La Paloma and its haunting beauty

This haunting song is used to great effect in the movie “Juarez” (in1939, the same year that “Gone with the Wind” appeared). It is also used in the movie “Das Boot” and the tough German submariners love it. There are many versions of this song’s lyrics. Mine is only one of them. Depending on who’s singing you might get a different version of the words. I have tried to include several recordings: Nana Mouskouri’s is one of the best. The version used in the Juarez movie comes near the end of the movie, just before the Emperor Maximilian and his wife meet their sad fates. People seem to either love or hate Julio Iglesias. I don’t know why anyone could hate him–he puts so much passion into a song.

1. Cuando salí de la Habana

When I left Havana

2 ¡Válgame Dios!

God help me!

3. Nadie me ha visto salir

No one saw me leave

4. si no fui yo

if not myself.

5. y una linda guachinanga

And a pretty guachinanga.

6. como una flor

like a flower

7. se vino detrás de mí.

who came after me.

8. ¡Que sí, señor!

Oh yes, Sir!

CHORUS

9 Si a tu ventana

If to your window

10 llega una paloma,

a dove arrives

trátala con cariño

treat it with affection

12. que es mi persona.

because it is me.

13. Cuéntale tus amores,

Tell it (about) your loves,

14. bien de mi vida,

Love of my life,

15. Corónala de flores.

Crown her with flowers.

16. que es cosa mía.

because she is mine.

17. ¡Ay! ¡Chinita que sí!

Oh, my little dove, yes!

18. ¡Ay! ¡Que dame tu amor!

Oh, give me your love!

19. ¡Ay! ¡Que vente conmigo,

Oh, come with me,

20. Chinita, a dónde vivo yo!

Chinita, to where I live!

Repeat 5-20, then 17-20

General Notes This song goes on for several more verses but I am including only the part that most singers sing. The parts that I have not included tell of their marriage in the cathedral and some speculation on the number of children they will have: at least seven and as many as fifteen “guachinanguitos.” The composer of this song, Sebastián Iradier, was born in Spain in 1809 and visited Cuba in 1861. It was there that he got the idea for La paloma, which appeared in 1863. The story of doves being able to carry souls possibly originates with the sinking of the Persian fleet in a storm in 492 B. C.

This song appears in the movie Das Boot (1981) in which even hardened German submariners respond to its delicate charm. La paloma is also nicely woven into the fabric of the movie Juárez where it is presented as the favorite song of the Empress Carlota, wife of the ill-fated Maximilian. Maximilian is shot by a firing squad in Mexico; Carlota ends up in a mental institution in France.

Iradier’s habanera, “El Arreglito” (1864) is remarkably like Bizet’s “Habanera” in the opera “Carmen” (1875). When pressed, Bizet admitted it but said he had thought the song was in the popular tradition and therefore without copyright problems. Try Youtubing “Habanera and Maria Callas” for a real treat. There are other good artists to check out on YouTube e.g. Rosita Serrano, Victoria de los Ángeles and Dean Martin. Sebastián de Iradier y Salaverri, composer of “La paloma”

Language Points • line 5: guachinanga. This word usually means a red snapper but here it is a term of endearment for a woman. Go figure! • line 17: Chinita: I couldn’t find good explanations of either of these words. Chinita can sometimes mean something along the lines of “my girl”. • lines 17-19: Ay! eludes translation and can have many meanings.

General Notes This song goes on for several more verses but I am including only the part that most singers sing. The parts that I have not included tell of their marriage in the cathedral and some speculation on the number of children they will have: at least seven and as many as fifteen “guachinanguitos.” The composer of this song, Sebastián Iradier, was born in Spain in 1809 and visited Cuba in 1861. It was there that he got the idea for La paloma, which appeared in 1863. The story of doves being able to carry souls possibly originates with the sinking of the Persian fleet in a storm in 492 B. C.

This is la Paloma   Juarez

And here is Julio””

Nana Mouskouri

I have tried to download three clips but I am a bit leary: they might disappear into space at any time. Why are there so many copies? I have no idea. For those who don’t know (I sure didn’t) you can get a song by googling Youtube plus the title of the song. Several versions of it should come up on your screen when you do this. Choose one of them and save it by holding down “control C” and running your cursor through the url of the title. This will probably be a long line of letters, numbers and I don’t know what. You can save this to a file (cut and paste). Then google and enter the url in the search bar. Click “enter” and it should take you to the song.

This is la Paloma   Juarez

And here is Julio””

Nana Mouskouri

This is la Paloma   Juarez

And here is Julio””

Nana Mouskouri

I got this clip by going to Youtube and entering “Juarez” (a movie from the late 1930s), staring Bette Davis as Carlota.  

And here is Julio Iglesias’ version:

Julio Iglesias

Nana Mouskouri

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