“Caminito”, a great tango

Here is another excerpt from my new book, “Love songs in Spanish for Enjoyment and learning.”The song is “Caminito”, one of the most haunting of all Argentinian tangos.  On the CD which comes with the book I have chosen the version of Carlos Gardel. Placido Domingo sings it much better, I am sure, but Gardel’s voice carries all the flavor of the world of tango in Buenos Aires in the 1930s.

In my book I describe the parallels between this tango and a famous French poem, “Le Lac” by Alphonse de Larmartine.  It is quite possible that the lyricist of “Caminito” was familiar with “Le lac” and, on some level, influenced by it. After you listen to “Caminito” and follow the words to it, read on and you will find out about its very strange history.

Have some fun with this song: listen to a recording of “Caminito” and follow the words (with English translation) that you will find below. This is a great way to improve your Spanish and at the same time enjoy the beauty of a very poetic song. If you can split your screen (e.g. with Windows 7), drag this blog to the bottom of the screen then google Youtube and enter “Caminito” in the search bar. When the various versions appear on the right side of your screen, choose one and play it. As you listen follow the words which you have on this blog.



1. Caminito que el tiempo ha borrado
Little path which time has erased

2. Que juntos un día nos viste pasar,
Which one day saw us pass by together,

3. He venido por última vez,
I have come for the last time.

4. He venido a contarte mi mal.
I have come to tell you about my misfortune.

5. Caminito que entonces estabas
Little path who used to be

6. Bordado de treból y juncos en flor,
Lined with clover and flowering rushes,

7. Una sombra ya pronto serás,                                                                                                                           A shadow you will soon be

8. Una sombra lo mismo que yo.
A shadow the same as me.

9. Desde que se fue, triste vivo yo.
Since she left I live sadly.

10. Caminito amigo, yo también me voy.
Little path, my friend, I too am leaving.

11. Desde que se fue, nunca más volvió.
Since she went, she never returned.

12. Seguiré sus pasos.                                                                                                                                              I will follow her steps

13. Caminito, adiós!
Little path, adiós!

14. Caminito que todas las tardes
Little path (on) which every afternoon

15. Feliz recorría cantando mi amor,
Happy, I walked, singing of my love.

16. No le digas si vuelve a pasar
Don’t tell her if she passes by again

17. Que mi llanto tu huella regó.
That my tears sprinkled your traces.

18. Caminito cubierto de cardos
Little path covered with thistles

19. La mano del tiempo tu huella borró.
The hand of time has erased your traces.

20. Yo a tu lado quisiera caer,
I would like to fall at your side

21. Y que el tiempo nos mate a los dos.
And may time kill both of us.

22. Desde que se fue, triste vivo yo.
Since she left, I live in sadness.

23. Caminito amigo, yo también me voy.
Caminito, my friend, I too am leaving.

24. Desde que se fue, nunca mas volvió.
Since she left, she never returned.

25. Seguiré sus pasos. Caminito adiós!
I will follow her steps. Caminito, farewell!

To find ot more about  “Caminito” and my book, “Love songs in Spanish for Enjoyment and Learning” be sure to visit my website: http://www.godwinbooks.com

General Points

Plácido Domingo sang Caminito in the 1990 Three Tenors Concert at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. Look it up on Youtube.

“Caminito” brings to mind in several ways “Le Lac” (1820) by Alfonse de Lamartine and
it is quite possible that Peñaloza, the librettist, knew the poem which is widely considered a masterpiece of the Romantic era in France. In Le Lac the narrator returns to the lake where he and his love (by then deceased)  used to walk and enjoy the love which they shared. He reflects on her, his great loss and the shortness of life. Both “Caminito” and “Le Lac”  use personification in similar ways. Here are a few lines from Lamartine’s poem.

Ainsi, toujours poussés vers de nouveaux rivages,
Dans la nuit éternelle emportés sans retour,                                                                                       Ne pourrons-nous jamais sur l’océan des âges
Jeter l’ancre un seul jour?

Ô lac! L’année à peine a fini sa carrière
Et près des flots chéris qu’elle devait revoir,                                                                             Regarde! Je viens seul m’asseoir sur cette pierre
Où tu la vis s’asseoir.

It goes as follows in a free but surprisingly  good English version:

Thus driven forth forever to new shores
Borne towards Eternal Night and never away,
Sailing the Sea of Ages, can we not
Drop anchor for one day?

Oh, Lake! The year has scarcely spun its course.
Now, by the waves she should have seen again,
Watch how I sit, alone, upon this stone
On which you saw her then.

Lamartine thought that sadness was the most natural emotion of lyric poetry (including songs): “Le chant naturel de l’homme est triste.” (The natural song of man is a sad one.) Would you agree? It seems to me that many of the songs in “Love Songs in Spanish for Enjoyment and Learning” (especially those dealing with unrequited love) convey  sadness.

The story of how “Caminito” came to be is a very strange one.

“The words were written by Gabino Coria Peñaloza in 1903 and tell the story of his first love, a young school teacher he met and wooed in the foothills of the Andes at Olta, in Argentina’s La Rioja province. Their favorite promenade was an out-of-the-way path in the wilds. Unfortunately he had to leave the area for a year and while absent her parents sold their house and took her with them. There is some speculation that she had got pregnant but whatever the case Peñaloza lost her and from this bitter and tender experience forged a poem called “Caminito.”

Meanwhile, Oscar de Diós Filiberto, born in 1885 in Buenos Aires, discovered a lovely tango melody one day when he was out walking in the streets of a poor section of Buenos Aires. The year was 1924. About a year later Filiberto was introduced to Peñaloza at a party given by Quinquela Martín, who became a famous painter /champion of the working class (and much admired by Mussolini). Filiberto asked Peñaloza if he would write the words to the fine tango music that he had written. Peñaloza listened to the music once then replied that he didn’t need to write the words because he had already written them, way back in 1903.

Thus did “Caminito” come to be. The words and the music seem made for each other. The use of what John Ruskin called “the pathetic fallacy” i.e. where the poet talks to an inanimate  object as if it had feelings, empathy and intelligence  works well in this tango. Nostalgia in all its forms is a common theme in tangos.

I wrote an earlier blog called “Caruso and tango.” It has a lot to say about the part that nostaligia plays in the Argentine tango. I have included in that blog a recording of Caruso singing “Addio a Napoli”. Check out my website for other information: http://www.godwinbooks.com







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