Lesbian Dad

Gracias a la vida

In a nod to the last day of the Día de los Muertos, I post the video below. It’s Mercedes Sosa singing “Gracias a la vida,” perhaps her best-known song (written by Chilean Violeta Parra, the mother of Nueva Canción). Sosa’s voice is among the most expressive of the 20th century.

Why this song for the occasion? Because, simply put, the dead have taught me more about the value of my life than the living. If there’s one gift our loved ones give us when they die, it is this. Gratitude for our lives, because they are precious beyond belief. So at the close of a festival acknowledging dead loved ones, I can’t think of a better thing to share.

Even if you don’t know Spanish you will be moved by the song. I certainly am (limping along with my chumpy Spanish, and with the aid of translations like that posted below the YouTube video). But it’s also true that I am moved because the song has such powerful associations for me. About which more later. Meanwhile, just Mercedes will do.

Activist, musician, and former Chilean political prisoner Sergio Reyes has posted a translation (go to “Violeta Parra,” then “Translated Abstract of Songs”) reprinted below:


IN GRATITUDE TO LIFE

Thank you, Life, for you gave me so much.
You gave me two stars for eyes and when I open them
I can perfectly distinguish black from white
And up above in the skies the constelations
And in the crowds the man I love.

Thank you, Life, for you gave me so much.
You gave me ears so that I can hear
And record the sounds day and night of
Crickets, canaries, factories, dogs barking,
The rain falling, and the sweet voice of my loved one.

Thank you, Life, for you gave me so much.
You gave me the sounds and the alphabet
And with them the words I think of and declare
Mother, friend, brother and light shining
Over the route of my loved one’s soul.

Thank you, Life, for you gave me so much.
You gave my tired feet the strenght to walk
On them I have visited cities and potholes
Beaches and deserts, mountains and valleys
And your house, your street, your backyard.

Thank you, Life, for you gave me so much.
You gave me my heart that beats like a drum
When I see the fruits of the human brain
When I see good so far away from evil
When I look in the depth of your beautiful eyes.

Thank you, Life, for you gave me so much.
You gave me laughter and tears
So I can express happiness and sorrow
The two elements my songs are made of
And your songs, which are like my songs,
And everybody’s songs, which are also mine.


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