Slavehunters (Los Rancheadores)

I have a son who also speaks Spanish. When I was teaching high school Spanish, he was in my class.He learned to love Spanish. The last time he came to visit, he brought a book that I didn’t realize he had. He left it at my house. My daughter found the book and handed it to me saying she thought I might like to put it on my blog. It is a book of poems from Cuba in Spanish and English. When I began reading, I found some very interesting poems. I am going to share one with you today about run away slaves. I will give it to you in Spanish, and then I will give you the English translation. The name of the book is “The Surrender Tree” by Margarita Engle.


Cuando el rancheador trae

a los fugitivos que ha capturado,

recibe diecisiete oesos de plata

por cimarron,

eso si el cimaron no ha muerto.

Una oreja cuesta cuatro pesos

y es la prueba de que el esclavo fugitivo

murio’ peleando, resistiendose a ser capturado.

Los enfermos y los heridos

nos los traen a nosotras, las mujeres,

para que los curemos.

Cuando un fugitivo se recupera

puede entonces escoger entre regresar al trabajo

en los cafetales o el canaveral

o huir una vez mas,

en secreto, en silencio, solo.


When the slavehunters bring back

runaways he captures,

he receives seventeen silver pesos

per cimarron

unless the runaway is dead.

Four pesos is the price of an ear,

shown as proof that the runaway slave

died resisting capture.

The sick and injured

are brought to us, the women,

for healing.

When a runaway is well again,

he will either choose to go back to work

in the coffee groves and sugar fields,

or run away again

secretly, silently, alone.

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