Tribute to a Latin American Icon

by Tania Flores

The words and melodies of Facundo Cabral have haunted me for almost a year now, surging and welling up in me on days when I can feel wistfulness in my muscles and the folds of my skin tingle with the touch of fabric or the cool wooden surface of my desk. I could not stop listening to “No soy de aquí, ni soy de allá” after discovering this recording, could not help but sink into the song, the back of my throat prickling.

Cabral’s words, the tension between the verses of his songs, have the capacity to evoke visceral responses; Cabral touched on what was palpable, present, and sensory, the details that constitute what is pleasurable in life. His music articulated a simple and abiding love of life, a love of the experience of being human, as well as distaste for the excess and infrastructure and false needs that distance us from that experience.

In one of his songs, he sings, “Perdóname Señor, pero a veces me canso, a veces me canso de ser un ciudadano… Perdóname Señor, estoy harto de este infierno, este mercado mediocre donde todos tienen precio… Perdóname Señor, no quiero ser un ciudadano, yo quiero ser un hombre como me has creado,” or “Forgive me, God, but sometimes I grow tired, sometimes I grow tired of being a citizen…Forgive me, God, I’m tired of this hell, this mediocre market where we all have a price…Forgive me, God, I don’t want to be a citizen, I want to be a man as you have made me.”

In these verses, Cabral expressed perfectly the thought that has followed me for years — the thought that to be a person — and not a citizen, as he says — is a rare, difficult, worthy accomplishment.

In the prologue to this performance of “No soy de aquí, ni soy de allá,” Cabral says, “El día que yo me muera, no habrá que usar la balanza, pues para velar a un cantor, con una milonga alcanza,” or “The day that I die, there will be no need to weigh the scales, as a celebration suffices to mourn a singer.”

The brutality of Cabral’s July 9 death is distracting; it is tragic, a horrible irony. But it compels me to celebrate: to celebrate the softness of my skin, the coolness of this summer evening, the bowl of fresh strawberries at my side, the strength of my body and the urge my feet feel to dance on the hardwood floors of my house tonight. These are the things that Cabral loved, that I love, that humans love. As he said, “Porque uno no vive solo, y lo que a uno le pasa le está sucediendo al mundo.” One doesn’t live alone, and what is happening to one person is happening to the world.

Tania Flores is the former arts editor of ChicoSol. Contact her at taniaarabelleflores@gmail.com.

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