“Nuestro Himno,” the Spanish-speaking version of “The Star Spangled Banner” which means “Our Anthem,” is causing a stir and sparking a national debate about freedom of speech, national identity, and immigrant rights. There are mixed reactions from the song that vary from elation to utter indignation. The reactions stem from the fact that it is not a straight translation of the English version, because it has to rhyme, and because its release coincides with a planned May 1 national boycott in support of immigration reforms.

Surely, we should all be proud that we live in a country where we are free to make any version of the national anthem that we see fit. “The Star Spangled Banner” is in the public domain and the music can be played on an accordion, a bassoon, an electric guitar or anything else anyone wants. Additionally, words for the music can be written or rewritten at will by anyone in any language. It is called freedom and we should all embrace it. However, some see this Spanish-speaking anthem as a threat to our national identity.

The truth is that no matter how many versions of “The Star Spangled Banner” are made, there is only one national anthem in the United States. We should all be secure in knowing that there likely will never be a congressional action to change the national anthem. For example, even though Canada has two official languages and there are English and French versions of “O Canada” the English version is the official version of the song.

That being said, even if this Spanish-speaking version of “The Star Spangled Banner” is officially recognized by congress two hundred years from now when the official languages of the United States are English, Spanish, and Chinese, or a mixture of the three like in Blade Runner, the English version will likely still be the official version.

That being said, I can understand why people are upset at someone attempting to hijack something that is so American. I would be upset if someone released a version of “La Borinqueña,” Puerto Rico’s national anthem. Even though, admittedly the words to the national anthem are a bit cheesy. I mean, the Puerto Rican anthem has Christopher Columbus exclaiming “Oh!” three times as if having a convulsive seizure or an orgasm. Here are the official lyrics of the Puerto Rican national anthem.

La Borinqueña
Lyrics: Manuel Fernández Juncos (1846-1928)

La tierra de Borinquén
donde he nacido yo,
es un jardín florido
de mágico fulgor.

Un cielo siempre nítido
le sirve de dosel
y dan arrullos plácidos
las olas a sus pies.

Cuando a sus playas llegó Colón;
Exclamó lleno de admiración;
“Oh!, oh!, oh!, esta es la linda
tierra que busco yo”.

Es Borinquén la hija,
la hija del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol.

The land of Borinquen
where I have been born.
It is a florid garden
of magical brilliance.

A sky always clean
serves as a canopy.
And placid lullabies are given
by the waves at her feet.

When at her beaches Columbus arrived,
he exclaimed full of admiration:
Oh! Oh! Oh!
This is the beautiful land, that I seek.

It is Borinquen the daughter,
the daughter of the sea and the sun.
of the sea and the sun,
of the sea and the sun,
of the sea and the sun,
of the sea and the sun!

The Puerto Rican national anthem also has alternate lyrics written in 1868 to spur patriotism in support the Puerto Rican revolution and to motivate people into a rebellion against Spain. These lyrics, which talked about using machetes to obtain freedom, were seen as too controversial, so the Puerto Rican government took the music from this march with a poem written in 1903 to make the official anthem.

But enough about the Puerto Rican anthem, I digress. National anthems tell the stories of people. The white immigrants that came to the United States have their story told in “The Star Spangled Banner.” Now, the Spanish-speaking immigrants are trying to weave their story into the national fabric of the United States with their own anthem. If history serves right, it will be over 100 years until this song gets recognized, if at all, as an official story. When stories become official, they are known as history. And I think it is fair to say that the history of this country is still being written.

I support the rights of immigrants to this country, since this country was founded by immigrants and their slaves. The only true Americans are the Native Americans and their diaspora is gladly overlooked by everyone who calls this country home today. This Spanish-speaking national anthem is a genius move politically, since it has created a lively debate as to what it means to be identify as an American and still be an immigrant. Hopefully, this will lead to progressive changes that will improve conditions all immigrants, including lower class African-Americans, which “immigrated” here against their will over 400 years ago. One can only hope.

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