What is Cuba’s national anthem, who wrote it and what do the lyrics mean in English?

23 July 2021, 13:52

Cuba's President Miguel Diaz Canel listens to the national anthem at the Festival International de Ballet
Cuba's President Miguel Diaz Canel listens to the national anthem at the Festival International de Ballet. Picture: Getty

By Rosie Pentreath

How a battle song from the 19th century became the official national anthem of the north Caribbean communist country.

Cuba’s national anthem is ‘El Himno de Bayamo’ (‘The Hymn of Bayamo’), composed in 1868.

The song was written by Pedro Figueredo, a Cuban poet, musician, and freedom fighter who went down in history for being active in the Cuban uprising against the Spanish, remembered as the Ten Years’ War. It was first heard during the Battle of Bayamo.

Read more: What is Spain’s national anthem, and why does it have no words?

The melody, called ‘La Bayamesa’ (‘The Bayamo Song’) was also Figueredo’s and composed in 1867. Bayamo is the capital city of the Granma Province of Cuba.

The piece became Cuba’s official national anthem in 1902, following Cuba’s independence, first from Spain and then from the United States, and declaration as a republic.

In 1940, Cuba attempted to strengthen its democratic system, but unrest and uprisings eventually culminated in the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in 1952. Batista was ousted, and Fidel Castro had established communist rule by 1959. ‘La Bayamesa’ has remained the country’s official national anthem throughout.

In its guise as the Cuban national anthem, ‘La Bayamesa’ is usually performed with a musical introduction written by Cuban composer Antonio Rodriguez-Ferrer.

Read more: The world’s greatest national anthems

What are the lyrics of the Cuban national anthem?

¡Al combate, corred, bayameses!,
Que la patria os contempla orgullosa;
No temáis una muerte gloriosa,
Que morir por la patria es vivir.
En cadenas vivir es vivir
En afrenta y oprobio sumido.
Del clarín escuchad el sonido:
¡A las armas, valientes, corred!

What do the lyrics translate as in English?

To combat, run, Bayamesans!
For the homeland looks proudly upon you;
Do not fear a glorious death,
For to die for the homeland is to live.
To live in chains is to live
Mired in shame and disgrace.
Hear the sound of the bugle:
To arms, brave ones, run!