“Desapariciones” by Rubén Blades (rendition by Maná), English translation of lyrics

“Disappearances”
AlbumBuscando America (Looking for America), 1984
Style: Political commentary, sad song
Countries: Panama, Mexico
Listen at YouTube: Ruben Blades, or Maná’s cover from their MTV Unplugged album

Translation:

Que alguien me diga si han visto a mi esposo,
Preguntaba la Doña.
Se llama Ernesto X. Tiene cuarenta años.
Trabaja de celador, en un negocio de carros.
Llevaba camisa oscura y pantalón claro.

Someone tell me if they have seen my husband,
Asked the madam.
His name is Ernesto X. He is forty years old.
He works as a guard, in a car dealership business.
He had a dark shirt and light pants.

Salió anteanoche y no ha regresado
Y no sé ya qué pensar,
Pues esto antes no me había pasado.
Oooo…

He went out the night before last night and he has not returned
And I don’t know what to think anymore,
Because this had never happened to me before.
Oooo…

Llevo tres días
Buscando a mi hermana.
Se llama Altagracia,
Igual que la abuela.

I have been three days
Looking for my sister.
Her name is Altagracia [*lit. High Grace],
Just like her grandmother.

Salió del trabajo pa’ la escuela,
Llevaba unos Jeans y una camisa clara.
No ha sido el novio; el tipo está en su casa.
No saben de ella en la PSN ni en el hospital.
Ooo….

She left work to head off to school,
She was wearing jeans and a light shirt.
It wasn’t the boyfriend; that guy’s at his house.
They haven’t heard of her at the PSN or at the hospital.
Oooo….

Que alguien me diga si han visto a mi hijo.
Es estudiante de pre-medicina.
Se llama Agustín y es un buen muchacho.
A veces es terco cuando opina.
Lo han detenido. No sé qué fuerza.

Someone tell me if they have seen my son.
He is a pre-med student.
His name is Agustin and he’s a good kid.
Sometimes (he is) a bit stubborn with his opinions.
They’ve arrested him. I don’t know what force (authority).

Pantalón claro, camisa a rayas.
Pasó anteayer.

Light pants, stripped shirt.
It happened the day before yesterday. [*alt. He passed here the day before yesterday.]

¿A dónde van los desaparecidos?
Busca en el agua y en los matorrales.
¿Y por qué es que se desaparecen?
Porque no todos somos iguales.

Where do the disappeared go?
Look in the water and in the bushes.
And why is it that they disappear?
Because we are not all the same.

¿Y cuándo vuelve el desaparecido?
Cada ves que lo trae el pensamiento.
¿Cómo se le habla al desaparecido?
Con la emoción apretando por dentro.
Oh….

And when does the disappeared come back?
Every time you have him (or her) in your thoughts.
How do you talk to the disappeared?
With a gripping emotion inside you.
Oh….

Clara, Clara, Clara Quiñones se llama mi madre.
Ella es, ella es un alma de Dios,
No se mete con nadie,
Y se la han llevado de testigo
Por un asunto que es nada más conmigo

Clara, Clara, Clara Quiñones is my mother’s name.
She’s a gentle soul, a soul of God.
Doesn’t mess with anyone,
And they have taken her as a witness
For business that has only to do with me.

Y fui a entregarme hoy por la tarde,
Y ahora dicen que no saben quién se la llevó
Del cuartel.

And I went to turn myself in today in the afternoon,
And now they say they don’t know who took her
From the barracks.

Anoche escuché varias explociones.
Patún pata patún pete,
Tiro de escopeta y de revolver,
Carros acelerados frenos gritos,
Eco de botas en la calle,
Toque de puertas por dioses platos rotos.

Last night I heard several explosions.
Patúm pa-ta patún pe-te,
Shots from guns and revolvers,
Accelerated cars, screeching of brakes,
Echos of boots on the streets,
Knocks on doors, for God’s sake, broken plates.

Estaban mirando la telenovela.
Por eso nadie miró pa’ fuera.

They were watching the soap opera.
That’s why no one looked outside.

¿A dónde van los desaparecidos?
Busca en agua y en los matorrales.
¿Y por qué es que se desaparecen?
Porque no todos somos iguales.

Where do the disappeared go?
Look in the water and in the bushes.
And why is it that they disappear?
Because were are not all the same.

¿Y cuándo vuelve el desaparecido?
Cada ves que lo trae el pensamiento.
¿Cómo se le habla al desaparecido?
Con la emoción apretando por dentro.

And when does the disappeared come back?
Every time you have him (or her) in your thoughts.
How do you talk to the disappeared?
With a gripping emotion inside you.

Translation Notes:

This song translation was originally posted on my Geocities site in 2006. Now that Yahoo! is closing Geocities, I am re-posting with edits. I moved a few question marks, re-heard a few words, and re-interpreted a few lyrics.

If you want to know more about the political history that inspired this song, these sites have information:

Se llama Ernesto X. Tiene cuarenta años.
His name is Ernesto X. He is forty years old.

The X is a stand-in for any last name, making Ernesto anybody’s family member.

Salió anteanoche y no ha regresado

He went out the night before last night and he has not returned

He went out the day before yesterday and he has not returned [*alternative]

Salió del trabajo pa’ la escuela

She left work to head off to school
She left from work to school

pa’ = para. This is a shortening often heard in Mexican Spanish.

No saben de ella en la PSN ni en el hospital.

They haven’t heard of her at the PSN or at the hospital.

They don’t know of her at the PSN nor in the hospital. [*literal]

PSN
I think this might refer to El Partido Socialista Nicaragüense (Socialist Party of Nicaraguas). Nicaragua and Panama are near enough this might make sense, but I don’t know the history of Panama very well. If anyone has better insight, please comment.

A veces es terco cuando opina.

Sometimes (he is) a bit stubborn with his opinions.

Sometimes he’s stubborn when he opines (when he gives his opinion). [*literally]

Opinar is a verb which means to express an opinion.
For fluidity, I chose to say “stubborn with his opinions” instead.

Pasó anteayer.

It happened the day before yesterday.

He passed here the day before yesterday.

The translation is ambiguous because this line is after saying “he was arrested” and giving a description of his clothing, so it could either mean esto pasó (this happened) or él pasó (he passed by here). The family is retracing his steps to figure out what exactly happened.

¿Y por qué es que se desaparecen? / ¿Por qué no todos somos iguales?
And why is it that they disappear? / Why aren’t we all the same?

¿Y por qué es que se desaparecen? / Porque no todos somos iguales.
And why is it that they disappear? / Because we are not all the same.

2006: I thought this was two questions. “Por qué” = Why.
2009: I think is is a question and answer. “Porque” = Because.

¿Cómo se le habla al desaparecido / Con la emoción apretando por dentro?
How do you talk to the disappeared / With such gripping emotion inside you?

¿Cómo se le habla al desaparecido? / Con la emoción apretando por dentro.
How do you talk to the disappeared? / With a gripping emotion inside you.

2006: I thought it was one two-line question.
2009: I think it is a question and answer.

Clara, Clara, Clara Quiñones se llama mi madre.
Ella es, ella es un alma de Dios
.

Clara, Clara, Clara Quiñones is my mother’s name.
She’s a gentle soul, a soul of God.

Clara, Clara, Clara Quiñones is my mother’s name.
She is, she is a soul of God. [*literally]

The name “Clara” repeated here sounds like an alarm bell ringing, indicating danger.

Patúm pata patún pete

These are the sounds of bullets.

Y fue a entregarme hoy por la tarde.
And she came to deliver me today in the afternoon.

Y fui a entregarme hoy por la tarde.
And I went to turn myself in today in the afternoon.

entregarme = (1) turn myself in, put me in chains! (2) show up, deliver myself, make my appearance.

2006: I trusted the consensus of the online lyrics websites. Fue sounds close enough to fui and maybe they were right.

2009: I trust my hearing more now. Online lyrics websites tend to copy each other, so they repeat each other’s mistakes.

Just a last note on the title of the album, Buscando America (Looking for America): In Spanish, the United States is los Estados Unidos (E.E.U.U.). The word America actually refers to the greater American continent. In the United States, you may sometimes hear Latinos and other Spanish speakers use America and Americanos to refer to the United States and its citizens respectively, but that is Spanglish, not correct Spanish. If you watch Spanish news, you will always hear the proper terms, Estados Unidos and estadounidenses. Immigrants mostly use the correct terms also.

By the way, in case you ever wondered why the acronym for Estados Unidos is E.E.U.U., old Spanish grammar rules say that plurals are doubled in acronyms. It is not a rule that is always followed anymore, but it is useful here so that we do not confuse the USA with the European Union in acronyms. A similar grammar rule in English is the reason we use “pp.” as the acronym for “pages” (plural).

Other Renditios:

Maná, MTV Unplugged, 1999, Mexico

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