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ALFREDO GUTIÉRREZ ALBUM

Alfredo Gutiérrez Si Supieras, Discos Fuentes, Colombia, 1975 
Vinyl, 12 x 12 in.
Courtesy of Peace Corps Community Archive, American University Library

Donated by Cathie Maclin Boyles, Colombia, Sucre 1975–79

Listen to "La Norteamericana"

 

I spent almost five years in Colombia working as a nurse. During my first year I worked in a small town named Sucre on the Mojana River, a very isolated town accessible only by boat or canoe. The principal means of livelihood was ranching. On Sundays the rancheros would come to town to socialize. After too many drinks, they would often gallop up and down the main street, shooting their pistols in the air.

I was the first American to visit, much less live, in Sucre; thus, I was quite the curiosity. Fortunately I was befriended by a lovely local family who took me under their wings. I spent most evenings playing cards with them, having long talks, or just sitting with them in rocking chairs outside their front door. I worked at the town’s hospital, but my main work was traveling up and down the river with one of the physicians and several rural health promoters to provide basic health services to isolated communities. I also helped distribute food with the Red Cross and Civil Defense during periods of severe flooding.

Once a year, Sucre celebrated its patron saint, Santa Catalina, with a festival. Through his connections, the mayor attracted Alfredo Gutiérrez and his band to perform at the evening festival. Alfredo Gutiérrez was a Colombian singer famous for his vallenato, a kind of folk music originating in Colombia along the Caribbean coast. Gutiérrez can be considered the Johnny Cash of the vallenato. He is still admired today throughout Latin America.


For this special occasion, the town built a makeshift outdoor venue large enough to hold the entire population. The festival grounds included a stage, tables and chairs for the audience, a dance floor, and a bar. 

As his band played during the evening Santa Catalina fiesta, Gutiérrez spotted me, the only gringa (slang for American woman) in the crowd. He asked to dance with me numerous times during his breaks, and he promised me that he was going to compose a song for me. 


I knew Alfredo had had way too much to drink, but later in the evening to my surprise—and everyone else’s—he belted out his first rendition of “La norteamericana”—composed on the spot especially for me. Later Gutiérrez polished the song and put it on his next album. For months the song was popular on the radio—and I became a celebrity all over the Colombian Caribbean coast.

 

“La norteamericana”

De los Estados Unidos
Ha llegado a esta nación,
Pero Cathie se ha metido
Dentro de mi corazón.
Yo le digo que la quiero,
Y ella me dice que sí.
El inglés yo no entiendo,
Pero mi corazón sí.

Lo que yo menos pensaba
Que me pudiera pasar
Que me fuera a enamorar
De una norteamericana.

I love you, I love you, my love,
Yes, my love.
I love you, I love you, my love,
Yes, my love.

Para la perla de la Mojana!

Cuando me le declaré
Que mucho la estaba amando,
Se lo dije en castellano
Y me contestó en inglés.
Esa gringa es una diosa,
Linda norteamericana,
La conocí en la Mojana
Y en mi corazón reposa.

Lo que yo menos pensaba
Que me pudiera pasar
Que me fuera a enamorar
De una norteamericana.

I love you, I love you, my love,
Yes, my love.
I love you, I love you, my love,
Yes, my love.


“The North American”

From the United States

She has come to this country,

But Cathie has found her way

Into my heart.

I tell her that I love her,

And she tells me that she loves me too.

I don’t understand English,

But I understand my heart.


What I never expected

To happen to me

Was that I would fall in love

With a North American.


I love you, I love you, my love,

Yes, my love.

I love you, I love you, my love,

Yes, my love.


For the pearl of the Mohana!


When I told her

How much I loved her,

I told her in Castilian

And she answered me in English.

This gringa is a goddess,

A beautiful North American.

I met her in the Mojana

And she will stay in my heart forever.


What I never expected

To happen to me

Was that I would fall in love

With a North American.


I love you, I love you, my love,

Yes, my love.

I love you, I love you, my love,

Yes, my love.