Costa Rica Charms ‘The Monster’

March 10, 2006

Every February, in beautiful Viña del Mar, a city on the Pacific coast of Chile, about an hour and a half from Santiago, thousands of people come together to attend the Festival de Viña del Mar. Telecast to countries around the world, Viña del Mar is, in the minds of many, Latin America’s premier music festival.

The event showcases all different styles of music, and many singers and musicians of note make appearances.

An important aspect of the gala is a competition among different cultures and their music. International acts perform each program until a winner is determined on the last night. The festival runs for six nights in a row, starting at 10 p.m. and often running until 2 or 3 in the morning, depending, that is, on how “The Monster” wants it.

The Monster is what makes the Viña del Mar festival unique. In such events, we are used to waiting anxiously for the solemn opening of the envelope containing the final verdict of the judges, followed by the fervent pronouncement by the reigning celebrity:

“And the winner is…”

Not so in Viña del Mar. Although all acts are rated by a panel of celebrity judges, it is the reaction of “El Monstruo” (The Monster) – or so the audience has been dubbed for its capacity to devour its victims – that has the major impact on the awarding of the final prize: $30,000 and the prestigious Gaviota de Plata. The name of this trophy has been erroneously translated into English as “The Silver Dove.” A gaviota is, in fact, a seagull.

The trophy looks like a seagull and is an obvious choice for the symbol of a sea town. Thus, it is for “The Silver Seagull” that these international performers seek so avidly the love of The Monster.

Though never downright violent, The Monster can be vicious, casting hoots and whistles, when it is not enchanted by a performance.

On the other hand, when it loves what it is hearing, it may delay the entire program with enthusiastic shouts for encores. All in all, whether disgruntled or delighted, The Monster administers a grueling test of nerves to the performers under fire.

On Feb. 27, the last day of the festival, 37-year-old Costa Rican Humberto Vargas won the Gaviota de Plata for best song with his composition “Dilo de una vez.” The festival has been in existence since 1960, and this is the first time a Costa Rican has taken home the coveted trophy.

For those of you who still don’t read Spanish well, I am providing a translation of the lyrics (see sidebar). If you want to listen to the song or learn more about Humberto Vargas, go to www.humbertovargas.com.

To Vargas, let’s send out a hearty “Congratulations!” Ya done Costa Rica proud, kid.

“Dilo de una vez” – “Go Ahead and Say It”

This is as direct a translation of Humberto Vargas’ song lyrics as language differences allow. I have conserved the capitalization and punctuation that appear in Spanish on Vargas’ Web site (www.humbertovargas.com), while using an English format in the translation. Vargas’ composition sets up a scenario: A man and a woman are seated at a table. She has a cup of coffee in front of her and is looking down at the tablecloth’s pattern, consisting of rows of small mountain cottages, thus refusing to meet his gaze. He senses that something is wrong and asks her to just “go ahead and say it.”

Dilo de una vez, Go ahead and say it.

¿qué hay entre tu mente y este humo de café?

¿qué es lo que te está costando tanto traducir?

tal vez no exista manera de decirlo sin herir.

Dilo de una vez,

dilo en linea recta, no te enredes por mentir y alza tu mirada ¿qué le ves tanto a un mantel?

solo son casitas de montaña repetidas cada dos.

Sin herir, sin herir

“me halaga tanta consideración

“Sin herir, sin herir …”,

de todas formas te agradezco la intención

Dilo de una vez,

no le pongas freno burocrático a este guión,

que ya sé mis líneas,

empecemos la función, siempre hay un héroe, una princesa y un dragón

Dilo de una vez,

que tanto vértigo hace malo al corazón

y alza tu mirada ¿qué le ves tanto a un mantel?

solo son casitas de montaña repetidas cada dos.

“Sin herir, sin herir …”

Dilo de una vez, no me conviertas en manilla de reloj, en almanaque que ya llegó enero y no se usó

no me consueles con pagar la cuenta a medias

Por favor.

Dilo de una vez,

que tanto vértigo hace malo al corazón

y alza tu mirada ¿qué le vez tanto a un mantel?

solo son casitas de montaña repetidas cada dos.

“Sin herir, sin herir …”

¡Dilo de una vez!

 

What lies between your mind and the coffee vapor?

What is it that is so hard for you to translate?

Perhaps there is no way to say it without wounding.

Say it straight out; don’t get mixed up in lies,

Go ahead and say it.

And look up. Why do you gaze so intently at a tablecloth?

They are only mountain cottages, every other one repeated.

“Without wounding, without wounding…

So much consideration flatters me.

“Without wounding, without wounding…”

. Anyway, I appreciate your intention.

Go ahead and say it,

Don’t put a bureaucratic stop to this script,

For I already know my lines.

Let’s start the show.

There are always a hero, a princess and a dragon.

Go ahead and say it,

For so much giddiness is a heartache,

And look up. Why do you gaze so intently at a tablecloth?

They are only mountain cottages, every other one repeated.

“Without wounding, without wounding…”

Go ahead and say it.

Don’t convert me into the hand of a clock,

In an unused calendar when January has already come.

Don’t console me by paying the bill by half,

Please.

Go ahead and say it,

For so much giddiness is a heartache,

And look up. Why do you gaze so intently at a tablecloth?

They are only mountain cottages, every other one repeated.

“Without wounding, without wounding…”

Go ahead and say it!

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