THE BORDER; it’s a life from cradle to grave.
Introduction: Circles of Cultural Knowledge
Not Far from the Border: My Bilingual Journey is a collection of songs and poems combined with a reflective narrative to describe certain life-changing moments in my life, and how being bilingual and bicultural shaped my identity and guided my work and study.
In a large state such as Texas, communities are diverse in multiple ways. While some community members relish experiences with people in culturally diverse environments, others favor a less connected life with folks that they perceive as starkly different. Within our democracy that allows extraordinary freedoms and liberties, so many of us choose to live exclusively within the barriers of our cultural norms. Of course, economics and social attitudes are some of the factors that constitute our reality, and only a few expect any major changes to the issues that address the myriad of social and economic inequalities. Based on my personal experience, it seems that as we engage with others, in dialogue and interaction, for instance, we learn about others’ cultures, and in the process, we tend to acquire a perspective, not only of understanding, but also of self-awareness. This “circle of cultural knowledge” strengthens our perspective of the uniqueness of culture, and how as a society we shape our community, in the most profound, authentic, and essential sense of the concept.
The circle of cultural knowledge is not only about keeping our culture alive in our own particular way(s), but it is also about participating in shared cultural experiences, or what some individuals would say, “giving back to your own culture.”
My parents were born in México and they met in Nuevo Laredo (across from Laredo, Texas), where my mother had lived for most of her life. I was born in 1949 in Ciudad Juárez, across from El Paso, Texas. I was number three and the first daughter in a family of five brothers and a sister. My parents migrated to Texas when I was five; we lived in Alice, El Campo, and Lampasas before eventually settling in Fort Worth, Texas when I was in the sixth grade. Prior to crossing the border we lived in three border towns or cities: Juárez, Reynosa (across from McAllen), and Nuevo Laredo. My father was an experienced bootmaker and was employed by a boot company in the “Cowtown” center of North Fort Worth. My parents and three siblings born in México received naturalization or citizenship papers in 1967, the year I graduated from Northside High School.
My father specialized in custom-made boots, but he held his job mainly to bring food to the table to feed a large family. His real passion was music. He could play the saxophone and piano (and probably other instruments); he taught my two older brothers everything about music, and they each learned to play an instrument, saxophone and trumpet. I wasn’t included in his “band,” but I was a very attentive observer. I learned to appreciate and love music in a profound way at a very young age, as if it were a third language added to my Spanish and English.
I wanted to pursue an education but I was undecided on my major. I didn’t pursue a music degree. I don’t have any professional music training, although I have a deep respect for others that have dedicated their lives to the study of music. I learned to play violin in a school orchestra when I was fifteen, and soon afterward, I “picked up” the guitar. I started writing songs out of frustration, both because I couldn’t play very well and I wasn’t satisfied with the songs I was trying to learn. The guitar became my constant companion throughout the years, in the best and worst of times.
1. This Train Wreck
The song, This Train Wreck, is based on a poem, Along the Border, which I wrote about living in a fusion of two worlds – two languages, two cultures. I was living in Edinburg, working at the University of Texas Pan American. After being there for a couple of years, I began to acquire a different perspective of the “border.” What was once a blur in my understanding of the dynamics of a river boundary, became the focus of an epiphany that led to an exploration of identity, in self and as a community member. Most importantly I realized that I wasn’t alone, that there was a world of people that had distinct commonalities and differences, but all living a life in two worlds. But, it is the manner by which each person combines the worlds, and then, navigates through the diverse complex situations, that presents a uniqueness in the expressions of culture and language. I often wonder to what extent border-life duality attributes to authentic creative expression, and thus, one of the reasons why so many inspirational poets in Texas come from “el valle” or the “border,” regardless of where they live today.
In the poem, Along the Border, I juxtapose the sentiments of happiness in living in a Spanish and English language world, with the uncertainty and anxiety of border life. People live and work on either side of the border and the act of crossing is the only reminder that there are two immense countries that share a river, the Río Grande, which serves as the border. There are many differences between the two countries, but the people that live along the border share certain similarities, as expressed in the last lines of the poem:
When we get off the train, when our
feet finally tread on steady ground,
you don’t know which side of the tracks
your heart lies.
And, from the lyrics of the song:
This train wreck
Is splitting my heart in two
I don’t know which side
My heart belongs
2. El cruce conmigo
In El cruce conmigo, the lyric’s voice is that of a parent of a young child on the eve of his/her departure, reassuring the child that crossing the border (from México to the U.S.) is a sacrifice for the benefit of the his/her future. I know this voice from my childhood experience of migrating to the United States and since the time I was teaching third and fourth graders in early 1970s in Edgewood ISD, in San Antonio. I chose to teach in Edgewood, one of the poorest school districts in Texas, because I felt I would be needed there, mainly because I was bilingual and I would be able teach children in both English and Spanish, and because I could relate to the children’s experiences as first-time English learners. This elementary school teaching profession was not one of my original choices when I attended college.
When I transferred to Texas Woman’s University (TWU) in Denton from a community college in Fort Worth, I had chosen the Performing Arts in Theater as my major. However, my life took on a very different turn when I met a professor, Dr. John Reilly, from TWU, at the grocery store in Denton where I was working as a part-time cashier. He was on a mission to recruit students for a new program, the Teacher Corps, specifically to teach in bilingual education. The program included tuition and salary for part-time work as a teacher aide. I accepted the offer mostly out of convenience. Upon graduation, our Teacher Corps was one of the few undergraduate level programs in the country. Dr. Reilly recruited me in the summer of 1969 and in the fall he was killed in an automobile accident. His memory lives forever in my heart. He was the first person that I’ve ever known to utter the words, bilingual education.
After graduating from Texas Christian College (part of the TWU-TCU Consortium), I started teaching at Gardendale Elementary School in Edgewood, and after a year of teaching, I knew that I had made the right choice, not only because of the joy and intrigue in working with young children, but also for the opportunity to teach exclusively in Spanish, along with ESL. I saw myself in the children I taught: their first language was Spanish like in my case, and school was their only resource for learning English. As their teacher, my immediate reaction was one of pride and determination. I wanted to make a difference in their lives and teach them in ways that they could feel proud of their language and heritage, and of course, conquer the world. I barely made enough money to pay for rent and expenses, but nevertheless, I felt incredibly fortunate.
When I attended elementary school in Alice, Lampasas, and El Campo, I had to learn English on my own, without any kind of second language instruction. I learned to read and write in Spanish when at fifteen I attended a Catholic boarding school and convent close to Chicago, and the only way to communicate with my mother was through letter-writing. And, with my mother, our communication was completely in Spanish. Fortunately, the Spanish language has a fairly strict letter/sound association, even so, I imagined my mother’s amused expression when reading my letters. I went to the school with my dear friend, Cruz Villanueva, for whom I’m forever grateful for being so kind to me. We had to take Latin courses.
After four years of teaching at Edgewood, I decided to leave the classroom and pursue advanced degrees, mostly because as bilingual teachers, we were in constant need of resources and assistance in improving our programs. Bilingual education was practically brand new since the passage of the Bilingual Education Act in 1968. My focus shifted from teaching children to educating the community and training future bilingual educators. I knew I had a lifetime of work in front of me, and after my Master’s degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio, I continued at the University of Texas at Austin where I received my doctorate’s degree. The move from San Anto to Austin was a huge leap of faith; my heart was both sad and content. San Antonio was a cultural arts haven (and still is) where my creativity blossomed in full, and I felt a strong sense of belonging. But I loved teaching, and I continued to work in my profession for the next forty-five years. I believe that I learned so much from my children; we learned from each other. The bond between and amongst us was strong; we seem to instinctively understand the challenges we face today and for the rest of our lives; we shared this common understanding to the core.
This sentiment is expressed in the refrain of El cruce conmigo:
Una tristeza se vuelve a un llanto
Cada vez que cruzo al Río Bravo
Si es el infierno o el cielo, no importa
El cruce es una infinita tormenta.
Ya no se ni pa’ donde me voy
Porque tengo el cruce conmigo.
A sadness turns into madness
Each time I cross the Río Bravo (the Rio Grande)
It may be difficult or easy, it doesn’t matter
The crossing is always an infinite torture
I don’t know if I’m coming or going
‘Cause I have the border within me
Related poems: Their Dreams, Chameleon at the Border, For Every Bridge There’s a Wall, River Rain
3. El Sentido (Desnudar)
The double title of the song, El Sentido or Desnudar, reflects an English/Spanish language issue. The original title, Desnudar, was meant to describe in multiple meanings the process of “becoming,” one who is in a state of loss and hopelessness, and vulnerability, which is implicit in the description: “corazón desnudo” (literally, a naked heart). However, El sentido, (the purpose), seems to better describe the song through a Spanish language filter. Additionally, the song includes lyrics “borrowed” or influenced from English language songs, such as “el movimiento de la tierra,” from Carole King’s song lyrics, “I feel the earth move under my feet,” and “lágrimas de ríos,” from the song, Cry Me a River (“I cried a river over you”) by Arthur Hamilton.
The song refers to a period of time when, as a young adult I felt pressured to find purpose or meaning in life, and to make life-long decisions that I had very little understanding about. I was in middle school, high school and college during the social revolution of the 1960s, and the little that I understood about life was turned on its head.
My parents were struggling to keep their marriage together, and my two older brothers enlisted in the military and fought in the Marine Corps in the Vietnam War. There were many circles of our friends that were soldiers in the battlefields of Vietnam, a country we knew nothing about, and were clueless as to what they were fighting for and what they were enduring. Many young men from our community were killed in the war, but both my brothers survived. But my brother, Beto, had injuries from exposure to Agent Orange, a defoliant chemical, which complicated his health that led to a premature death in 1996. He wasn’t yet 50. The poem I wrote, the Warrior Planet, was meant to honor his memory and say good-bye to my brother, whom had been my closest sibling when we were children, and who had faced the monster of war, and fought bravely:
Where you died a thousand deaths,
And you came back on borrowed time,
For one more look, one more sigh, one more kiss.
While the Vietnam War raged on like a burning house, on this side of the planet, I felt I was fighting my own war. I had so many questions about life in general and specific to being female, as in the expression in this line of the lyrics: “Buscando señas de verdad, detrás la pared de la vida.” (“Looking for signs of truth/meaning behind the walls of life.”) On the one hand, I had a strong desire to be a mother, a sentiment acquired from age 12 when I took on the role of my mother’s helper, taking care of my siblings, fraternal twins, Johnny and Annie. But I also realized that motherhood alone could not fulfill my other dreams or aspirations. I watched as my mother struggled to find contentment and happiness in her role as a wife and mother. She had completed six years of school in Nuevo Laredo, and had yet to learn English. My father had a basic English competency. They had been married for about 23 years and had struggled continuously to stay afloat economically, and deal with changes that they never anticipated, at least not in the U.S. One day I arrived home from either work or school. I was nineteen. When I entered the house I found my mother sitting on chair, crying unconsolably, holding her hand over what seemed to be a cut on her head. I noticed a broken rolling pin on the floor. All I could do was to hug her as tightly as I could. I felt like I knew what had happened. I never saw my father again. He left without saying good-bye; I didn’t realize the true nature of grief until months and years after he had left. To this day I don’t know why they had such a fierce argument, perhaps, my father wanted to leave but my mother didn’t. It was a very emotional time for my mother.
I felt as though my father abandoned me and my siblings; I try to express the sentiment in the last lines of the song:
Y tú, desapareciéndote con una bolsa, llena de corajes,
Pasión, y mi corazón, mi corazón
Corazón desnudo, desnudo
And you, disappearing with a bag full of anger,
Passion, and my heart, my heart
My innocent and hurting heart.
My father’s departure was a constant reminder that I alone am responsible for the choices I make in life, and in many situations my decisions were based on the desire to follow my instinct, urging me to stay on course, and look forward.
These are some of the lines in a poem (Papá) I wrote for my father:
I can’t feel your pain, Papá
Your falling curtains shut me off,
And I’m left with your soulful fears
That burden you in the cloudiest nights,
That hurt you without telling you,
That silence you to a wailing, yelling mess.
If you could talk to me from your cold and
I would hear your anger forever gnawing at my heels,
I would feel all over again what I see in my dreams,
A young girl crying to her father that
She is the orphan and he, the ruler of her life.
Although I believed that having a family was a tangible option, I also saw myself as part of the Women’s Liberation Movement. At the time, women of color were mostly silent as White women took the center stage, demanding rights for equality in the workplace. It was in the 1970s, and the role of women was changing, and I believed that I could be part of that movement, even though I realized that as a woman of color, I had to over-achieve and work as hard as possible to fulfill the roles of a mother, wife and a career woman. Throughout the history of this country, women have always been at the forefront for change in our democracy, and this time the groundswell for support was broad and deep-rooted. I realized the challenges in overcoming the obstacles, even so I wasn’t deterred; I had more to lose if I didn’t make the effort.
At the same time, the Chicano Movement was gradually gaining strength and momentum, where community leaders rallied support to demand justice and equality, in tandem with the protestations and demands of the civil rights movement. I was a Chicana in the movement and wholeheartedly supported the main principles that guided our struggle against inequality and for action to change. But, within the Chicano Movement structure, women played secondary roles that I felt were relegated to the kinds of inferior treatment that the Women’s Movement was fighting against. My priorities were different, and I believed then (as I do today) that I wanted to be part of a wider struggle against injustices for all kinds of people.
Related poems: Warrior Planet, Papá
4. La luna está de luto
In the song, La luna está de luto, the moon is a metaphor that describes a grieving widow that has lost the “night” because of the gang violence and killings of so many innocent people on the Mexican side of the US/Mexico border. I wrote the song during the time between 2008 and 2012 when I was living and working in Edinburg, a border city, close to McAllen and Reynosa on the other side of the border. Just a few miles further west, the border town of Cd. Mier, once a beautiful city that had been drastically transformed due to the damages from horrific gun battles, some of these shown on local news stations. I also heard these kinds of stories from my students at the university (UTPA) where I was teaching education classes. The University of Texas at Pan American (UTPA) is now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Another incident occurred south of Matamoros, across from Brownsville, that struck terror in the hearts of those affected. One of my students and her family were trapped during a gun fight on a trip to visit a doctor. Terrified and confused, they were able to escape the area during a lull in the fight. I wrote about it in the poem, Close Your Eyes. I also visited Nuevo Progreso, a border town known for its high attendance of tourists, on the day after a fierce gun battle where at least two persons were killed. Most of the people were unwilling to talk about the incident, and most seem unnerved by it as if they had become accustomed to these violent outbursts. There was one man, a food vendor that told me his story, which I retold in a poem, ¡Qué viva la paz!
The Mexican newspapers published other stories, at least as much as they could since journalists were under the constant threat of being killed by the drug cartels. One story was about a young couple going home one Friday evening when they inadvertently drove their car into the crossfire of a gun fight. The song lyrics expresses what I imagined happened when the husband, who was driving the car, was shot and killed. His wife in the passenger seat, reached over to him and touched the blood on his body:
Esa noche te dije adiós
Como nunca lo esperaba
Tu sangre quedó en mis manos
Y sentí tu vida dentro la mía
That night I said good-bye to you
I never would have expected;
Your blood was on my hands
And I felt your life inside of mine
Related poems: The Children of Porvenir, Cierren los ojos, The Red Book, ¡Qué viva la paz!, A Different World
5. La iguana
The song, La iguana, begins with the general voice of a migrant attempting to illegally cross into the United States. The background is part of a vast, semi-desert brush area in South Texas (“bajo el sol imperdonable, espinas de sangre, piedras de fuego“). Thousands of undocumented or irregular migrants have attempted to make the dangerous journey, seeking a new life. Although many originate from México, the majority of undocumented migrants in recent years have come from the three countries, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, also known as the Northern Triangle Countries in Central America. The lyrics speak to the harshness of their journey, and that even as they leave their old lives behind, in reality, their dreams for the new life may not be as fruitful as they believe. Many migrants perish in the South Texas labyrinth of death, yet very little if anything is done by the federal government to address this tragedy.
Bajo el sol imperdonable
Espinas de sangre
Piedras de fuego
Trás las huellas de sueños rotos
Under the suffering hot sun
Thorns of blood
Stones of fire
Leaving behind memories of shattered dreams
The next lines refer to the migrant experiences of violence, frustration and indignities that have compelled them to make the decision to leave and journey northward, despite their understanding of the difficulties and the possibility of losing their lives.
Te dejo mis anhelos
Ya no los quiero
Aquí el camino termina
Los ojos cerrados, los oídos no quieren oir
I leave you (referring to their home country) everything I’ve ever dreamed about
This is the end for me,
I accept my destiny, my eyes are closed, my ears cannot hear
The line about the “eyes closed, ears deaf,” also refers to the common expression used by gang members in their pursuit to extort, control and manipulate the residents that live in the gang-controlled neighborhoods. Gang violence that contributes to extremely high number of deaths among inhabitants in the Northern Triangle countries is one of the major reasons for the migration waves. Many migrants with irregular documentation (no passport) make the decision to leave their homes because they believe that their lives are at risk, and that they don’t have other options.
In the final lines, the lyric’s voice shifts to an expression of protest: for the inhumane treatment of undocumented migrants by U.S. government officials, for the lack of compassion and understanding on behalf of many Americans, for lack of policies or decisions that address the root causes of migration, and the unwillingness by our government to develop an effective comprehensive immigration policy to eliminate undue suffering and deaths among migrants.
Ya me voy, ya me voy
Con la iguana al cima de la montaña
En busca de las palabras
Que me dejastes en llamas
Me quemastes las palabras
Y me dejastes nada
I’ll take this injustice to the top of the mountain
Wherever I need to go
To continue the fight toward justice
No matter how long it takes
Even if my protest falls on deaf ears
I will keep fighting,
I have nothing else to lose.
Related poems: No Picnic, Water (The River of Life in a Desert of Hell)
6. She Fell from the Sky
This song is based on a story of women during the armed conflict in Guatemala, and how they struggled to survive. It was known as the 36-year Internal Armed Conflict between the State military and the counterinsurgent forces, which caused the lives of 200,000 people and some of the generals were charged and convicted in crimes against humanity and the act of genocide. The most affected groups of people during 1980-83 massacres and assassinations were the indigenous groups from the northern regions in the states of Quiché and Huehuetenango. The Maya Ixil suffered the most casualties and were subjected to horrendous torture and death, where 90 villages where they lived were completely destroyed, and at least 80,000 men, women, and children were killed or died while hiding in the mountains from starvation, the cold, or sickness.
Stories of survival amongst the refugees surfaced after their return from the places of refuge in the mountains. Some families had been in hiding there for years. In the lyrics of this song, expressions of the bravery and strength against all odds speak to the harrowing journey of how women were able to survive and keep their children and others alive. What they experienced as victims is beyond comprehension because they were treated inhumanely, having to endure the most abominable, evil, and heinous torture. The army used violence against the women as part of their arsenal of weapons. The horrendous violence against the women was reprehensible, but the torture didn’t stop there. They saw their children being tortured and killed, and they were completely helpless.
I’ve reported on the history, experiences, and challenges of the Maya Ixil and others in Guatemala as a volunteer/writer since 2012. My experiences and expertise as a bilingual educator have opened up a world of diverse perspectives, languages and cultures. The unique way(s) of becoming bilingual and bicultural is as complex as it is fascinating. I’ve gained an enormous respect for people across different borderlands; and for every learning moment that I experience in their presence, I gain a life time of joy and gratitude.
7. Sentir el sol
This song is written from my mother’s point of view; from what I imagined she was thinking during the final phase of the debilitating effects due to the Alzheimer’s disease. The title is in reference to the simplest sensation, “to feel the heat of the sun,” which I noticed in my last visits with her. She couldn’t see or hear me; she was in another world. I wasn’t emotional then because I was too engrossed in her world and in trying to put myself inside of it. I recall several years before the complete onset of the disease that she was aware of the loss of memory, and would tell me that her time to die was near, which I try to express in the line: “donde el círculo comienza mi vida termina.” Writing and singing the song is a way of re-visiting my mother’s memory without the emotional strain that usually follows in moments of remembrance. She is with me, always.
Donde el círculo comienza
Mi vida termina
Donde la luz despierta es ciertamente el sol
El sol intento en quemar
Where the circle (of life) begins
So my life ends
The light that shines (on us) is the sun
The sun that radiates heat
Los recuerdos de ayer son como
Fantasía de una mirada cristalina
Tu voz, tu voz, que antes la escuchaba
Es solamente un sonido en la distancia
The memories of the past are
Like fantasies through a crystal ball
Your voice, your voice that I once knew
Is now a sound from the distance
Cuando me pongo los aretes
Que vi en una fotografía
Me hace sentir quien era esa mujer
Quien solo quería vivir.
When I put on my earrings
The ones I saw in a photograph,
It reminds me of a woman like me
That just wants to live
Si vivir es matar
Será como el agua en mis labios
Si vivir es matar
Será como el arma que disparo
If living is dying
It’s like water on my lips
If living is dying
It’s like killing with a gun
Para poder correr y llorar
Y sentir de nuevo el sol que me quema
Y sentir el sol que me quema
Then, I can run, and cry
And feel the heat of the sun again
The sun that radiates heat
In the poem, My Mother’s House, what stands out as “remembering her house,” is not so much about the physical contents, but it was the way we shared love: the indescribable mother-daughter kind of love:
Every love you leave behind
Intensifies within me a raging fire.
The love you have to teach me is worth more than this earth;
That the only thing living for is to live only once,
But to love and love and love forever.
Related poems: My Mother’s House, Pure and Simple, Silent Lessons
Soñando (Dreaming) is a song about following your heart and dreams. I think about my own dreams and how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to realize some of these, even if they were short-lived. When we were growing up in Lampasas, Texas, we didn’t have many role models to follow. I remember wanting to be an actress or a nun because we watched television and went to church. I was intrigued by the idea of being an actor and pretending to be someone else. I’m very fortunate in that I loved reading as a child and would often prefer to get lost in my book rather than play with my friends.
As a budding actress, I had a bit part in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was staged at the Casa Mañana Theater in Fort Worth. I was somewhat bored because I was sidelined during rehearsals but I used my off-time to prepare lessons for my students in the Teacher Corps program. In San Antonio, I was a member of the Teatro Chicano. We staged a street theater version of the Alamo, a play that centered on the ”truth” behind the siege of the Alamo, which is one of San Antonio’s main tourist attraction. In Austin, I had a pretty good major role in a play with the Austin Community Theater.
We started the Teatro Reflexiones group in San Antonio in the early 1970s, and chose to perform Henrik Ibsen’s The Doll House because of its gender inequality theme. However, to improve on its relevancy for our community we had to adapt it and translate it into Spanish. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center wasn’t yet around so the Our Lady of the Lake University allowed us to use their theater-in-the-round stage. The play became La casa de la muñeca; I played the role of Nora and directed it. The poster was made by César A. Martínez.
The lyrics in Soñando express how inspiration can be acquired by believing in yourself and staying focused on your dreams and passions. This truly is not so easy to accomplish. But it’s the creative process that is the most important. Fulfillment is achieved when you’re sufficiently satisfied and have no regrets for what you accomplished, as in the last lines of the song:
Cuando me pongo a pensar en tí
Estás allí en mi canto de lamento;
Por no vivir de tu amor
Aunque sea por un momento.
When I think about you (your dreams)
You’re there in my song of lament
For not following my dreams
Even for a brief time.
Related poem: I’d be a Fool
9. La canción romántica
La canción romántica follows a traditional, old-fashion Mexican song style. As in many of these kinds of songs, there is a message or lesson about life. At some point in life, we are inclined to make difficult choices and in most cases, these are guided by the most practical reasons, the kind that have the best consequences on the long-run. The lyrics in La canción romántica emphasize that to achieve our life-long goals, we alone must own our journey; we are solely responsible for the outcomes.
Y vivir la vida,
Y seguír con corazón
El camino solitario
Como solo entré en este mundo
I realized that to live my life
I had to follow my heart
And take the solitary path
Like I came into this world
The lyrics in the refrain reflect a reverential perspective of our world and by being humble and compassionate, we recognize that the simplest gifts in life give us the most fulfillment.
Tu eres como el árbol que me ama
La flor que respira del aire
El agua que nos hace nacer
La canción romántica que nos hace llorar
You are like the tree that loves me
The flower that breathes the air
The water that gives us life
The romantic song that makes us cry.
Related poems: Perfect Imperfections, Speak
10. All I Want to Hear
I’ve tried to express in my writings the ways that music has played an important role in my life. All I Want to Hear is my latest piece, and the same or similar message seems to emerge: that no matter the chaos or conflicts that we live in life, music is the salve that relieves the pain, no matter where it comes from. I owe my passion for music to my father, and although I didn’t get to know him as an adult, my childhood memories of love remain strong.
Related poems: I want to be With You, My Song
11. Cuánto cuesta la memoria
Finally, Cuánto cuesta la memoria is a torch song in the Mexican tradition. It’s not a “ranchera” or “mariachi” but it has a familiar theme: falling in love and out of love, cheating, and picking up the pieces, etc. As in most cases with song lyrics, the meaning is lost in the literal translation. The awkwardness in the English translation points out how this song, and frankly, any Spanish language song, is meant to be sung only in Spanish.
Cuánto cuesta la memoria de tu amor
Si todo lo que he soñado fue un error
Cuánto cuesta las lágrimas que perdí
Y las noches que pasé sin tí
Sin saber de la maldita razón
El fracaso me costó todito mi corazón
How much does the memory of love cost
When everything that I’ve dreamt about has been a mistake
How much do the lost tears cost
And all the nights I’ve spent alone without you
Without knowing the reason why you betrayed me
The mistake cost me all of my heart
En un descuido tu amor se desapareció
Sin darme cuenta te alejastes de mi
Tenías que saber que estaba ciega
Tenías que ver el dolor que me causabas
In a fleeting moment your love disappeared from me
Before I realized it you were gone from my life
You’ve had to have known that I was blind to what you were doing
You’ve had to have known the pain that you caused me
Ahora el tiempo sigue como un buen amigo
La memoria firme de los engaños que me hiciste
Al fin de cuentas yo te amé
Mucho más de que tu tuvistes la fé
Now, time is on my side like a good friend
But I won’t forget that you betrayed me
At the end I think I loved you more
Than the faith you had in our love
Cuánto cuesta la memoria de un amor
Si todo lo que he soñado fue un error
Sólo la vida tendrá que mostrar
Que el amor nunca se puede olvidar
How much does the memory of love cost
When everything that I’ve dreamt about has been a mistake
Only time will tell
Whether love truly cannot be forgotten
For the broken-hearted, this is the kind of song that is easier to listen to over a glass of wine or shot of tequila. ¡Salud! Cheers!
Related poems: The Only Man in My Planet Love Poem, No Valentine