I've been teaching Spanish to Tom since I got back to the states. A few weeks ago, he introduced me to a bilingual album by Ry Cooder, Chavez Ravine . A summary from allmusic.com by Thom Jurek explains the album better than I could:
"It documents in mythical style the disappeared Los Angeles neighborhood of Chavez Ravine, a Mexican-American district that fought over by real estate developers, urban planning activists and city government. It was bulldozed in a sleazy deal was cut and it was razed order to erect a stadium that would lure Walter O'Malley's Brooklyn Dodgers to L.A."
Tom and I worked through the song Barrio Viejo (old neighborhood) and learned a lot of vocabulary. I translate a few stanzas below, to give you a taste of its poetry.
Here are the lyrics to the song, which I am posting because it was actually quite difficult to find them. When I did find them, it was in an obscure chicano literature newsletter and I'm pretty sure whoever put it together just wrote down the words to the song as he/she heard them. I fixed the few errors I found, but there are probably still inaccuracies.
Viejo barrio, barrio viejo
Solo hay lugares parejos
Donde un dia hubo casas
Donde vivió nuestra raza.
Solo quedan los escombros (Only ruins remain
De los hogares felices Of the happy homes
De las alegres familias Of the happy families
De esa gente que yo quise. Of these people who I loved)
Por las tardes se sentaba
Afuera a tomar el fresco
Yo pasaba y saludaba
Ya parece que oigo el eco.
Como está Doña Juanita.
Buenas tardes Isabel.
Hola que dices Chalita,
Como está Arturo y Manuel.
Viejo barrio, barrio viejo
Que en infancia te goce
Y con todos mis amigos
Iba descalzo al a pie.
De lay Mayer hasta “El Hoyo”
Desde “El Hoyo” hasta la hacequia,
De la hacequia hasta el rio,
Ese era el mundo mio.
Dicen que eramos pobres, (They say we were poor
Pues yo nunca lo note. Well, I never noticed
Yo era feliz en mi mundo, I was happy in my world
Ese aquel barrio que adore. In this neighborhood I adored)
Bonitas las serenatas
A las tres de la manana
Que le cantaba a mi chata
Pegandito a su ventana.
Por la calle de el convento,
Una casa destruida,
Quedó como momumento
Al gran amor de mi vida.
Pobrecito viejo barrio,
Como te debe doler.
Cuando en nombre del progreso
Derrumban otra pared.
Viejo barrio, barrio viejo, (Old neighborhood, neighborhood old
Yo tambien ya envejecí I also have already gotten old
Y cuando uno se hace viejo And when one gets old
Nadie se acuerda de ti. No one remembers you)
Vamanos muriendo juntos, (Let's go, we are dying together
Que me entierren en tu suelo That they would bury me in your ground
Y seremos dos difuntos And we would be two dead
Rodeados de mil recuerdos. Surrounded by a thousand memories)
To me, this is another "paved paradise" song. I love its sentiment and historical value. I also love that there are two different words for happy in this song. Alegre and feliz. The reason other languages captivate me so much is this-the subtle differences you can't translate.