British music producer Adam Kidron says he crafted a Spanish language version of the U.S. national anthem to inspire millions of Latin American immigrants to share in our devotion to our star-spangled banner.
More likely, Kidron and the various artists who worked on the project were seeking another avenue to shape the political debate over immigration reform (and sell some records along the way).
The attempt appears to have backfired, as “Nuestro Himno” has been criticized by none other than President Bush, who speaks a fair amount of Spanish himself and who has been consistently sympathetic to a future role for illegal immigrants already in U.S.
The significant criticism since “Nuestro Himno” was released last week might not have been so strong if Kidron had attempted a literal translation of the original tribute to Old Glory. The U.S. Department of Education first commissioned a Spanish version of the song in 1919 called “La Bandera de Estrellas,” according to the Library of Congress. And the U.S. State Department lists three other Spanish versions as well, which are intended to help foreign dignitaries understand what is sung when they attend U.S. ceremonies.
But Kidron and company provided their own interpretation of the poem by Francis Scott Key, not a translated version of the song declared our national anthem in 1931. Note the broad differences in the second verse of the “Nuestro Himno” with such phrases as “We are brothers in our anthem” and “The time has come to break the chains.”
Some commentators have defended these differences as necessary for the song to retain its lyrical quality in Spanish. But consider this little item included in the Washington Post’s reporting on the song’s release.
“An alternate version to be released (in May) includes a rap in English that never occurred to Francis Scott Key: Let’s not start a war/With all these hard workers/They can’t help where they were born.”
Many U.S. residents, of all ethnic backgrounds, are deeply concerned that immigrants who enter this country illegally have less interest in embracing the culture and values that unite this country and make it great. Kidron’s version of the “Star-Spangled Banner” has inflamed those concerns while trying to use our national anthem to make a political point.
”The Star Spangled Banner”
O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. O say does that star spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?
It’s sunrise. Do you see by the light of the dawn What we proudly hailed last nightfall? Its stars, its stripes yesterday streamed above fierce combat a symbol of victory the glory of battle, the march toward liberty. Throughout the night, they proclaimed: “We will defend it!” Chorus Tell me! Does its starry beauty still wave above the land of the free, the sacred flag?
Its stars, its stripes, liberty, we are equals. We are brothers in our anthem. In fierce combat, a symbol of victory the glory of battle, (My people fight on) the march toward liberty. (The time has come to break the chains.) Throughout the night they proclaimed: “We will defend it!” Tell me! Does its starry beauty still wave above the land of the free, the sacred flag?
English translation as provided by National Public Radio