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I am listening to the famous song "Guantanamera guijira". What is the genesis of the word guijira? Wikipedia says that it means "peasant girl".

  • Posted Apr 15, 2010
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guajira feminine noun1. = Cuban popular song about country life

Copyright © 2006 Chambers Harrap Publishers Limited

guajira [goo-ah-hee’-ro, rah] adjective1. Rustic, rural. 2. Rustic, rude, boorish.

Velazquez® Spanish and English Dictionary. Copyright © 2007 by Velazquez® Press. All rights reserved

2 Vote

This is the best answer I have found:

First, "guajira" (or "guajiro", in the case of a man) are words of Caribe (native American tribe) origin from northern Colombia. The Colombian province located in the northeast coast bordering Venezuela is to this day called "Departamento de La Guajira". In Cuba, guajira and guajiro are used as nicknames for rural or country folk, just as "hillbilly" is used in the U.S.

As Cuban musical history developed, there developed a FORM of traditional country music called a "guajira", also known in Cuban popular culture as a "decima", referring to the traditional Spanish ten-line poem used to frame the Cmaj, Fmaj, Gmaj musical chord structure it employs, and the structure ABAB. A "Guajira" is sung folk music, and can be played alone or in groups of unlimited number, and to this day the decimas are often improvised. This form of music is quite alive in Cuba and in Miami to this day, and is a popular pastime in both the country and in cities. Men and women challenge each other to see who could come up with on-the-spot poetic improvisation.

The song Guantanamera is similar in structure to the Mexican song "La Bamba", which structurally speaking is a traditional guajira. La Bamba is a traditional folk song from Yucatan, closer to Cuba than to to Mexico City. Another more recent example of that musical structure is "Twist and Shout" by the Isley Brothers, later covered by the Beatles.

"Guantanamera" composer Joseito Fernandez clearly wrote the song to have a double meaning, referring both a woman, and as an anthem to the music genre, which by the time he composed "Guantanamera" in 1930 was already an ancient form of music.

You can find in youtube Joseito Fernandez HIMSELF singing about the origins of the guajira and the decima. Continue to explore You Tube using the search phrase "Decima Cubana" and you will feast your eyes and ears with various videos of Cubans playing their venerable country music.

1 Vote

Please see Fidalgo's answer, which would be the answer to your question. The word "peasant" commonly refers to the people who till the land and they are therefore rural/rustic/country people. "Guantanamera guajira" means "pheasant girl from Guantánamo".

0 Vote

El Real Academia Española's dictionary describes its origin as "Del arahuaco antillano guajiro, señor, hombre poderoso." That means that it's from an "Arawak" word meaning lord or powerful man. According to Wikipedia, Arawak or arahuaco was a word used by the Spanish to refer to the people they encountered in the West Indies.

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