MEXICO: The National Anthem

David Crow writes: Every time I hear the Marseillaise, I think of the Beatles song "All You Need is Love". 

As for bellicose national anthems, I don't know of any that tops Mexico's.  Here are some choice excerpts:

Mexicanos, al grito de guerra
el acero aprestad y el bridón,
y retiemble en sus centros la tierra
al sonoro rugir del cañón.

Mexicans, at the cry of war
ready your steel and horse
Let the earth shake to the core
at the cannon's thunderous roar. 

Guerra, guerra sin tregua al que intente
de la patria manchar los blasones!
¡Guerra, guerra! Los patrios pendones
en las olas de sangre empapad.

War without cease to those who would
taint our fatherland's coat of arms
War, war!  Let the country's standards
drench in waves of blood. 

Antes, patria, que inermes tus hijos
bajo el yugo su cuello dobleguen,
tus campiñas con sangre se rieguen,
sobre sangre se estampe su pie.

Country, before your sons' necks
fold defenseless under the yolk,
irrigate the fields with blood,
may their feet trample upon blood. 

Makes the U.S. national anthem sound like a lullaby.  Speaking of which, I would love to change our national anthem back to "America, the Beautiful":  "Crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea."

RH: The Mexican anthem sounds as though it is directed at the Yankees.  It would be interesting to know who wrote it and when.  I agree about "America the Beautiful". Compare the Mexican anthem with the Brazilian one, which is a hymn to love. Brazil is a land of bloodless revolutions.

David Crow quoted some bloody verses from the bloody Mexican national national anthem.  He now adds: The anthem was written in 1853 by Francisco González Bocanegra, a literary light of the day, in response to a contest sponsored by the government of Santa Anna.

RH: Santa Anna?  Was he thinking of the war with Texas or that with the US?

Randy Black forwards this history of the national anthem of Mexico: In December 1853, General Santa Anna offered a prize for the best patriotic poem. Twenty-six were submitted to the adjudicators and the winning version was that by Francisco Gonzalez Bocanegra (1824-1861) which contained ten verses. The General then followed this up in February 1854, with an offer of a prize to the musician who sent in the best setting to this poem. Sixteen musicians sent in their efforts, and the prize of five hundred dollars was awarded to the Spaniard JAIME NUNÓ (1824-1908), who at the time was conductor of the National Music Band.

Randy Black writes: Texas A&M University at College Station, Texas has a pretty good archive of material on Santa Anna. Here are a few excerpts on the former dictator followed by a version outlining the whys and wherefors regarding the anthem.
Antonio López de Santa Anna: Fought more battles than Napoleon and George Washington combined, eleven times President and Dictator of the second largest country in the world prior to 1836, captured and caused the loss of half of Mexican territory (one million square miles) beginning on the battlefield of San Jacinto in 1836, released to become President and Dictator of Mexico 7 times more over 40 more years, periodically exiled for a total of 20 years--

He received his first wound, an Indian arrow in his left arm or hand, in 1811. In 1813 he served in Texas against the Gutiérrez/Magee expedition, and at the battle of Medina he was cited for bravery. In the aftermath of the rebellion the young officer witnessed Arredondo's fierce counterinsurgency policy of mass executions, and historians have speculated that Santa Anna modeled his policy and conduct in the Texas Revolution on his experience under Arredondo.

Mexico's National Anthem.

In 1853, President Antonio López de Santa Anna announced a competition to write a national anthem. The competition offered a prize for the best poetic composition worthy of representing a truly patriotic anthem. A deadline of twenty days was set. Francisco González Bocanegra, a talented poet, was at first not interested in participating in the competition. He argued that writing love poems involved very different skills from the ones required to write a nation's anthem. His fiancée, Guadalupe González del Pino (Pili) – with undaunted faith in her fiancé's poetic skills and unsatisfied with his constant refusals to participate in spite of constant prodding from her and from their friends – decided to take measures. Under false pretenses, she lured him to a secluded bedroom in her house, locked him in, and refused to let him out until he produced an entry for the competition. After four hours of fluent, albeit forced inspiration, Francisco was able to regain his freedom by slipping his creation out under the door. His submission won the competition unanimously. Later, in August 1854, music written by Spain-born Jaime Nunó, a military band inspector, was chosen. The anthem was officially adopted on Independence Day, September 16 of that same year. The inaugural interpretation was directed by Jaime Nunó himself and sang by soprano Balbina Steffenone and tenor Lorenzo Salvi. Francisco González Bocanegra and Guadalupe González del Pino (Pili), now married, also attended this event.

The fact that it was written by a Mexican poet and composed by a Spanish musician makes it the more nostalgic, for it symbolizes the cultural blend that created this country. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful national anthems, along with the French national anthem La Marseillaise and the former Soviet Union (1922-1944) national anthem The Internationale.  Notes: Stanza IV is no longer sung, since it refers to Antonio López de Santa Anna, who lost public favor after the country's defeat in the Mexican-American war. Also Stanza VII is no longer sung, since it refers to the first Mexican Emperor Agustin de Iturbide, who was sent to exile and forbidden, then immediately after his return was executed. The anthem was written in a period of conservative ruling and when the liberal party returned to government, those stanzas were forbidden to be sung.

RH: One source we quoted said that  Santa Anna did not attend the first performance because the anthem included no flattery of him.  It must have been added to appease him.  I would love to hear Randy Black singing that "beautiful anthem, The Internationale".

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: April 13, 2005