Translated by Kathleen Weaver
I still smell the foam of the sea they made me cross.
The night, I can not remember it.
The ocean itself could not remember that.
But I can’t forget the first gull I made out in the distance.
High, the clouds, like innocent eyewitnesses.
Perhaps I haven’t forgotten my lost coast,
nor my ancestral language.
They left me here and here I’ve lived.
And, because I worked like an animal,
here I came to be born.
How many Mandinga epics did I look to for strength.
His Worship bought me in a public square.
I embroidered His Worship’s coat and bore him a male child.
My son had no name.
And His Worship died at the hands of an impeccable Englishlord.
This is the land where I suffered
mouth-in-the-dust and the lash.
I rode the length of all its rivers.
Under its sun I planted seeds, brought in the crops,
but never ate those harvests.
A slave barracks was my house,
built with stones that I hauled myself.
While I sang to the pure beat of native birds.
I rose up.
In this same land I touched the fresh blood
and decayed bones of many others,
brought to this land or not, the same as I.
I no longer dreamt of the road to Guinea.
Was it to Guinea? Benin?
To Madagascar? Or Cape Verde?
I worked on and on.
I strengthened the foundations of my milllenary song and of my hope.
I left for the hills.
My real independence was the free slave fort
and I rode with the troops of Maceo.
Only a century later, together with my descendents,
from a blue mountain
I came down from the Sierra
to put an end to capital and ursurer,
to generals and to bourgeouis.
Now I exist: only today do we own, do we create.
Nothing is foreign to us.
The land is ours.
Ours the sea and sky,
the magic and vision.
Compañeros, here I see you dance
around the tree we are planting for communism.
Its prodigal wood resounds.