María Isabel Granda Larco (3 September 1920 – 8 March 1983), known as Chabuca Granda, was a Peruvian singer and composer. She was a trailblazer as a woman lyricist and composer, drawing on Peruvian Criollo music, as well as Afro-Peruvian rhythms, which were much devalued in high society of Lima at the time. It was a world which was plagued (and continues to be) by racism and classism toward Indigenous and Afro-descended peoples while highly dependent on their labour, particularly domestic labour provided by women workers who are often racialized as non-white. In this song, Chabuca shows her continual break with convention by centering the experiences of a working class woman and her labour. Enjoy some poetry put to music and sung by one of Peru’s most noted singers of the late 20th century!
Maria Lando by Chabuca Granda, Peru
La madrugada estalla como una estátua Como estátua de alas que se dispersan por la ciudad Y el mediodía cánta campana de agua Campana de agua de oro que nos prohibe la sóledad Y la noche levanta su copa larga Su larga copa larga, luna temprana por sobre el mar
Pero para María no hay madrugada Pero para María no hay mediodía Pero para María ninguna luna Alza su copa roja sobre las aguas…
María no tiene tiempo (María Landó) De alzar los ojos María de alzar los ojos (María Landó) Rotos de sueño María rotos de sueño (María Landó) De andar sufriendo María de andar sufriendo (María Landó) Sólo trabaja María sólo trabaja, sólotrabaja, sólo trabaja María sólo trabaja Y su trabajo es ajeno
Maria Lando, Chabuca Granda, Peru, Trans. Kaushalya Bannerji
Dawn breaks, exploding like a statue, like a statue of wings scattered All through the city And noon sings like a bell made of water A bell made of golden water that forbids loneliness And the night lifts its large goblet, its large goblet, large, an early moon over the sea
But for Maria there is no dawn But for Maria there is no midday But for Maria there is no moon raising its red goblet over the waters
Maria has no time to raise her eyes Maria ,to raise her eyes, broken by lack of sleep Maria, broken by lack of sleep ,from so much suffering Maria, from so much suffering, all she does is work
Maria just works and works, Maria only works, and her work is all for another.
This is a seven part poem I have been working on since my work, studies, and travels have taken me to South America and Cuba. I have long been fascinated and moved by the strength of peoples who manage to hold on to their cosmologies in the face of terrible odds such as kidnapping, enslavement, auction blocks, trade-sanctioned rape, forced labour, soul-searing racism, and unimaginable poverty, and social and political exclusion, even state-sanctioned annihilation.
As a woman of colour, the racisms I have witnessed and experienced throughout my time in Peru, Colombia, Chile, Cuba and Mexico have raised huge questions about the role of anti-racism in “progressive” sectors of development and education, culture, and, even political parties, in those countries. While these issues need to be hashed out in terms of policies, financing, and social restructuring as a whole–especially in those countries where colonized peoples of colour are a majority in certain under-remunerated occupations such as manual and domestic service, agricultural labour, entertainment, and the informal sector– the role of culture in accompanying such changes is essential.
As a citizen of colour in the Americas, I have chosen to seek inspiration and meaning in the beliefs and cosmologies of those of us bound together by European colonization, rather than those of dominant hegemonic religions. As the child of a colonized migrant, I belong in the Americas, as do those who have belonged here before me, and who belonged, before the words “African” and “Indian” had any meaning. The absurdity of this world turned upside down, where the poor fight each other tooth and claw for a pittance for survival, cannot destroy the connection between the gods of Santeria and those of the Quechua and Aymara peoples, especially in countries like Peru, where indigenous and afro-descended communities are integral to the country’s development and self-image, although the apartheid between European Peruvians and indigenous Peruvians is deeply entrenched and the official story of Peru may not highlight their presence except as beasts of burden or unruly mobs needing to be subdued.
That is why this following piece takes as its title the Quechua (Kichwa) word, “pachacutec” meaning “Earth Shaker” or the “world turned upside down.” I was struck by this word as it resonated with not only the the social disparagement of the indigenous people I witnessed in the Andean nations, but also the facile commodification of black religion as entertainment. An entertainment, I might add, that was almost wholly consumed by white tourists both national and international. I saw this wherever Afro music was played, whether in Cuba at the Callejon de Hamel or watching Peru Negro perform in reified contexts with velvet seats and expensive tickets. This is contrasted in the way that such religions are actually practised outside the gaze of the tourist or the anthropologist, where the deities may be termed in Arundhoti Ray’s words, the “gods of small things”, accompanying as they do the risks of everyday life under unequal social circumstances. In using the word Pachacutec I signal the “upside-downiness” of this late-capitalist world where we float through the sky and bury our crimes against humanity– for surely, colonial subjugations are just that– in the blood-stained earth from which huge profits are made at all our expense.
(Quechua word meaning Earth Shaker/World Turned Upside Down)