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Songs for a Revolution: Senor Juez by Ricardo Arjona

June 27th 2009 18:50
Ricardo Arjona Santo Pecado album
Album cover -- Santo Pecado



You can learn a lot from music, and I always encourage students to use it to learn English or Spanish. It's like free learning. Just like my old days in the discotecas of Honduras, dancing to Latin pop songs. I was learning Spanish.

If you pick really good songs, you can also learn a lot about culture from music, including cultural trends and historical references.

Some of the best cultural references, as well as fine songwriting, come from the great Latin trovadores. Similar to their American counterparts (like Bob Dylan and other socially conscious songwriters), the great Latin troubadors sing a lot about love and revolution. Those are two big points they tend to coincide in.

Ricardo Arjona is about half troubador, half pop-star (in the kindest sense of the word, but yeah). His loves songs sell like wildfire, and he is the biggest star ever to come from this exact region of Central America (Guatemala).

He can also turn out a sharp political tune as well, including some of his greatest hits, El y Ella and Si el Norte Fuera el Sur. Nothing like a good political statement to feel like your time listening to the radio is well spent.

One of my all-time favorite songs, with lines that recurr regularly in my head, is Senor Juez. This is off the Santo Pecado CD, hidden among the love songs.

The song starts with some of my favorite lines ever, the great legal irony:

"Me parece una injusticia estar preso Senor Juez"

Which can be pretty effectively translated to: "I think it's an injustice to be imprisoned, Your Honor (Senor Juez)." Ha ha ha. right there off the bat, all the legal professionals in the room are laughing, as well as anyone who's ever been to court.

The first verse continues

"por tirarle una pedrada al presidente
sé muy bien que en puntería nunca me he sacado un diez
y el objetivo no era darle a ese teniente"

So, he's upset that he's in jail, for throwing a rock at the president. and even though he knows his aim sucks, he didn't mean to hit the lieutenant. Ha ha ha, is this the funniest song ever?

mi pedrada fue un rayón en el blindaje
en la pena debe usted considerar
que mi piedra pretendía con su viaje
mi recurso ciudadano de poderme expresar


My rock barely made a scratch on the bullet-proof glass, and my rock only intended to carry with it my right to express myself as a citizen. Blindaje is a troublesome word to translate, and so is scratch for rayon. But basically if we are talking about "blindaje" or "shielding" on the President, and something getting scratched with a rock, I say bullet-proof glass (like a carro blindado, or armoured car). All the rest of that verse is typical citizen's right to express myself.

Contra el nuevo inquilino de casa presidencial
con sus sueños peregrinos de inscribirse al carnaval
ese sueño que comienza cuando empieza a terminar


Ahhh, the intended target. The "New renter at the Presidential house, who dreams of signing up for the carnival that starts when it starts to end."

Some people may not understand that, but others will relate to certain facts in Latin America: presidents come in with a bang, and go out with rampant corruption. Well, it's not widespread or anything, but it's just a simple social criticism. It's just one more scratch on the bullet proof glass.

sabe cuantos sueños rotos caben en urnas de cartón
para que cuentan los votos si se repite la ecuación


"How many broken dreams fit in a cardboard box?"
Why count the votes if the equation is just going to repeat?"

y si le escribo alguna carta a la utopía
y de remitente mi nombre y dirección
seria como escribirle a la melancolía
y entregarme a la resignación


Hmmm, la la la. Sometimes it's just a song. Here is your homework, grasshopper, figure out what he means by escribirle a la melancolia y entregarme a la resignacion.

A cuantos peces flacos ha mandado usted a guardar
como este que hoy le habla señoría
a cuantos peces gordos ha dejado de juzgar
para darle de comer a la ironía
mi pedrada es otra raya para el tigre
inocente como el llanto de un patojo
si le toco el corazón déjeme libre
si le tocan la razón me pinta en rojo


A common complaint in countries with weak judicial systems. The "skinny fish" gets sent to jail (like the person addressing the judge, Your Honor), but how many "fat fish" are left unjudged, according to Arjona, "to feed the irony." Ironic, no?

Then he talks again about his rock, this time calling it "another stripe on the tiger." When a military junta is in charge of a country, they are often personified in the press as an animal, like a Tiger. Again, this is just what I learned from the political cartoons, could be a complete left wing fantasy. "Innocent as crying from a streetchild."

and the prisoner continues: "If I touch your heart, let me go. if I touch your mind, paint me red." So true, in the end, begging before the judge, you don't really want to appeal to reason.

A few of the verses repeat again, before the song ends almost as it began,

Me parece una injusticia estar preso señor juez
y ni siquiera haberle dado a mi objetivo


And I didn't even hit the target! Arjona is a genius, and a complete and total Trovador, and he's also a Soldado de Morazan from the gran patria of Centroamerica. Check out his music, it makes a great learning tool because he uses interesting vocabulary and great verbs (yes, we are looking at verbs here). He's also totally hot, and about 7 feet tall, he used to play basketball in Guatemala.

Here's a link to the album on Amazon, and the full lyrics are found below.
Santo Pecado (with Bonus CD)

Me parece una injusticia
estar preso señor juez
por tirarle una pedrada al presidente
sé muy bien que en puntería nunca me he sacado un diez
y el objetivo no era darle a ese teniente
mi pedrada fue un rayón en el blindaje
en la pena debe usted considerar
que mi piedra pretendía con su viaje
mi recurso ciudadano de poderme expresar
Contra el nuevo inquilino de casa presidencial
con sus sueños peregrinos de inscribirse al carnaval
ese sueño que comienza cuando empieza a terminar
sabe cuantos sueños rotos caben en urnas de cartón
para que cuentan los votos si se repite la ecuación
y si le escribo alguna carta a la utopía
y de remitente mi nombre y dirección
seria como escribirle a la melancolía
y entregarme a la resignación
A cuantos peces flacos ha mandado usted a guardar
como este que hoy le habla señoría
a cuantos peces gordos ha dejado de juzgar
para darle de comer a la ironía
mi pedrada es otra raya para el tigre
inocente como el llanto de un patojo
si le toco el corazón déjeme libre
si le tocan la razón me pinta en rojo
Mientras el nuevo inquilino de casa presidencial
con sus sueños peregrinos de inscribirse al carnaval
de ese sueño que comienza cuando empieza a terminar
sabe cuantos sueños rotos caben en urnas de cartón
para que cuentan los votos si se repite la ecuación
y si le escribo alguna carta a la utopía
y de remitente mi nombre y dirección
seria como escribirle a la melancolía
y entregarme a la resignación
Me parece una injusticia estar preso señor juez
y ni siquiera haberle dado a mi objetivo

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