Not Lost in Translation: The Star Spangled Banner in Spanish Reply

As part of their Hispanic Heritage month (September 15 to October 15) the Smithsonian has just registered an official Spanish translation of the Star Spangled Banner, which was written by Clotilde Arias a Peruvian immigrant who died in 1957. It was performed yesterday Saturday for the first time.  Growing up in Southern California, most of my friends and classmates were Mexican American. It was difficult for them to feel an integral part of the Southern California “Beach Boy’s” Surf culture which we bathed in at the time. Now there is recognition of the contributions of Latinos to American culture.  

After World War II, musician and composer Clotilde Arias, an immigrant from Peru living in New York City, was commissioned by the U.S. State Department to write a translation that could be sung to the tune of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” It was sent to U.S. embassies in Latin America and shared with Latin American embassies in Washington, according to Marvette Perez, a curator who researched the translation over the past three years.

An exhibit opening this weekend, “Not Lost in Translation: The Life of Clotilde Arias,” will be on view through April. There are no records of this translation ever being performed, but the National Museum of American History plans performances by a full choir Saturday.

Arias, who became a U.S. citizen in 1942, wrote dozens of ad jingles for U.S. companies, including Ford Motor Co., IBM and Coca-Cola for Spanish markets. Arias died in 1959, but her family held on to her music and records.

To learn more about the American flag and the national anthem go to the Smithsonian’s page on the Star Spangled Banner.

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