To the Yankee

Guess where, and when, the following lines were written (in literal if not literary translation):

This unredeemed people may perhaps succumb in the struggle, but only its corpse can be yoked by alien tyranny.

Yankee! If you defeat us with the powerful weight of weapons, you will not live happily, because you are hated even by the air of my native land.

Yankee! If my verses survive me, their words will echo in the centuries to come the eternal hate of the eternal outcast.

Is it Afghanistan in 2001? Iraq 2003? Maybe Vietnam in 1965?

Try the Philippines, 1899 -- America's very first colonial adventure. (Probably not much of a surprise, actually, to anyone who pays any attention to what I normally post here.)

I'm sad to report that the US did not leave the Philippines until 1946 (and even then, not really), and that colonial officials did rather well for themselves. And I'm not sure Cecilio Apostol, the nationalist poet who wrote "Al Yankee," would be comforted to know that his words do seem to have been echoed, again and again, for more than a century, as the march of U.S. imperialism spread across the globe.

The translation above is the standard one, by Nicanor G. Tiongson. (I think it deserves better). Below is the full text of the original Spanish version. I'm including it because I had a hell of a time finding it, finally locating a copy in a back issue of a Spanish-language journal I'd never heard of.

Al "Yankee" por Cecilio Apostol

Siempre que la codicia Rasga un girón del territorio extraño ........................................... poetas, vengadores de la conciencia universal, ¿acaso podréis guardar silencio, la honrada voz de la protesta ahogando? -Ferrari ........................................... ¡Jamás! Cuando la fuerza con la traición y la injusticia pacta, para aplastar los fueros, los sacrosantos fueros de una raza;

Cuando los hijos del infame Judas venden la fe jurada; cuando al gemido de los pueblos débiles contestan con brutales carcajadas;

Cuando el santo Derecho se trucida en el festín de la ambición humana; cuando como los yankees, a cañonazos brindan una patria;

No es posible callar: la Patria opresa protestará indignada, y en el pecho traidor del enemigo esconderá el puñal de su venganza.

El irredento pueblo sucumbira quizás en la demanda, más solo a su cadaver se logrará imponer coyunda extraña.

¡Yankee! Si tú nos vences, con el potente empuje de tus armas, no vivirás dichoso, porque te odia hasta el ambiente mismo de mi Patria.

¡Yankee! Si mis estrofas logran sobrevivirme, sus palabras vibrarán en los siglos venideros el odio eterno del eterno patria. (1899)