Padre Nuestro Latinoamericano

Cuban actor Héctor Quintero recites Mario Benedetti’s great poem to a capacity crowd in Havana’s Revolution Square. Orchestra directed by Leo Brouwer.

Translation (mine) follows:

Our Father who art in Heaven

with the swallows and the missiles

I pray you return before you forget

how we came to the south of the Río Grande

Our Father who art in exile

almost never do you remember mine

of all the ways wherever you are

hallowed be thy name

not those who hallow in thy name

closing one eye so as not to see the dirty

fingernails of misery

in August of nineteen hundred and sixty

already it’s no use asking you

thy kingdom come

because thy kingdom is also down here

in the midst of rancors and fear

amid vacillations and filth

amid disillusion and somnolence

in this eagerness to see you in spite of everything

when you spoke of the rich man

the needle and the camel

and we all unanimously

voted you into Glory

at the same time the silent Indian raised his hand

who respected you but resisted

to think thy will be done

but once every so often

your will melds with mine

dominates it

inflames it

duplicates it

it is much harder to know which is my will

when I believe for sure that which I say I believe

in your omnipresence as in my solitude

on Earth as it is in Heaven


I will be more sure of the earth I tread

than the sky that ignores me

but who knows

I won’t decide

whether your power makes or unmakes

your will the same when creating in the wind

in the Andes of snow

in the bird who fertilizes his mate

in the chancellors who murmur yes sir

in every hand which turns into a fist

of course I’m not sure if I like the style

in which your will choses to assert itself

I say it with irreverence and gratitude

two emblems which will soon be the same thing

I say above all thinking of our bread

of every day and every little piece of the day

yesterday you took it from us

give it to us this day

or at least the right to give ourselves our bread

not only that which was the symbol of Someone

but that of crumb and rind

our bread

now that we have few hopes left and debts

forgive us if you can our debts

but don’t forgive us our hope

and don’t ever forgive us our credits

later tomorrow

we will collect what is owing

tangible and smiling foreigners

those who have claws for the harp

and a pan-American earthquake with which to wipe away

the last spit-wad hanging from the face

it doesn’t much matter if our creditors pardon

like ourselves


by mistake

let us pardon our debtors


they owe us like a century

of lost sleep and beatings

like three thousand kilometres of injuries

like twenty medals for Somoza

like a single dead Guatemala

lead us not into temptation

to forget or sell off this past

or rent a single hectare of its forgettance

now that it is time to know who we are

and having crossed the river

the dollar and the repaying love

let us take heart to the last beggar

and free ourselves from all pangs of conscience


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