San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Lyrics by a Latin Idol

Juan Luis Guerra is an established Latin idol from the Dominican Republic who has been writing and singing music – usually merengue or bachata – for many years now.

Though his music is superb, what stands out to me is the poetic quality of his lyrics.

Since singing in the shower is an excellent way to improve your Spanish, this gives me a good excuse for translating a couple of his songs for you.

You, of course, must seek the music, which nowadays is not hard to do.

This task, however, presents me with a problem: literal or poetic?

I am in the midst of directing a Shakespeare play in Spanish, and sometimes the loss of poetry offends my ear. Consider, for example, that “Captain of our fairy band, /Helena is here at hand; / And the youth, mistook by me, / Pleading for a lover’s fee. /

Shall we their fond pageant see? / Lord, what fools these mortals be!” becomes (alas!) Capitán de nuestra banda de hadas, / Helena está aquí, / y el joven a quien yo confundí / ruega la propriedad de su amante. / ¿Veremos nosotros esta aficionada farsa? / ¡Señor, qué tontos son estos mortales!

It’s still worth doing, but let’s face it, some things are simply too exquisite to translate – unless, that is, it is by another true poet, who must change the text completely to render its splendor.

In other words, if I take the poetic route, you probably won’t get an adequate idea of what you are singing at any given moment. If I take the literal route, the English version will sound a bit strange.

So be it. It is language learning with which we are concerned here, not poetry, so here are a couple of Guerra’s songs from one of his early albums, “Bachata Rosa.” I have tried to translate them as literally as possible, without, that is, losing the meaning entirely.

Songs by Juan Luis Guerra

Burbujas de Amor

Tengo un corazón

Mutilado de esperanza y

de razón

Tengo un corazón

Que madruga dondequiera

Y ese corazón

Se desnuda de impaciencia

ante tu voz

Pobre corazón

Que no atrapa su cordura

Quisiera ser un pez

Para tocar mi nariz en tu


Y hacer burbujas de amor

por dondequiera

Pasar la noche en vela

Mojado en ti

Un pez

Para bordar de corales tu


Y hacer siluetas de amor

bajo la luna

Saciar esta locura

Mojado en ti

Canta, corazón

Con una ancla imprescindible

de ilusión

Sueña, corazón

No te nubles de


Y ese corazón

Se desnuda de impaciencia

ante tu voz

Pobre corazón

Que no atrapa su cordura

Quisiera ser…

Una noche para hundirse

hasta el fin

Cara a cara, beso a beso

Y vivir para siempre

Mojado en ti


Bubbles of Love

I have a heart

Mutilated by hope and


I have a heart

That wakes up early


And this heart

Strips itself with impatience

before your voice

Poor heart

That cannot hang onto its


I would like to be a fish

To touch my nose to your


And make love bubbles


Spend a sleepless night

Bathed (wet) in you

A fish

To embroider your waist

with corals

And make love silhouettes

under the moon

Satiate this madness

Bathed in you

Sing, heart

With an essential anchor of


Dream, heart

Don’t cloud up with


And this heart

Strips itself with impatience

before your voice

Poor heart

That cannot hang onto its


I would like to be…

One night to sink to the


Face to face, kiss to kiss

And live forever

Bathed in you


Estrellitas y Duendes

Viviré en tu recuerdo

Como un simple aguacero

De estrellitas y duendes

Vagaré por tu vientre

Mordiendo cada ilusión

Vivirás en mis sueños

Como tinte indeleble

Como mancha de acero

No se olvida el idioma

Cuando dos hacen amor

Me tosté en tus


Como el sol en la tarde

Se descarta mi cuerpo

Y no vivo un segundo

Para decirte que sin ti


Me quedé en tus pupilas,

mi bien

Ya no cierro los ojos

Me tiré al más


Y me ahogo en los mares

de tu partida

De tu partida

Andaré sin saberlo

Calzaré de tu cuerpo

Como huellas en niebla

Comeré lo que sobre

dentro de tu corazón

Y será un mar desierto

Una frase silente

La elegía de un beso

Un planeta de cielos

escupiendo una canción

Me tosté…


Little Stars and Elves

I will live in your memory

Like a simple rainstorm

Of little stars and elves

I will wander over your belly

Biting every hope

You will live in my dreams

Like indelible ink

Like a steel stain

Language is not forgotten

When two make love

I basked in your face


Like the sun in the afternoon

My body is discarded

And I don’t live a moment

But to tell you that without

you I die

I remained in your pupils,

my darling

I no longer close my eyes

I threw myself in the

deepest part

And I drown in the seas of

your departure

Of your departure

I’ll go on without knowing

I’ll put on your body

Like tracks in fog

I will eat what is left over

within your heart

And it will be a deserted sea

A silent sentence

The elegy of a kiss

A planet of heavens spitting

out a song

I basked…


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