Sólo en tu boca yo quiero acabar
Todos esos besos que te quiero dar
A mí no me importa que duermas con él
Porque sé que sueñas con poderme ver
Mujer que vas a hacer?
Decídete pa’ ver
Si te quedas o te vas
Si no no, me busques más
Si te vas yo también me voy
Si me das yo también te doy
Bailamos hasta las diez
Hasta que duelan los pies
Con él te duele el corazón
Y conmigo te duelen los pies
Yes, I know. That’s not English. It’s Spanish. And it’s a lot of Spanish. It’s not the sort of music I’d normally choose to listen to, in English or Spanish. I spent a fair chunk of the summer in Latin America for work, though, and this song, Duele El Corazon (or, The Heart Hurts), had come out only a few months before I arrived. This song leaked through the walls of the Santo Domingo house we stayed in after visiting community partners in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. There was no bus in Panama that was not playing this song. We played it on my phone in a hotel in San Salvador the night before I left to fly home to Canada, because we knew it was going to be the song that reminded us of this beautiful, inspiring, heartbreaking trip.
It was that same night that my travel companion simultaneously translated the song into English as it played on my phone. It’s very — well, as I’ve come to learn since, it’s very Spanish. I know this because I’ve come to realize I can’t always rely on having a translator with me for work, and so in addition to taking Spanish language classes, I have been obsessively watching Spanish and Latin American television. By and large, the television seems to be either broad comedy, which is often quite fun, or it’s heartbreaking.
That second kind tends to wear on me. I have stopped watching at least half a dozen Spanish language shows because I can’t handle how badly everything is going, how twisted everyone becomes, or how few people are ever allowed to be happy. One telenovela I had to stop watching was about the relationship between colonials and slaves in mid-19th century Colombia, which, fair enough, would be pretty devastating no matter what. But I don’t see why the one about fashion in the 1960s had to have so many people die in the first episode.
They are just more dramatic cultures, I think. When I say that, I don’t mean it in a good or bad way; it’s just different. One of the things I both love and hate about the Dominican Republic is that you are never confused about where you stand with someone. That person will tell you. He’ll tell you he’s in love with you after he’s known you two days, and then the next year when you visit he’ll tell you you’re less fat than you were last year. It’s refreshing, but for a Canadian used to couching her terms and avoiding difficult subjects when she can, it’s disconcerting.
This is perhaps why I like Duele El Corazon, despite how melodramatic it gets at times. I’m trying to accept it on its own terms. The story in it is standard fare for Iglesias: the singer is speaking to a woman torn between two men, and the singer seems to be the Other Man in this situation. As with your average telenovela, it gets pretty dramatic. He doesn’t care if you sleep with the other guy, or live with that other guy, because he knows you want him. And he knows, because you danced until 10 (“bailamos hasta las diez”). Until your feet hurt (“hasta que duelan los pies”).
Yeah, it sounds better in Spanish. That’s probably why the English version of the song doesn’t try for anything approaching a direct translation in its lyrics. But I chose the Spanish version for a reason. We don’t want to talk about the English lyrics — or, at least, I don’t. The song goes in a different direction. Not a great direction, though. The first few lines of the Spanish version translate roughly as, “only in your mouth I want to end / all the kisses I could give you.” The first few lines of the English language version are: “I know that you want me so why’d you turn away / Think of the perfect sex you and I can make.”
This is an ongoing problem in Enrique Iglesias songs. In Spanish, his songs are heart-wrenching and romantic, and yes, over the top. In English, his songs are creepy and come off a little predatory. The storyline is basically the same in both, but where it’s written as poignant in Spanish, it just seems kind of gross in English.
I wonder, though, if that’s got something to do with trying to bring the drama of Spanish culture to the English language version. In direct translation, the Spanish version sounds pretty tepid to the ear because there isn’t the same force behind it. There’s more drama in the culture, so there’s necessarily more drama in the words, even if they don’t seem particularly spectacular when you say them in English.
I would guess that, by the same token, English television looks quite tepid to the Spanish or Latin American eye. They’d probably think that nothing of interest was happening because no one had tried to poison the main character’s mother for two whole weeks.
So perhaps I ought to return to those Spanish shows with all the mad things happening in them. After all, a true partnership with these communities in the Dominican, Panama, and El Salvador is not just about understanding the language. It’s got to be about understanding the people, as well.
Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings