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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.


I’d like to share a song. It’s a song I’ve known and loved for some time, but one that has taken on a new meaning during my travels through Bolivia and Peru. The song is written by puertorriqueño rap duo Calle 13 and features the voices of peruana Susana Baca, colombiana Totó la Momposina, and brasileña Maria Rita. The video was shot solely in Peru, but many of the moments and scenes feel as if they could have occurred anywhere in the land Calle 13 sings about. The name of the song is “Latinoamérica.”

Before this trip, I loved the song for its rhythm, the beauty of its music video, and the soothing cadence of Residente’s voice. I couldn’t understand most of the lyrics, but the song resonated with me as something emotional, beautiful, and powerful.

Now, in my third month in latinoamérica, I have come to understand and appreciate the song more. The lyrics speak about the pain and exploitation that has come from the United States’ parasitic relationship with its Southern neighbors. But they also speak to the strength, the passion, and life of the people who call Central America, South America, and the Caribbean home.

I encourage all of you who are reading to listen to the song and watch the music video. If you have time, watch it twice. Pay attention to the details and listen to the words. If you do not speak Spanish, look up a translation of the lyrics. Doing so will help you understand the anger of a people who have been exploited and abused for the economic gain of los gringos. Doing so will help you understand the beauty and the resilience of a people who refuse to be bought.

And perhaps, when your traveller comes home, listen to the song with them. Ask them what the lyrics mean and whether they saw similar scenes or had similar experiences during their own time in Bolivia and Peru. By talking with them, I think you’ll also begin to resonate with and understand the song more than you once did.

To start you off, I’ve included a translation of the chorus:

Tú no puedes comprar al viento (You can’t buy the wind)

Tú no puedes comprar al sol (You can’t buy the sun)

Tú no puedes comprar la lluvia (You can’t buy the rain)

Tú no puedes comprar el calor (You can’t buy the heat)

Tú no puedes comprar las nubes (You can’t buy the clouds)

Tú no puedes comprar los colores (You can’t buy the colors)

Tú no puedes comprar mi alegría (You can’t buy my happiness)

Tú no puedes comprar mis dolores (You can’t by my pain)