What Is The Guatemala National Anthem: English Translation, Original Lyrics And History. Photo: Wikipedia
What Is The Guatemala National Anthem: English Translation, Original Lyrics And History. Photo: Wikipedia

The national anthem of Guatemala was written by Cuban poet José Joaquín Palma and composed by Rafael Álvarez Ovalle in 1897, on the occasion of the Exposición Centroamericana by the government of General José María Reina Barrios.

The lyrics and score were printed for the first time in La Ilustración Guatemalteca, a culture magazine, where the author of the lyrics appeared as "Anonymous". It was not until 1910, shortly before his death, that Cuban poet and diplomat José Joaquín Palma confessed that he was the author.

By order of President General Jorge Ubico, in 1934, some changes were made by pedagogue José María Bonilla Ruano to the lyrics of the anthem, since it was particularly warmongering and reflected more the Cuban War of Independence, in which Palma had actively participated, than the independence of Central America.

It is often erroneously titled "Guatemala Feliz!" from its opening lyrics, but it has no official name and is only referred to in the country as "Himno Nacional".

Here are the anthem’s history, original lyrics and English translation.

History of Guatemala National Anthem

In 1879, the El Porvenir Literary Society unsuccessfully attempted to create a national anthem for Guatemala. In 1887, the president of Guatemala, General Manuel Lisandro Barillas Bercián, called for a competition to choose music that would complement the lyrics of the "National Anthem" written by poet Ramón P. Molina. Distinguished composers took part in this competition, and the triumph was awarded to music presented by Rafael Álvarez Ovalle.

Competition organised by Reina Barrios

In 1896, the government of General José María Reina Barrios called for a new competition, "considering that Guatemala lacks a National Anthem, since the one known to this day by that name not only suffers from notable defects, but also has not been officially declared as such; and that it is convenient to provide the country with an anthem that, through its lyrics and music, responds to the lofty purposes for which all educated people lend this kind of composition." In this new competition, Rafael Álvarez Ovalle's work was chosen again, this time musicalising a poem written under the pseudonym "Anonymous".

The victory granted again to the teacher Álvarez Ovalle cost him the most bitter moments of his existence, as there was discontent among those who did not win, who even sent their complaint to the president. Reina Barrios, in the presence of the members of his cabinet, other figures and teachers of musical art, listened again to all the compositions that competed in the competition, and Álvarez Ovalle's was unanimously selected again.

With respect to the lyrics, the qualifying jury determined the following:

"Guatemala, 27 October 1896. Mr. Minister of Public Instruction. Present.

In compliance with the honourable commission with which you favoured us, taking charge of the qualification of the "national anthems" presented to this secretariat, by virtue of the competition opened by the agreement of the 24th of last July, we have examined the twelve compositions that with such objective you were kind enough to send us on the 15th of the current. Encouraged by best wishes, and with a view to making the appointment required by the aforementioned agreement, we have met several times, and after a long and careful examination, we have the honour to inform you that, in our opinion, the anthem that begins with the words Guatemala feliz and carries at the bottom the lyrics of "Anonymous" in parentheses is the one that best responds to the conditions of the call and deserves, therefore, the prize offered. Thus we have the honour of issuing the report that the secretariat of your worthy position requested of us, writing to us with all consideration and appreciation, the minister, very attentive and reliable servants.

José Leonard, J. J. Palma, F. Castañeda."

— Text of the report submitted by the qualifying jury of the literary competition, made up of F. Castañeda, J. Joaquín Palma and José Leonard.

As can be seen, Cuban poet José Joaquín Palma was a member of the qualifying jury.

Palma's lyrics were officially adopted on 28 October 1896, while Álvarez Ovalle's music was officially adopted on 19 February 1897. The premiere of the National Anthem took place in the literary lyrical act held at the Colón Theatre on the night of Sunday, 14 March 1897, as one of the main points of the programme of celebrations of the Exposición Centroamericana, with Álvarez Ovalle being decorated with a medal of gold and diploma of honour.

Palma confesses to being the author

The author of the lyrics of the National Anthem of Guatemala remained a deep mystery until 1910, when it was discovered that its author was Cuban poet José Joaquín Palma, since he revealed on his deathbed that he was the author of the lyrics of the anthem. The government of Manuel Estrada Cabrera awarded both him and Rafael Álvarez Ovalle with gold laurel wreaths at the Fiestas Minervalias that year.

Spanish Lyrics of The Guatemala National Anthem

1. ¡Guatemala feliz! que tus aras

No profane jamás el verdugo;

Ni haya esclavos que laman el yugo

Ni tiranos que escupan tu faz.

Si mañana tu suelo sagrado

Lo amenaza invasión extranjera,

Libre al viento tu hermosa bandera

A vencer o a morir llamará.

CHORUS:

Libre al viento tu hermosa bandera

A vencer o a morir llamará.

Que tu pueblo con ánima fiera

Antes muerto que esclavo será.

2. De tus viejas y duras cadenas

Tú forjaste con mano iracunda

El arado que el suelo fecunda

Y la espada que salva el honor.

Nuestros padres lucharon un día

Encendidos en patrio ardimiento

Y lograron sin choque sangriento

Colocarte en un trono de amor,

CHORUS:

Y lograron sin choque sangriento

Colocarte en un trono de amor,

Que de patria, en enérgico acento,

Dieron vida al ideal redentor.

3. Es tu enseña pedazo de cielo

En que prende una nube su albura,

Y ay de aquel que con ciega locura,

Sus colores pretenda manchar!

Pues tus hijos valientes y altivos,

Que veneran la paz cual presea,

Nunca esquivan la ruda pelea

Si defienden su tierra y su hogar,

CHORUS:

Nunca esquivan la ruda pelea

Si defienden su tierra y su hogar,

Que es tan sólo el honor su alma idea

Y el altar de la patria su altar.

4. Recostada en el ande soberbio,

De dos mares al ruido sonoro,

Bajo el ala de grana y de oro

Te adormeces del bello quetzal.

Ave indiana que vive en tu escudo

Paladión que protege tu suelo;

¡Ojalá que remonte su vuelo,

Más que el cóndor y el águila real

CHORUS:

¡Ojalá que remonte su vuelo,

Más que el cóndor y el águila real

Y en sus alas levante hasta el cielo,

Guatemala, tu nombre inmortal!

The Guatemala National Anthem in English Translation

1. Fortunate Guatemala! May your altars

Never be profaned by cruel men.

May there never be slaves who submit to their yoke,

Or tyrants who deride you.

If tomorrow your sacred soil

Should be threatened by foreign invasion,

Your fair flag, flying freely in the wind,

Will call to you: Conquer or die.

CHORUS:

Your fair flag, flying freely in the wind,

Will call to you: Conquer or die;

For your people, with heart and soul,

Would prefer death to slavery.

2. From your old and hard chains

You forged, with an ire-driven hand,

The plow that fertilizes the soil

And the sword that saves honor.

Our fathers fought one day,

Lit up in patriotic burning

And they were able, without bloody clash,

To place you on a throne of love.

CHORUS:

And they were able, without bloody clash,

To place you on a throne of love,

That our Nation, in energetic assent,

Gave life to the ideal redeemer.

3. Your emblem shows a piece of the sky

In which a cloud gets its whiteness

Wretched is he who dares in madness

stain your colors

Well, your brave and proud sons

who admire the peace within

will never avoid the rough battles

if they are to defend their land and their home.

CHORUS:

They will never avoid the rough battles

if they are to defend their land and their home

that honor is the idea that reigns their souls

and the altar of the mother country their altar

4. Lying in the magnificent Andes

with two oceans at hearing distance

under the wing of seeds and gold

you become entranced from the beautiful quetzal

Native bird that lives in your seal

protector that protects your soil

hopefully he will fly high

more than the condor and the royal eagle!

CHORUS:

Hopefully he will fly high

more than the condor and the royal eagle

and in his wings, raise up to the sky:

Guatemala, your immortal name!

Lyric videos of Guatemala National Anthem

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