LA NORTEAMERICANA

LA NORTEAMERICANA

 

LA NORTEAMERICANA

RPCV Cathie Maclin Boyles

Colombia, 1975-1979

 

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 and, 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, 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 Gutierrez and his band to perform at the evening festival. 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.

Alfredo Gutierrez was a Colombian singer famous for his vallenato, a kind of folk music originating in Colombia along the Caribbean coast.  Gutierrez can be considered the Johnny Cash of the vallenato.  He is still admired today throughout Latin America.

As his band played during the evening Santa Catalina fiesta, Alfredo Gutierrez 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) Gutierrez belted out his first rendition of  La Norteamericana—composed on the spot, especially for me.  Later, Gutierrez 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.

 

I have donated the album to the Peace Corps Museum.  You may read (in Spanish) a brief  biography of Alfredo here.  Enjoy!

 

La Norteamericana

De los estados unidos

Ha llegado a esta nacion

Pero Cathie se ha metido

Dentro de mi corazon

Yo le digo que la quiero

Y ella me dice que si

El ingles yo no entiendo

Pero mi corazon si

 

Lo que yo menos pensaba

Que me pudiera pasar

Que me fuera 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 declare

Que mucho la estaba amando

Se lo dije en castellano

Y me contesto en ingles

Esa Gringa es una diosa

Linda Norteamericana

La conoci en la Mojana

Y en mi corazon reposa

 

Lo que yo menos pensaba

Que me pudiera pasar

Que me fuera 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