Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Te Amo

Though I am pure gabacho through and through (at least as far as I know), I grew up in el barrio surrounded by Latino culture that I ultimately fell in love with.

Having some experience with being a romantic, its my firm view that love can be expressed far more beautifully in the Spanish language. Indeed, its my Anglo-Germanic ancestors who are primarily responsible for most of the hang-ups we have about sex, feelings, emotions, etc. Latin culture - whether its Americano, Espana, Italia or even the good old French know how to celebrate love and life.

How I long for the opportunity to someday express the words te amo to my soulmate - whether she understands the language or not. And to dance on a balcony after a candlelit wine filled dinner to the tune below.

Its commercial pop and from a movie to boot, but I think La Bella Maria de mi Alma (AKA Beautiful Maria of My Soul) is one of the most romantic songs ever served up by Hollywood. From the 1992 movie The Mambo Kings (based on the FAR better Oscar Hijuelos book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love) starring Antonio Banderas and Armand Assante as musician Cuban brothers who run afoul of the Havana underworld and are forced to migrate to New York in the early 1950s.

The song is the love anthem of the film and was nominated for an Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe. It details the angst of Banderas' Nestor Castillo who pines for his beloved Maria whom he was forced to leave behind in Cuba.

The song was performed in the film by both Banderas and Castillo but the solo soundtrack version by Banderas is the best. The legendary group Los Lobos recorded a funky English language version for the album but though the performance is awesome (including a haunting flute solo in the bridge that takes the place of the big band sound in the version en espanol), the lyrics themselves are really lacking in the English translation.

Below are the lyrics in both Spanish and English as well as some all three versions of the song via YouTube.

The Spanish lyrics (sung by Antonio Banderas):

Si deseo sonreir
Pienso solamente en ti
En la magia de tu amor
En tu piel en tu sabor

En la isla del dolor
Recuerdo tu calor
Desearia morir
Cerca de ti

Un ardiente corazon
Colorea mi pasion
Deseando compartir
El sentir de este vivir

En las olas de este mar
Sueno en la eternidad
Con cada luna vendras
Con la merea te iras

En un caracol
Pienso oir tu voz
La bella Maria de mi amor

Aunque estemos separados
En un sueno angelicar
Si llego de nuevo amar
No hay razon, proque cambiar

Temo yo permancer
Sin ti en la eternidad
Lejos nos puedon separar
Jamas pudiera olvidar
Tu risa celestial
Tus besos, tu calor
La bella Maria de mi amor

Si no te vuelva a ver
No dejaras de ser
La bella Maria de mi amor.

English performed by Los Lobos:

In the sunlight of your smile
In the summer of our life
In the magic of love
Storms above scattered away

Lovers dreaming in the night
Reaching for Paradise
But as the dark shadows fade
Love slips away

On an empty stretch of beach Mambo Kings - Singing and Dancing
In the pattern of the waves
Drawing pictures with my hand
In the sand, I see your face

Skipping pebbles on the sea
Wishing for Paradise
Sand castles crumble below
The restless tides ebb and flow
Listening to a shell
Hoping for your voice
Beautiful Maria of my soul

Though we'll always be apart
Locked forever in a dream
If I ever love again
Even then, nothing will change

And the taste of you remains
Clinging to Paradise
But as the distance from you grows
All that my heart ever knows
Hunger for your kiss
Longing for your touch
Beautiful Maria of my soul

Filling all my nights
Haunting all my days
Beautiful Maria of my soul.

Bilingual version from the film (sorry the dialogue is not in English - but the song remains in English and Spanish).

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